September 16, 2014

Global and Public Health Sciences Major Now Offered at Cornell

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In response to high student demand for an education in public and global health, the University is now offering a new major in Global and Public Health Sciences through the College of Human Ecology.

Demand for the global health minor has more than doubled in two years, rising from 31 participants in 2008 to 80 participants in 2010, according to the original proposal for the major. There are also roughly 30 student organizations on campus focused on global and public health.

“We have a lot of students that are interested in health but the programs that were available in terms of formalized majors weren’t really focused in the areas of public health or global health,” said Prof. Robert Parker, nutritional sciences.

Moreover, the proposal — which was written by faculty from the Division of Nutritional Sciences — stressed the national need for an increase in the number of public health professionals.

Prof. Patrick Stover, nutritional sciences, added that the GPHS major will focus on topics in population health, unlike other similar majors which focus on “individual health.”

“[Although] the [Division of Nutritional Sciences] currently administers a major in nutrition, human biology, health and society and a concentration in nutrition through the biological sciences major, these majors all focus on individual health and serve students interested in careers focused on human health,” Stover said. “The GPHS major focuses on population health and has course requirements in epidemiology and statistics.”

The major will also require a mandatory experiential learning component that will provide students with an opportunity to apply knowledge learned in the classroom to a real-world environment, according to the major’s website.

Parker said the experiential learning component will not only enhance students’ individual learning experience, but will also shape students into competitive applicants for advanced programs in public health. Students will have the opportunity to fulfill this requirement on- or off-campus, or in an international field setting in places such as Tanzania and the Dominican Republic.

Parker added that the major will culminate in a capstone course titled “Explorations in Global and Public Health.”

“Both the classroom experience and the active learning experience [through the experiential learning requirement] all come together [in this course],” he said. “It provides a forum to relate classroom and field or research experiences and brings everything together.”

Parker said, however, that the expansion of the major will depend on whether the University will have sufficient resources to accommodate more students. Both the amount of experiential learning opportunities and the capacity of the capstone course would have to be increased to maintain a high quality program for more students.

Post-graduation, students majoring in GPHS will be prepared to pursue either an entry-level job in public health or a more advanced degree, Parker said.

“We are interested in training students that are going to become leaders,” he said.

The proposal for the major was finally approved this spring after a four-year application process which began in 2010, according to Stover. The approval process for a new major requires approval at four levels — the department or division, the college within the University, the State University of New York and the New York State Department of Education.

Due to the course sequence required for the GPHS major, it will only be available to freshmen who began attending the University for the 2014-15 school year, according to Parker. To date, 15 freshmen have declared a major in Global and Public Health Sciences. He added that transfer students will not be admitted to the major until the University evaluates the success of the current course sequence.

“We are putting a lot of effort on developing a meaningful freshman experience,” he said.

According to Stover, CHE will recruit for and advertise the new major for the next school year. Parker, however, said it may take until the fall of 2016 for the major to be offered through CALS.