Gillings MPH Practicum Preceptor FAQs

NOTE: THESE FAQS DO NOT APPLY TO THE MASTER OF PUBLIC HEALTH/REGISTERED DIETITIAN (RD) PROGRAM.

Have questions about our Gillings MPH Practicum?
Please select questions below to reveal answers to the question.

What is a practicum?

A practicum is a planned, mentored, and evaluated work experience (paid or unpaid) that enables students to integrate and apply knowledge, skills, and values from their Gillings MPH training in a practical, professional, public or private public health environment such as a nonprofit organization, hospital, local or state health department, or for-profit firm.

The practicum gives students an opportunity to:

  • Enhance their public health skills
  • Explore areas of professional interest
  • Contribute to the work and impact of organizations advancing public health
  • Observe, learn from, and network with public health professionals
  • Gain feedback on professional skills and performance
  • Demonstrate competency attainment

What are the Gillings MPH practicum requirements?

In order to meet graduation requirements, a Gillings MPH practicum must:

  1. Be public health practice, research, and/or policy focused.
  2. Allow for the application of graduate-level public health skills and demonstration of CEPH MPH Foundational Competencies.
  3. Yield at least two student-generated products, produced in the practicum setting for the practicum setting, that allow for demonstration of five CEPH MPH Foundational Competencies.
  4. Be mentored by a supervisor (preceptor) with an advanced degree in public health or related field or equivalent experience with expertise in the practicum project area.
  5. Comprise a minimum of 200 hours (equivalent to five weeks of full-time work).
  6. Take place in a location approved for student travel (UNC Travel Policy), and the student must complete UNC Gillings International Pre-Departure Travel Requirements prior to travel if applicable.

When do students complete their practicum hours?

Students can begin their practicum hours after completing the Gillings MPH Core courses and the MPH practicum preparation course (SPHG 701), with some exceptions. Our residential (Chapel Hill-based) and distance (Asheville-based) students typically complete their practicum hours over the summer in a concentrated block of time. Our MPH@UNC students (online) typically complete their practicum hours on a part-time basis and may span several semesters in doing so.


What types of activities do students complete during the practicum?

Practicum activities must allow for application of graduate-level public health skills and be public health practice, research, and/or policy focused. Examples of practicum activities include:

  • Collect, analyze, interpret, and summarize data
  • Conduct cost-effectiveness, cost-benefit, and cost-utility analyses
  • Conduct needs assessments
  • Contribute to the measuring, reporting, and continuous improvement of programs or organizations
  • Create an advocacy campaign
  • Create infographics
  • Design programs/curricula
  • Determine the feasibility and expected outcomes of policy options
  • Develop and coordinate programs and activities
  • Develop and implement quality improvement projects
  • Develop policy recommendations
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of existing programs
  • Identify strategies for determining budget priorities based on federal, state, and local financial contributions
  • Promote public health policies, programs, and resources
  • Provide support and assistance in funding research and grant writing

Students are not limited to the activities listed above and can combine multiple activities during the practicum. Clinical work (i.e., observation and/or treatment of patients), lab-based research, and shadowing experiences are not acceptable practicum activities.


What types of products do students produce during their practicum experiences?

A product is a tangible output from the student’s practicum work. Students must produce a minimum of two products in the practicum setting, for the practicum setting that demonstrate attainment of five CEPH MPH Foundational Competencies. The preceptor and student determine the number and types of products a student completes based on the agency’s needs, time constraints, and student interests and capabilities. Multiple students can work on the same practicum product; however, each student must present documentation demonstrating individual competency attainment. See the grid below for examples of practicum products include

Advocacy Tool
Asset Mapping Report
Business Plan
Communications and Outreach Plan
Community Advisory Board Meeting Summary
Community Assessment Report
Community Forum Summary Report
Community Profile Reports
Conceptual Model
Cost-Tracking Instrument
Course Module
Curriculum
Data Analysis Report
Data Collection Instruments
Data Management User Guide
Dissemination Plan
Environmental Scan Report
Evaluation Plan
Evaluation Tool
Event Plan
Fact Sheet/Brief
Focus Group Guide
Formative Research Report
Funding Database
Funding Toolkit
Fundraising Resource Guide
GIS Map
Grant Proposal
Health Assessment
Health Communication Campaign Materials
Implementation Resources
Literature Review
Logic Model and Core Component List
Manuscript Development
Marketing Plan
Media Materials
Message Testing Summary Report
Patient Engagement Tools
Photovoice Findings Report
Policy Brief
Program Plan
Recommendations Report
Recruitment Materials
Resource Guide
Social Marketing Campaign
Strategic Plan
Sustainability Plan
Training materials
Video Storyboard
Web-based Tool

What type of organization can host a practicum student?

Governmental, non-governmental, non-profit, industrial, for-profit settings, and university-affiliated settings are all appropriate practicum sites. University-affiliated settings must be primarily focused on community engagement, typically with external partners. University health care systems and health promotion or wellness centers may also be appropriate. Faculty-supervised lab settings are not appropriate for the practicum.


What are the roles and responsibilities of a practicum student?

