Taylor Beckwith ’20 put her award-winning policy and advocacy skills into practice as she helped craft a major change at Whittier College.
This semester, Beckwith received national recognition for her role in making Whittier a tobacco-free campus. The psychology major won the Student Leader MVP Award at a national conference for the Tobacco-Free Generation Campus Initiative, the American Cancer Society’s program for colleges and universities to go smoke or tobacco free.
The MVP award recognizes Beckwith’s outstanding efforts as a student advocate. As an intern on Whittier’s Tobacco-Free Taskforce, Beckwith helped write the campus’ new policies, which went into effect in September; planned, advertised, and ran on-campus events; and educated her community about the health hazards of smoking and the resources available to kick the habit.
Beckwith has been pushing back against smoking since the 7th grade, when she first got involved in an anti-tobacco educational program that also taught her to be a peer educator. As she got involved in local and state advocacy boards, and came to Whittier, she learned more about where smoking intersects with social justice and marginalization.
“Before coming here, I had organized a lot of events and produced educational materials and resources, but I hadn’t had hands-on policy and advocacy work, so being able to have that side of tobacco control has been really valuable” Beckwith said. “This internship has been a great opportunity for me to continue to build my skills.”
Her minors in social work and public health have complemented her education well, she said, showing her both the personal and scientific sides of health issues. Her psychology major ties them together, preparing her for a future in health psychology and, eventually, studying addiction.
Rebecca Romberger, the Tobacco-Free Taskforce lead at Whittier and the director of the Student Counseling Center, has been nothing but impressed with Beckwith’s investment and work ethic. In her two years with the taskforce, she’s performed well beyond what’s expected of an undergraduate intern.
“Her work and character point toward strong professional promise and we will be honored to see her advance the mission of creating tobacco-free environments in her future career,” Romberger wrote in her recommendation that Beckwith win the national award.