School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

Maryland Undergraduate Programs Emphasize Diversity and Hands-on Experience

As the University of Maryland School of Public Health celebrates its 10-year anniversary, its enrollment and its impact on the surrounding community continues to grow, with more than 2,500 students in four undergraduate Bachelor of Science degrees in two locations. The four majors — behavioral and community health, family science, kinesiology, and public health science — attract the most diverse student body on the University of Maryland, College Park campus, with over half from underrepresented racial and ethnic minority groups.

[Photo: Maryland Public Health Without Borders students in Calaba Town, Sierra Leone]

The Department of Behavioral and Community Health has developed a strong network with public and private public health organizations in the Washington, DC metro area, which host its undergraduates for required full-time immersion internship experiences during the final semester. The department thoroughly integrates community engagement into the program, so that students have a clear understanding of the role of community work in public health before they enter the workforce. Examples of recent placements include the DC Department of Health, the DC-based Institute for Public Health Innovation, and Maryland Hunger Solutions.

The Department of Family Science offers its students an internship experience that broadens students’ exposure to the family science discipline, provides valuable work experience, and increases students’ knowledge of specific career opportunities. This 120-hour internship provides training to help students work in a variety of settings. Some work with the Department of Juvenile Services and learn about the court system related to youth and their challenges. Others help military members and their families deal with deployment, re-entry to civilian life, and access to services and benefits. The UMD Campus Pantry provides lessons to interns about food insecurity, cultural issues around food, and nutrition and wellness. Domestic and international adoption work is another area where students work, while others pitch in at health settings addressing patients with mental health challenges, and many others have worked on domestic violence and the development of safety and self-protection plans.

The Department of Kinesiology’s Bachelor of Science program serves over 1,000 majors—the fifth largest on campus—with a majority of students focused on future education in allied health programs. Kinesiology brings together individuals with backgrounds in physiology, psychology, sociology, communications, history, engineering, education, and neuroscience to examine the complexity of physical activity and its role in human health.

Public Health Science, the newest of the bachelor’s degree programs, includes a four-year program on the UMD College Park campus, and a two-year program on the Shady Grove campus that serves as a direct pipeline for community college graduates who want to go into public health fields. Many public health science majors at Shady Grove are non-traditional students, often balancing school with careers and families. “It’s a different feel at Shady Grove, even more diverse than at College Park—and we already have a diverse group at College Park,” associate dean for academic affairs Dr. Steve Roth said. Public Health Science, which was launched in 2014, enrolls more than 900 students. The program includes a strong curriculum in both basic sciences and public health courses, such as biostatistics, epidemiology, environmental health, health policy, and global health. The program focuses on interdisciplinary education that is essential to addressing public health issues at the state, national, and global levels.

University of Maryland students of any major who are interested in public health can experience a living-learning program offered through the university’s College Park Scholars focused on Global Public Health. The Global Public Health (GPH) Scholars program, sponsored by the School of Public Health, offers an interdisciplinary exploration of the connections between health, culture, economic growth and development, and environmental sustainability. First and second year College Park Scholars students who participate in the GPH program gain an understanding of the foundations of community health, explore global public health challenges and consider ways to improve population health within diverse contexts.

Many of these students expand their knowledge by traveling globally with Public Health Without Borders, a student-run organization supported by the School of Public Health. This group assesses health disparities affecting disadvantaged communities around the world and creates sustainable interventions to alleviate these disparities. PHWB students have recently travelled to Peru, Sierra Leone, and India to work on water sanitation and health education activities to improve hygiene and prevent disease. “Hardworking undergraduate students can step up to be leaders when given the opportunity,” assistant clinical professor and director of global health initiatives Dr. Elisabeth Maring wrote after a student trip to Ethiopia. “What I love about mentoring students in Public Health without Borders is that they are energetic and committed, and are learning to be flexible, culturally sensitive, critical thinkers.”