The student is expected to take initiative in identifying, arranging, and completing a meaningful practicum that meets Gillings MPH practicum requirements. The student:

  • Secures a practicum placement;
  • Adheres to all UNC international travel policies and registration requirements as needed;
  • Develops a practicum learning agreement in collaboration with the preceptor and faculty mentor that is complete, accurate, and includes signatures of approval from the student, preceptor, and faculty mentor prior to submitting it to the practicum manager for final approval and signature;
  • Always maintains professionalism during the practicum experience;
  • Acts in accordance with all practicum organization rules, regulations, and professional standards including dress, personal conduct, and attendance;
  • Meets regularly with the preceptor to discuss the progress of the practicum and receive support, guidance, and feedback;
  • Maintains contact with the practicum manager and faculty mentor (as needed) regarding progress on the practicum; and
  • Completes and ensures the timely submission of all practicum assignments and products.

Who can serve as a practicum preceptor?

Practicum preceptors should have appropriate education and experience to mentor the student in the practicum’s project area and provide a meaningful learning experience. We understand that people come to public health from a range of backgrounds and expect a preceptor to have either:

  • A terminal degree (e.g., PhD or MD) and current, professional experience in public health;
  • A graduate degree in public health (e.g., MPH) and at least three years of full-time, professional experience in public health;
  • A graduate degree in a field other than public health (e.g., MS) and at least three years of full-time, professional experience in public health; OR
  • At least five years of full-time, professional public health experience in addition to a bachelor’s degree.

Preceptors should not be a student. If there is any uncertainty about preceptor qualifications, please contact mphpracticum@unc.edu.


What are the roles and responsibilities of a preceptor?

Preceptors mentor the practicum student and supervise the practicum work. The preceptor:

  • Establishes, in collaboration with the student and the student’s faculty mentor, an appropriate and feasible scope of work, which gets documented in the student’s learning agreement, that is directly aligned with the practicum organization’s needs and provides a valuable learning experience for the student;
  • Orients the student to the health topic(s), people, policies, procedures, and norms related to the practicum work;
  • Meets regularly with the student to provide guidance, support and timely, constructive feedback;
  • Communicates with the student’s practicum manager (and the student’s faculty mentor as needed) to provide feedback on the student’s performance;
  • Models professional, ethical behavior;
  • Completes an evaluation of the student and the practicum experience; and
  • Identifies a suitable replacement if unable to continue in the role of a preceptor.

Do the student-preceptor interactions need to be in-person?

In-person interaction is preferred; however, it is not always possible. As long as the preceptor is providing directions, feedback, and guidance throughout the practicum experience, preceptor-student interactions can be conducted via  Zoom, Skype, email, phone calls, etc.


What are the roles and responsibilities of the faculty mentor?

The faculty mentor provides discipline-specific feedback and technical support for the practicum.  The faculty mentor:

  • Assist mentees in refining goals for the practicum experience
  • Reviews and provides feedback on learning agreements to ensure that the proposed scope of work accounts for all steps entailed in producing the products and is feasible for the timeframe;
  • Provides technical assistance and problem-solving support during the practicum, as needed; and
  • Assesses mentees’ practicum products for competency demonstration.

What are the roles and responsibilities of the practicum manager?

The practicum manager coordinates the student’s practicum experience. The practicum manager:

  • Vets practicum opportunities to ensure they meet Gillings MPH requirements;
  • Approves the learning agreement and grants permission to begin the practicum hours;
  • Assists with onboarding requirements;
  • Provides instructions for the practicum at the beginning, middle, and end of the experience;
  • Monitors the practicum experience and problem-solves as needed; and
  • Disseminates and collects practicum evaluations.

Concentration
Delivery Format
Practicum Manager
Applied Epidemiology
Residential
Environmental Health Solutions
Residential
Global Health
Residential
Health Behavior
Residential
Health Equity, Social Justice and Human Rights
Residential
Health Policy
MPH@UNC
Health Policy
Residential
Leadership in Practice
Asheville
Leadership in Practice
MPH@UNC
Leadership in Practice
Residential
Maternal, Child and Family Health
Residential
Nutrition
MPH@UNC
Nutrition
Residential
Population Health for Clinicians
Residential
Public Health Data Science
Residential

Do students receive compensation for their practicum work?

Sometimes. Compensation for the practicum varies significantly by the type of practicum organization, project, and location. The proportion of students who secure paid practica varies by concentration. For those students who do receive funding from their practicum organization, the average rate of compensation is $16-26/hour.


How do I submit a practicum opportunity?

If you have a practicum opportunity to share with Gillings MPH students, please fill out this form. Gillings practicum staff will review your submission and if it meets Gillings MPH practicum requirements, your opportunity will be emailed out to students and added to a practicum opportunities database that is available to Gillings students on a password-protected webpage.


What is the deadline for submitting a practicum opportunity?

There is no deadline for submitting a practicum opportunity given that across our MPH program delivery formats (residential, distance, and online) we always have students looking for practica. That said, the majority of our students do their practica over the summer and have to secure a practicum by early April. For summer practica, we recommend submitting your practicum opportunity by mid-March at the latest. The earlier you submit an opportunity, the larger the applicant pool.


Who do I contact for questions?

For general questions about the practicum, please email mphpracticum@unc.edu.

If you have a specific question directed towards a specific concentration, please contact the appropriate Practicum Manager in the chart below.

Concentration
Delivery Format
Practicum Manager
Applied Epidemiology
Residential
Environmental Health Solutions
Residential
Global Health
Residential
Health Behavior
Residential
Health Equity, Social Justice and Human Rights
Residential
Health Policy
MPH@UNC
Health Policy
Residential
Leadership in Practice
Asheville
Leadership in Practice
MPH@UNC
Leadership in Practice
Residential
Maternal, Child and Family Health
Residential
Nutrition
MPH@UNC
Nutrition
Residential
Population Health for Clinicians
Residential
Public Health Data Science
Residential

 

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