Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Global Public Health minorStudents jump into new international minor

    Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 12:00 am

The first round of graduating seniors in a new, international and interdisciplinary minor was honored Tuesday afternoon in Brantly Hall. Allison Simon and Zoe Yeager will be May’s lone graduates of the Global Public Health program, but many more students will soon follow in their footsteps.
Simon, 22, said she’s enjoyed the opportunity to mix courses from different programs that have a unified theme. As a political science major with a concentration in international relations and a minor in biology, Simon said the program was a good fit.

“I’ve really enjoyed seeing how the development and the health aspects can be combined,” Simon said. “I like how it’s a fusion of science and social science.”
Two courses are required for the minor — one in the political science department and one in biology. For the remaining credits, students can choose from classes in departments such as anthropology, philosophy, pharmacy, social work, Native American studies and health and human performance.
Political Science Professor and Director of the GPH program Peter Koehn said this array of offerings has drawn students from 10 different departments, with the majority studying health and human performance with a community health option.
Koehn said the program grew out of the international development studies minor, whose students were also honored Tuesday, but was based on the popular global health program at Northwestern University.
“This isn’t just something we’re doing here,” Koehn said. “There’s a lot of interest around the country in public health.”
Students here are also showing a lot of interest. Koehn said 32 students have already signed up for the minor, which has only been offered since fall of 2012, and another 15 to 20 are taking courses but haven’t enrolled yet.
Koehn credits the program’s development, through a committee of students, faculty and staff, with its popularity.
“This program is in response to student interest in working overseas and serving overseas. Students want this,” Koehn said. “It didn’t come from above.”
Such strong interest early on means the program could overtake the international development studies minor, which GPH was modeled on, in popularity, Koehn said. IDS is in its seventh year and has 112 students — the most of any unattached minor.
Students of the two programs have formed a new group for anyone interested in the topics, regardless of whether they’re enrolled in the minor. The group, called the Student Coalition for International Development and Global Public Health, will have its second open meeting on May 6 at 6 p.m.
The benefits of internationally-oriented minors aren’t limited to outside the U.S., Koehn said.
“There are lots of lessons that you learn overseas that you can then bring back to your home communities in this country,” he said. “And we need to do a lot more of that.”
Some students are getting ready to do that through the Peace Corps Prep Program.
The GPH courses easily dovetail with the courses for the Peace Corps Prep Program’s health specialization, as senior Nathan Klette has discovered.
Klette, 24, will graduate in August with a degree in health and human performance with a community health option after finishing his GPH minor this summer by doing an internship in India. He’ll also have a health specialist certification from the Peace Corps.
The University of Montana is one of only three schools in the country offering a preparatory program certified by the Peace Corps, according to Brad Haas, UM’s Peace Corps campus representative. The other two are small, private, liberal arts schools on the East Coast.
That puts UM in a unique position to recruit students from across the country to come here for two semesters to earn a Peace Corps certification, then return to their home universities to finish their degrees, Koehn said.
In addition to the health specialization, six other Peace Corps specializations are offered, as well as a generalist certificate.
In his keynote speech at the reception Tuesday, Paulo Zagalo-Melo, the new director of International Programs, emphasized the importance of programs that address issues across cultural and departmental boundaries.
He added that the Peace Corps Prep Program, global public health and international development studies contribute to UM’s strong international focus. 
“Internationalization is not an end,” Zagalo-Melo said. “We don’t internationalize to be international. We do it because it’s part of the mission of universities.”

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