Online Master of Public Health Program Overview

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Check out this webinar for an overview of the online Master of Public Health in Public Health Practice program, curriculum and admission requirements.

The information in this video may be time sensitive. Please contact an enrollment advisor for current deadlines and requirements.


Dr. Larson: The University of Nevada, Reno was established in 1874 and moved to Reno in 1885 and that’s when Morrill Hall was constructed. If you want more information about the history of this wonderful University I have a website here that will give you a bit more history. Our University is a Tier 1 University and is a land grant institution. And as a land grant institution we are dedicated to serving our state and our community and really recognizing and contributing to problems and solutions in our state. Our school, the School of Community Health Sciences was created in 2004 but we’ve been around for a very long time and had a lot of different names like Health and Human Science, Health Ecology and then it finally settled on CHS as a way to describe our impact in the community and the fact that we are very much based in public health.

The first MPH was started in 2000 and it was a generalist MPH. And then the faculty began to work on specializations and so the first 2 specializations that were created here in campus were the MPH in epidemiology and another one in social behavioral health. And these were developed in 2009. We’re accredited by CEPH the Council on Education for Public Health in 2011 and that accreditation is really important recognition of the rigor of the programs themselves and that they have their own resources available to conduct those programs for the students. We added another track in health admin and policy in 2013, our biostatistics MPH started in 2015 and this last year we were accredited by CEPH… ALL of our programs were accredited by CEPH. This includes our 2 undergrad degrees, our 4 MPH degrees and our 2 doctoral degrees. So CEPH accreditation really signifies that we’ve done an effective job of making our courses rigorous and relevant.

We have some goals at our school and these are general goals that I think you’ll recognize that others probably share these…but for us really to prepare future Public Health practitioners, researchers, educators and leaders. And so this really describes all of our students in all of our different levels in our program. We want to develop a knowledge base for public health through research and our research productivity has doubled in the past year. We’re recognized for leadership and innovative approaches for public health and many of our graduates are bringing wonderful programs online and their jobs around NV as agency managers and nonprofit execs. Our goal is to engage with many communities through our professional and scholarly service and our entire faculty is involved in our community – board membership, contribution of providing projects and programs that work with nonprofits in particular. And then we like that students are exposed to diversity in multiple venues. Our University explicitly has diversity and inclusion as very important parts of who we are as a university and we continue that.

Our faculty represent all public health fields, so we have epidemiologists, biostatisticians, social and behavioral health scientists, health administration and health policy, faculty and environmental health faculty. We’ve had a substantial growth in our faculty in 5 years. When I first started in 2011 as the director, we had 14 teaching faculty and currently we have 25 and we’re in the process of hiring 9 more. And so that’s a substantial growth backed by substantial increases in our student population. Our major is very popular on the University campus and we’ve gone from 500 students in 2011 to over 1200 students in our majors now. Our growth in research activity in federal sources has increased to over 1.6 million in grants this last year. That is a fundamental goal of our university to increase our research productivity as it definitely addresses the issue of new knowledge and new ways of solving community health issues. We are very much ingrained in community engagement and all of our courses, both undergraduate and graduate have substantial component of this. We have a lot of state and local contracts, grants where we serve our community by helping with program evaluations by doing analysis of data and generally trying to make sure that the expertise of our faculty definitely goes out to our community. Also mandate that for our students in terms of their necessary engagement. It could be the events both for our undergraduate and pour graduate programs.

So you can see the degrees and specializations. This is from our data last year. We have 2 bachelor’s degrees, one in public health, one in kinesiology – they’re large. We have our MPH degree program that’s 48 (credits) on campus and now we get to add our online MPH to this. We have a number of joint degrees with other professional partners including the medical school and the nursing school. We have our first cohort of Doctoral degree students in epidemiology and social behavioral health who started just this last fall.

You can see here that we’ve had a very rapid growth in our undergraduate program and we believe it’s because public health is a growth industry. All aspects of health, regardless of where you might see it – whether it’s in the hospitals, in the insurance companies, traditional public health departments, in non-profits in our business partners. A real understanding that health is a contributor as a topic and also for the productivity of any given industry.

