It isn’t just that bike helmets are a factor in public health and safety. It’s that one rainy evening last year, at the end of a stressful day, Michelle Fredrickson was riding her bike home on a busy street. Four blocks from her apartment, she got hit by a Ford F-150 – she was thrown from her bike and smacked her head on the curb. She was rattled but not seriously hurt, and she was wearing a helmet.

Wanting to shake CSU students out of what she perceives as indifference to helmets, she wrote about it – forcefully, cajolingly. Publicly. Since the fall semester, Michelle, a second-year MPH student in the Epidemiology and Health Communication concentrations, has written a health column for The Rocky Mountain Collegian, CSU’s student newspaper.

In it, she draws from personal experience, observation and what she’s learning in her public health classes to educate, inform and, sometimes, pull no punches. Regarding the bike helmets: “Come on, CSU,” she wrote. “Get your collective act together and put that helmet on. Students here are paying tens of thousands of dollars a year to invest in their brain… When people put that much of an investment into their brain, why not take a simple step to protect it?”

“I try to pick topics that are relevant to students or can be made relevant to students,” she explained. “Especially since I’m coming from a public health angle, I know I have to find interesting angles that people are going to relate to.”

She has written about human trafficking, “Fifty Shades of Grey” and rape culture, raw milk, and religious exemptions for childhood vaccinations, among many other topics.

Longtime interest in journalism

Her columns for The Collegian are an extension of her love for journalism that began in middle school, when one of her teachers, a photojournalist and former photographer for the U.S. Fencing Olympic team, encouraged her to try it.

During high school, when she began taking classes at Bellevue Community College near her hometown of Issaquah, Washington, she wrote for the student newspaper and in her first week at Washington State University, she began writing for that school’s Daily Evergreen.

“I started as a reporter on the science beat and I was that reporter who editors loved because I could never say no,” she said. It wasn’t long before she was working more than full time as a reporter and editor at The Daily Evergreen while pursuing her degree in science communication, chasing stories about everything from faculty research to weapon threats on campus.

As she did at Washington State, within a week of when she arrived at the ColoradoSPH at CSU she was working at the Collegian, first as a longform editor and sports columnist before transitioning to her health column. Working in journalism, she said, is a valuable balance for her public health studies – knowing the internal workings of media and how public health practitioners can partner and work with the media to educate and inform the public.

After graduating in May, Michelle said she hopes to work in the Arctic with members of indigenous communities. Wherever her career takes her, though, she said she will always write.

“It’s something I love to do,” she said, “and in public health communication is so important. People deserve information and they deserve to know.”