A Vision for Academics
October 8, 2018
Commitment to teaching and high-quality programs is a core value at the Gillings School.
When I was recruited to the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health in 1999, the rigorous research and commitment to excellence were strong incentives to join the faculty here. I also admired the high expectations placed on quality teaching, and that was a major draw, given my practice-based background.
Almost 20 years later, that commitment to teaching – and to developing a stellar public health workforce – are still signature features of the School. The fact that 99 percent of our students get jobs or continue their educations within one year post-graduation illustrates this commitment and speaks volumes about students’ experiences between matriculation and graduation.
They arrive on campus with a passion to have a positive influence on the health of people, organizations and communities in North Carolina, across the United States and around the world, and they leave prepared to do just that. Regardless of the field of study, what students learn at the Gillings School positions them to be leaders in their fields.
We are making momentous changes in our educational programs. It has been my privilege to work with students, faculty and alumni to help facilitate this growth. Now, as senior associate dean for academic and student affairs, it has been the opportunity of a lifetime to help lead Gillings School efforts in redesigning our already excellent programs – making them even stronger, more student-centered and laser-focused on meeting workforce needs for the 21st century.
We are motivated by powerful changes in the world, new guidelines from our accreditor, the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), needs of students and employers, and our recognition that public health is an evolving profession. These drivers brought faculty, staff, students and alumni together to examine and reshape our curricula. The results have been amazing! An initiative that began as a renewal of core foundational training courses taken by all Master of Public Health (MPH) and Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH) students has expanded to touch all parts of our teaching mission:
Our MPH core courses, launched this fall, have been transformed into a fully integrated, 12-credit core MPH/MSPH training program.
This program brings together faculty and students from all departments to identify, develop, implement and evaluate public health problems – and propose strategic solutions. Team-based, interdisciplinary training allows students to dig into real-world problems that prepare them for public health jobs of today – and tomorrow.
We are expanding our online training program, MPH@UNC.
We also are partnering with faculty from UNC Asheville and the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) on a version of the Gillings MPH degree aimed at increasing access to public health training in western North Carolina.
We are expanding our MPH concentrations under one degree.
We will continue offering department-based concentrations (formerly eight separate MPH degrees) but also will add new cross-departmental concentrations – global health; health equity, social justice and human rights; and public health data science. All concentrations will launch by fall 2019.
Strategic changes in our undergraduate and doctoral degree programs are underway.
As with the Gillings MPH, we are approaching these changes with a strong commitment to educational excellence, rigorous training, state-of-the-science educational methods, an abiding focus on student and employer needs, a continuous quality improvement mindset and evaluation of our programs to ensure they deliver on our intentions.
“As leaders in education, our job is not to control those whom we serve, but to unleash their talent,” wrote George Couros, in The Innovator’s Mindset (2015).
We think that the profound changes we are making in our academic programs will do just that – unleash our students’ talent.
“If innovation is going to be a priority in education,” Couros continued, “we need to create a culture [in which] trust is the norm.”
Having been entrusted to lead this change process, I am grateful to the many students, faculty and staff members who have been full partners in developing the phenomenally creative, rigorous and potentially life-changing suite of residential and online courses that constitute our new core public health curriculum. Our educational programs are changing, but our deep commitment to students and communities persists as we educate the next generation of public health leaders. In this way, we will demonstrate our full commitment to our responsibilities as the #1 public school of public health in the country.
—Laura A. Linnan, ScD, Senior Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs
Carolina Public Health is a publication of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health. To view previous issues, please visit sph.unc.edu/cph.