Our masters trained students stay in public health and you can see here we’ve had 93% of our graduates who are currently employed in public health degrees. Some of them have gone on to further academic training in PhD programs or medical programs. And we’re very happy that many of our graduates stay in Nevada to help increase our public health workforce. That’s a real critical need over the next 10 years, where 50% of our public health workforce is predicted to retire.

We have a tagline. It’s called “Making Health Happen.” This was a really fun project where faculty came up with sayings they felt described our activities. And we had all of our students vote on which one they liked the most. So “Making Health Happen” has been our tagline for the last 3 years and it’s an action tagline and that, really is what we’re all about is being action-oriented to make health a viable part of our community. Our bachelor level graduates work in a variety of places. They work as coordinators for health exchanges, as personal trainers in or kinesiology group, as graduate students in many professional schools, physical and occupational therapy for example. They go to MPH programs which make us very happy – they serve as health educators in a variety of places… hospitals, clinics, public health departments, as sports trainers and as PE teachers. And they find jobs rapidly because health is a growth industry.

Our MPH graduates work at a much higher level as analysts, epidemiologists at state and local health departments and divisions. They work as managers and directors of nonprofit agencies, bringing the skills that MPH develops in our students to the tasks of running a non-profit agency, particularly those that are created around health issues. They also serve as consultants and do needs assessments and program evaluations in a variety of venues. Their heavily recruited and the vast majority become employed within 6 months of graduation.

So let me talk a little bit about Public Health Practice… we had a 2 year process of really developing this degree program and we did it very specifically based on a large need assessment that we conducted in the state. So, let me tell you about this needs assessment that we did. It was based on public health foundations 8 Public Health Workforce Core Competencies, and as you may or may not be aware, the Masters of Public Health degree is based on attainment of competencies. In other words, you will attain skills that are then tested and these skills have been determined to be foundational in public health. We looked at stratification of our surveys based on whether they were in different tiers. Tier 1 whether they were leaders and executives, tier 2 were those folks who were over program management, tier 3 were the workers who took part in public health activities and tier A is a support group in the front office who often have very important roles in how public health departments and other folks really serve their consumers. This survey was conducted throughout Nevada and similar survey which was also conducted throughout the Western region, in California, Hawaii, and Arizona as well.

Just to show you our respondent’s characteristics, we had a very large participation rate, over 800 participants – most of them working as public health professionals. That would be that Tier 3 staff, support staff and Tier A staff, managers and supervisors and far fewer directors and senior leaders as you would well imagine. They represented the entire state coming from Southern Nevada, the Nevada Division of Public and behavioral health, the Washoe County health district here and our sister health district in Carson City as well as other parts around the state.

These are competencies that people ranked they felt they were most competent in or second most competent in. They had a chance on this survey to rank their competencies in these areas. And you can see the support staff really felt confident about their general office skills and cultural competency. Our public health officials felt very good about our communication skills and cultural competency. Managers felt good about communication and leadership, and directors also agreed that they had good competencies in those 2 areas. We also ask them to consider where they might struggle. What we found was most common were those areas that ranked below competent were public health sciences, financial management and planning, community dimensions of practice, and then lesser policy development and analysis and assessment competencies. When you look at these competencies, this is what we put into our public health practice,MPH. We looked at the workforce, where they felt great about what they were doing and where they felt they could get benefit from additional training.

Our Public Health Practice MPH has core competencies as do all MPH programs in Epidemiology, Social Behavioral Health, Environmental Health, Health Administration and Policy, and Biostatistics. These same 5 areas are represented in every single MPH degree where a basic core course must be taken and tasked. Then there are specialty competencies that we developed for this public health practice MPH. Specifically these are in Health Informatics which is the use of health data in a wide variety of venues. It’s Program Planning and Program Evaluation – absolutely key skills for those who work with programs, create programs and must show their effectiveness. We also included Organizational Behavior as a really critical piece of how you work, as both a member of the team and as a leader of the team. Health Services Finance – very important in terms of budgeting and how you look at where your money comes from and how you spend it. Public Health Law and Ethics. And of course Surveillance. Surveillance is a really important part of public health practice in that public health conducts surveillance the epidemiologists frequently do that, but that’s the data that managers use to be able to make important decisions on what interventions need to be created, and then afterwards how those will be evaluated through surveillance information.

