Presenting Our Programs: MPH for Working Professionals Interested in Leadership and Organizational Change
Commit to coming to Twinsburg one night a week for two years, and you can earn an MPH degree in health policy and management. Designed especially for experienced full-time working adults, this program focuses on leadership and organizational change. The knowledge gained is immediately applicable on a daily basis, say the enthusiastic students in the inaugural cohort’s second year of courses.
James Hardy started part-time in the traditional MPH program on the Kent Campus. After talking with faculty members about his aspirations, he was encouraged to join the cohort program. “There is no comparison for the working professional,” says Hardy, a Kent State administrator assisting the president and Board of Trustees, but contemplating a future career in health care administration.
Andrea Martter, who works in regulatory affairs at GOJO Industries, Inc., agrees. “The program is so convenient, and it’s not intimidating to a nontraditional student. You go there on Tuesday nights, you do your homework, and it all fits in with your work schedule,” she says. Part of the weekly homework is a real-time online group assignment each week.
Hardy initially had concerns about how successful he would be, lacking background in math and science. “It’s easy to get intimated by two biggies, biostatistics and epidemiology. You might look at the degree program and say it’s not for you because of those courses. But I was not just successful in them, I was thriving,” he recalls.
That’s because “these courses are taught from a leadership perspective,” Hardy explains. “I’m not going to be a biostatistician, but I need to know biostats well enough to understand a report and work effectively with a biostatistician,” he says.
Fellow student Frank Migliozzi concurs. “We are gaining general knowledge of the programs we will be overseeing, but we need not be experts in all of them,” he says. A leader needs knowledge of the most important things, but not everything,” says the director of environmental health for the Trumbull County Health Department.
“All MPH programs teach the content knowledge of public health,” says Professor Ken Zakariasen, Ph.D., director of the Twinsburg program. “But to be successful, a leader needs to build on this basic knowledge by learning the right leadership and change behaviors to make the organization successful – to build relationships with people to make things happen,” he explains.
Leadership and organizational change methodologies are built into many courses. “I have countless examples when I’ve used the theory and practice taught in class in my everyday work experience,” says Hardy. “And the approaches are applicable to any industry,” he says. “The program truly fuels you to be better in your job.”
“It’s highly practical information, and it works in your business life and in your professional associations and community involvement, too,” says Suzanne Krippel, program manager for Cuyahoga County Board of Health. “The practical examples and success stories I’ve learned in class allow me to be more data driven, polished and professional, and management is responding much more positively,” she says.
“GOJO is especially open to cultural change and ideas of systems change, so I’m seeing my classes and career working together,” agrees Martter, who is using her classroom learning to get buy-in for projects and to keep team members interested and motivated. “The epidemiology course helped me to understand the claims we make in our products. Much of the course content has been very helpful in my day-to-day work,” she observes.
This time last year, Migliozzi began dealing with new State of Ohio regulations regarding licensing of manufactured home parks. “Local health departments have first right of refusal to conduct inspections or have a third party come in,” Migliozzi says. In the past, I would have made the decision solely, and everyone would have lived with it. Instead of doing that, I gathered data on the pros and cons and challenged our 14-member staff to do their own research and form a consensus on whether to do the program. They ultimately determined to do it, all have embraced it, and it’s worked out well, with good cooperation among the workforce,” he says. “When things are imposed on a workforce, sometimes there is resistance,” he says, “but employees thanked me for using the process.”
Similarly, Krippel is working on continuous quality improvement initiatives mandated by the Public Health Accreditation Board for credentials her organization is seeking. “It’s important to include people at all levels when programs or processes are redesigned to make them better and more efficient,” she says. “Employees with boots on the ground often have the most creative, freshest and best ideas,” says Krippel.
“These students are full-time working adults with substantial experience, and they immediately apply their learning in how to be a leader,” says Zakariasen. “They go back and make a difference right away, and it’s really gratifying.”
The course is making a difference for Jeremy Yoder, a sales representative with AstraZeneca, in terms of his thought processes. “I’m a much more critical thinker and a student of leadership,” he says. “Being a strong leader takes some cognitive effort,” he observes. “I’m much more able to look at a situation from multiple points of view now. In addition, I don’t take the status quo for granted, but try to see things in a different way,” he explains.
“It’s easy to go about daily tasks without stopping to think outside the box,” says Robin Hughes, clinical research nurse specialist at University Hospitals of Cleveland. “One of the things I’m getting from the MPH program is to not fear asking those questions that would lead to out-of-the-box thinking – to develop the voice and posture of a leader within an organization,” she says. “I am gleaning so much from all of the other professionals in the course. And everyone is truly vested in your success as a nontraditional student and working professional,” she adds.
“The cohort program doesn’t allow you to fail,” declares Hardy. “We lift each other up. There’s a safety net and support network that you don’t find in the traditional graduate setting,” he says.
Krippel, who says she “had zero designs on going to grad school,” considering it “unrealistic financially,” was persuaded to enroll by Assistant Dean of Operations and Community Relations, Ken Slenkovich, and Associate Professor of Environmental Health Sciences Chuck Hart, Ph.D. “It would have been my biggest mistake ever to have missed this,” she says. Krippel found Kent State’s tuition to be reasonable and, in addition, she received a scholarship from the Ohio Environmental Health Association.
“All of the students are hard workers, and they want to learn,” says Zakariasen. “We are here to build the program around their needs,” he says.
The entire program can be completed in two calendar years and is offered at the Twinsburg Regional Academic Center. The inaugural cohort of 14 is midway through, and a second cohort of 18 started in August. The program will be offered next year at the Trumbull Campus as well.
“Public health professionals never stop learning,” observes Migliozzi. “Through this program, you learn incredible skills that make your work experience more beneficial to the community and all you serve.”
“I’m not sure that a natural-born leader exists,” observes Yoder. “My fellow cohort members and I are all students of leadership now. And no matter what part of the health care field we are in, a degree this diverse will prove very worthwhile,” says Yoder.