Holly’s decision to get a Master’s in public health was completely natural. Not only did she study health promotion as an undergrad, she’d come to realize that in public health, all opportunities lead to impactful work. She applied to The Ohio State University School of Public Health and soon after began working towards an MPH.
During her studies, Holly worked as a graduate assistant at The Ohio State University Student Wellness Center. She grew to love working in a campus environment and decided that after finishing her MPH, she would pursue college health promotion.
Unfortunately, finding public health work after graduating wasn’t exactly instantaneous. Holly got a job at a taco restaurant while she spent six months interviewing for postings she’d found on websites like higheredjobs.com. Holly finally landed a position as a health educator at Boise State University (BSU). The wait took longer than she would have liked, but she realizes now that it was worth it…BSU is a fabulous fit.
Boise State University
Holly’s work as a health educator contributes to BSU wellness in two main ways. The first involves overseeing six student peer educators who plan and coordinate campus outreach events for topics such as safe drinking and sexual health. Her work with these students is a support role, helping them schedule events, plan budgets, and develop into professionals.
The majority of Holly’s work is the creation of a vibrant employee wellness program. This program is built on the notion that employees perform better when they feel better, and they feel better when they are living a healthy lifestyle. BSU employee wellness consists of semester-long health challenges, free exercise classes, health coaching, biometric screenings, wellness workshops, health fairs, and more.
Holly is part of a wellness services team that includes the wellness director, a second health educator, several graduate assistants, and a recently hired full-time dietician. She says that her skilled team helps her create the best possible programs for BSU employees.
For Holly and her team, the real goal is not pounds and inches (although they do measure these biometrics for statistical purposes). The real success is the emotional change that happens to employees who participate.
For example, Holly shares the story of a woman who joined an employee yoga class just as the woman was finishing treatment for breast cancer. She later shared with Holly that this was the beginning of a commitment she’d made to herself to take care of her body. This employee has since branched out on her own trying many new classes including ballet barre, her current favorite.
As evidenced by this woman’s experience, Holly’s work is not just about creating programs. It’s about changing lives.
MPH on the Job
Most of Holly’s work involves some aspect of the core principles of health promotion. Holly relies heavily on program planning and regularly conducts needs assessments and evaluations in order to guide behavior change. She’s been able to bring to life the textbook theories she learned as an MPH student.
Holly has been very proactive about connecting with other college health educators and attending conferences to enrich her skills. She is a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) and must get 75 hours of continuing education every five years. She has obtained more than enough credits in only two years by attending conferences, obtaining her health coaching training through The Cooper Institute, and participating in live webinars through the University of Michigan.
Holly is active with the Wellness Councils of America (WELCOA) and the American College Health Association (ACHA). She attends annual meetings with both groups and taps into their social networks. In particular, she is a member of an ACHA coalition in which she participates in monthly calls and receives regular updates on college health promotion.
Holly’s Advice for MPH Grads
Holly’s advice for MPH grads is to find a work environment that leads to happiness instead of simply seeking the next pay grade. That “happy culture”, like the one she’s found at BSU, is made up of supportive and influential co-workers, opportunities to learn and stay up-to-date in public health, and simply having fun every day on the job. After all, in Holly's words,
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