The part that’s very core to our accreditation and all MPH accreditation is a public health internship that is created to let students practice their skills in a real world situation. Our internship is a 270-hour internship and requires students write up the objectives of what they hope to achieve and develop in terms of skills on this project. Then it feeds into a culminating experience, the capstone, that actually guides progress through a professional paper and presentation that draws from the internship experience and a reflection of the skills you learned in your class and how you use these skills to assess, evaluate and analyze – these are all skills used in an internship and are part of what you do for these programs. It’s outside your work but definitely in a public health environment where these skills are really needed in order to do your project and then professional paper. That is something that sometimes we actually publish, which is very exciting and then a professional presentation to a group of faculty on how you do this. So that’s the last thing in your MPH and it allows you to reflect on all the things you have learned and give you a real life experience on how you’re actually going to use these skills.

I will turn it over to Marcus now.

Tracy: Great, thank you so much Dr. Larson. Marcus will talk about some important dates as well as the admission requirements and also his role and how he can help you determine if this is the right program for you. Go ahead Marcus…

Marcus: Hi my name is Marcus Staples, and I am one of your enrollment advisors here at UNR. We’ll start with summer term. The application deadline is April 7th. Classes will start May 8th. The Fall term, the application deadline is July 28th and classes will start August 28th. The admissions requirements are a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. You will need to complete and submit an application on the University website. You will need to provide three letters of recommendation, a written statement of purpose which is a 500-word essay addressing relevance of your professional experience to public health, describing your career objectives and outlining your interest in graduate study. Then you will need to provide a resume. You would need to have a GPA of 3.0 cumulative undergraduate or 3.0 in your last 60 credit hours. You will need three years of professional experience in public health or related field. Students without experience or with cumulative GPA between 3.75 and 3.0 may be considered with submission of standardized test scores – a GRE, GMAT, or MCAT. Courses in Statistics are the prerequisites and curriculum options are available for applicants that are lacking that prerequisite. International applicants whom English is not the first language must submit a TOEFL score. Again my name is Marcus Staples and if you have any questions you can contact me at 877-417-4331 extension 2120. Thank you.

Tracy:So that ends our official presentation. We do have time now for a Q and A session. I can give everyone a few minutes to think about anything that wasn’t covered in the presentation.

Our first question is – What is the cost per credit hour? This is $730 per credit hour. This doesn’t include University fees or books. The program will be 45 semester credits. The total is $33,000 in program tuition for the 2 years.

How long does it take to complete this program? 2 years and you will have up to 6 years to complete this program should you need to take a break or stretch out your courses. Financial Aid is an option as well.

How long does it take to hear if you’re admitted into the program? The grad school will get back to you after all your documents are submitted between 7-10 business days.

How many hours a week should you plan to study for? Typically to be successful in this course it would take you about 20-25 hours per week.

Is the GRE Required? No, it is not required. We look at students that display a strong academic background with a bit of work history. So as long as you meet those 2 criteria then no GRE is required. In the event that you don’t meet those criteria, a GRE is required.

Are there field work/Internship requirements? The internship is a total of 270 hours that would stretch across two – 15 week semesters. This equates to about 9 hours a week. You have the option of doing that at your current place of employment. The prerequisite of that is you work in a different department under a different supervisor, or we will have an internship coordinator work with you to have you set up for an internship at another agency.

Are the recommendations letters required on the 7th as well? Yes, you want to have all your documents in by the time you submit your application so that when we submit to the grad school they can make their decision.

Are classes taken year round to be completed in 2 years? Yes, classes are taken in Fall, Spring and Summer. Right now we are currently enrolling for the Summer start which will happen in May. The Fall term will happen in August.

