Program’s quality assurance designation benefits students in their education and future careers.
UMD’s Public Health program recently became one of only 23 stand-alone baccalaureate programs in the country that meet the standards of the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH).
CEPH is an independent agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit schools of public health and public health programs outside schools of public health. For UMD, the accreditation specifically covers the Community Health Education & Promotion concentration within the Public Health Program.
“The accreditation supports what we know about our program,” says Amy Versnik Nowak, associate professor and coordinator of the public health program. “Specifically, that we have a quality curriculum with high expectations for our students.”
Versnik Nowak notes that the program focuses on the behavioral and educational aspects of public health. “We prepare students to plan, implement, and evaluate programs that benefit the health of individuals and communities,” she explains, noting that graduates can choose from a range of career options such as a health education specialist, health coach, patient educator, advocate for a nonprofit, and more. In addition, a significant portion of graduates seek advanced training in fields such as healthcare, nutrition, epidemiology, and environmental health and safety.
The Certification Process
Gaining accreditation was a lengthy process—it took three years to complete and involved many hours of work from faculty and students. But now any student who graduated after March 2019 with a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Public Health with a concentration in Community Health Education & Promotion can say they graduated from a CEPH-accredited program.
The certification process started with an initial application that had to be approved by the CEPH Board of Councilors. Next, the program conducted a self-study to assess its strengths and potential areas for improvement. This self-study included input from current public health students, alumni, and public health professionals over the course of several semesters.
The final stage of the process was a site visit where peer reviewers assessed the program. The site visit evaluated a variety of program qualities, such as curriculum, resources, faculty qualifications, and student support services. UMD’s site visit occurred last October. After final review by the CEPH Board of Councilors, they earned 100 percent approval on all criteria.
Practical Skills for Success
Being CEPH-accredited provides students with many benefits, such as enhanced employment opportunities and a thorough understanding of the essential skills that encompass public health and community health education. It also helps instill confidence in the students.
“The skills that students learn here will make them very marketable to employers and ready to meet the needs of today’s communities,” Versnik Nowak states. “This accreditation helps current and future students to know that we have a quality program that will prepare them to be successful in public health careers.”
Having the opportunity to learn in a quality program is something public health student Cassaundra Mohawk prioritizes. Initially, she wasn’t quite sure what program to major in—she just knew she wanted to help people. “I knew I wanted a degree where I helped people directly. My older sister is a health coach, so she brought up public health to me, and I absolutely fell in love with it.”
A graduating senior and the public health program’s 2021-22 Major of the Year, Mohawk is now looking to further her education in public health with a master’s degree. She’ll be studying at the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus.
A member of the UMD Public Health Student Advisory Team, Mohawk was directly involved in the accreditation process. “I can say this is something we’ve been working on a long time,” she states. “We’ve even talked about it in class.”
As the field of public health is changing and growing, students are able to trust that the knowledge and degree they’re receiving are top-notch, providing a solid educational foundation for a health educator position, employment in a public health agency, or graduate study.
“Our goal is to prepare them to be successful,” says Versnik Nowak. “And this accreditation supports that."