In addition to the field-based learning experiences that are part of the courses throughout the program, students are required to integrate and synthesize their acquired skills and knowledge in an applied situation that approximates some aspect of professional practice in community health education. This is done through an internship/practicum in a community health agency (HEA 650: Community Health Internship/Practicum). Prior to the internship/practicum, students plan their work in an applied program planning class (HEA 648: Applied Program Planning). These two courses and the experiences they provide constitute the Capstone Experience of the MPH program.
An internship is a structured, planned, and supervised professional experience for which the student receives academic credit. The well designed internship should engage students in a unique learning relationship involving a three-way partnership between the student, the site preceptor, and the faculty internship coordinator. The internship should provide the student with a critical learning opportunity that links academic knowledge with practical experience while providing a beneficial service to the preceptor organization. By carefully applying the graduate level skills of the MPH program into an experiential process the internship provides a different experience than volunteer or paid work. Although an internship may allow students the opportunity to build professional contacts and/or be paid, that is not its primary purpose. Neither is the purpose of the internship to provide “cheap” labor to often under-staffed or under-resourced agencies. And although an internship is typically practice-based, at its core it is an educational experience and should therefore be designed to contribute to the student’s intellectual and ethical growth.
Students plan their internship in the fall during a program planning course (HEA 648) and implement their internship during the subsequent spring semester. Internships are a minimum of 180 hours.
The following are key characteristics of an MPH internship:
- It is an educational experience.
- The work/activities are designed to provide both student learning and benefits to the agency.
- It is guided by the student’s personal learning goals.
- It is planned. The plan consists of program goals and objectives, activities/strategies for achieving these goals and objectives; a timeline and budget (monetary and non-monetary); and an evaluation plan assessing how well the student’s achieved both the program and the personal learning goals.
- It is situated within an appropriate agency, supervised by qualified agency personnel.
- It involves ongoing interaction between the student and a faculty internship coordinator.
- It involves student reflection and evaluation.
- It involves graduate level work and assessment.
More information is available in the MPH Students organization in Blackboard.