How many students are admitted? We don’t have a cap on this. Typically as many students that apply can be considered for acceptance as long as criteria are met from the grad school. There is a cap for the actual amount of classes for 25 students. If that cap is met, we will open up a new course for students to get placed in. There is not an actual cap for enrollment.

My GPA is just under 3.0. I do have experience but my GRE scores are not the best. I would suggest you call in and speak with one of the Admissions advisors. We can advise you how to best move forward.

How are the classes formatted? The classes use variations – such as Blackboard, message boards, etc. It will be based on the faculty members themselves. This is an online program and is 100% online so it will be done at your own pace.

How long does a prospective student have to accept or decline their admission?I would say typically within seven days for enrollment purposes and for faculty we want to make sure we have the amount of students that are going to be in the class. Your enrollment advisor would want that information from you receiving acceptance.

Is the capstone paper your thesis or does internship and capstone set you up to complete your thesis? Leslie can answer this question: Dr. Elliott: The entire end of the program is called the culminating experience. It includes the 270 field study hours. At the conclusion of that students enroll into the capstone class which helps students to organize the work that they did within the studies. That will be the basis of their master’s paper. Their master’s paper is the culminating experience with the capstone class and is an offshoot of the field study. Some people may decide that their paper might not be based just on the field studies. It might be based on a research project or a program planning project that they’re also doing. The important part is to meet the competencies identified by the student and advisor and the capstone instructor as well. This includes both writing the paper and getting that ready for presentation which is also a requirement for graduation. It’s not called a thesis it’s called a Masters paper but essentially it’s basically a thesis.

Are there group projects required in the curriculum? As a full time employee it may be difficult to meet with others to complete a project. I can say that most definitely there is group work, however they’re organized in a way that for online environment. There are a lot of options for ways to work together with team members. That’s a part of Public Health, collaboration with other members of the team. We’ve had some really great feedback from students about the group projects and how that kept them on task as well as an opportunity to share with other students.

I graduated in 1992 and my interest was in getting my MPH started at that time. I have very little work history in Public Health. Originally, I took the GRE in 1993. Do I need to take that again or does it depend on the application? If you have any professional experience at all you have an opportunity to address how your professional experience has helped you or guided you in some way toward the public health field. If you took the GRE a long time ago, I’d submit those scores if you think they’re good. Every application is looked at holistically as if the entire application and transcript tells a story. Everything is read, considered and important. The personal statement is about your work, your plans, the work you’ve already done in your life… if you’re not a recent college graduate and you have any public health experience that has given you some of the skills you feel will be important in Public Health, that’s the place do address it. [Edit: GRE scores are only valid within the last five years]

Tracy: Great, thank you! Does anyone else have any questions? Feel free to send them our way. As of right now, we don’t have any questions in the queue. We have a ‘thank you” so we appreciate that. We’ll take a few moments, but I know that Dr. Larson did a great job presenting the information and the admissions requirements are pretty straight-forward. If you have any questions at all, please do follow-up with Marcus directly and I think that’s it for our questions. Dr. Elliott, do you have any closing questions or anything?

Dr Elliott: I do just want to say one thing. Marcus has mentioned that the courses are at your own pace. They’re not really at “your own pace”. There is a distinction. There are due dates for assignments and discussions that occur. And everything occurs at a weekly module. So the whole course is not really at your own pace. It’s just that you can do them in your pajamas and do your assignments and read at your own pace but there are due dates for the course.

Tracy: Great! Thank you for the clarification. That’s really what he meant. Well thank you so much for your time Dr. Elliott and everyone else that is on this call. We appreciate you taking the time to listening to this presentation. We do hope it has provided you information to decide that University of Nevada, Reno’s Online MPH program is the program for you. And if you have any questions, please email or call Marcus and he will walk you through the application process to make sure you have your application and documents handed in on time and also if you have any additional questions he will be happy to answer those as well.

Again – this webinar will be recorded. Within the next couple of days, you will get an automatic email with a link. Feel free to share that with friends and colleagues that weren’t able to make the call and we hope you enjoy the rest of the afternoon. Thank you so much for joining us!