To prepare the next generation of researchers and professionals, we proposed to 1) evolve our research-focused education to better prepare our graduates for interdisciplinary, team-based scientific discovery and implementation; 2) enrich our practice-focused education by ensuring students have the knowledge, skills, and tools to work across sectors and tackle multifaceted global public health challenges; 3) enhance our career services and professional development opportunities to prepare our students for academic and non-academic positions across sectors; 4) extend the reach and accessibility of our educational programs by investing in flexible teaching and learning strategies that take advantage of digital technologies and new educational modalities; and 5) ensure a broad and inclusive community of learners by addressing the affordability of our education.
Evolve our research-focused education
Expanded the availability of courses and workshops that focus on core competencies of applied epistemology, logic, ethics, and sound research methodology through the R3 Center for Innovation in Science Education. To date, it has served over 2,000 learners from departments and programs across the University. A Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC)-accredited R3 Certificate of Rigor, Reproducibility and Responsibility in Scientific Practice has been developed and integrated into several NIH T32 training grants.
- Established the PhD Program Directors Network that meets monthly to surface concerns of our students, facilitate collaboration, and share best practices across programs. The group, established under the leadership of our Vice Dean for Education, has been instrumental in formalizing and operationalizing individual development plans within each department, ensuring that PhD students and their advisers connect at least annually about career development goals and other topics as well as progress in the student’s program.
Enrich our practice-focused education
Developed a set of new courses designed to teach basic public health practice and crosscutting skills that include 1) 12 Cells to Society, six Leadership Skills courses, and a 1-credit R3 course on communications to nonexpert audiences that meet curriculum requirements of the accrediting body, the Council on Education for Public Health; 2) a year-long sequence of 3-credit courses on leadership development, including leading organizations, leading teams, and leading for change, which will be available both in person and online; 3) a 3-credit course on writing for success; and 4) a University-wide extracurricular workshop series on science communication offered by the R3ISE team.
- Developed 21 new courses in the five focus and crosscutting areas of the Bloomberg American Health Initiative. These courses are structured around a problem-solving approach to public health and have been taken by nearly 1,500 students at the School. Additionally, we quickly developed a cross-School, 2-credit course, Current Issues in Public Health: The COVID-19 Pandemic Response, that has been taken by more than 450 students.
- Supported 211 Bloomberg Fellows—180 MPH and 31 DrPH students—with fully funded degrees as part of the Bloomberg American Health Initiative’s commitment to provide world-class public health training to individuals in organizations tackling critical challenges facing the U.S. These fellows represent a diverse mix in race/ethnicity, geography, type of organization, and focus areas. Among the MPH Fellows, 76% are drawn from nontraditional public health backgrounds; for the DrPH program, 58% are from nontraditional backgrounds.
- Expanded service-learning and applied education via practice courses and partnerships in real time. Many courses, projects, and practicums were launched in 2020–21 to meet community and research needs in response to COVID-19 as well as longer-term public health needs. Partnerships with our Alumni Relations team and virtual internships have helped to expand practice opportunities beyond the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., area to include organizations across the U.S. and internationally.
- Established a central jobs and opportunity inventory and added a search function for service-learning and practicum courses to the School’s course directory to help students more easily identify and incorporate practice opportunities into their educational experiences.
- Increased applications to our DrPH program substantially, from 275 applicants in 2019–20 to 370 in 2020–21 and 377 in 2021–22. As of early December, this number had reached 717 for the 2022–23 academic year. These increases reflect a growing demand for advanced, professional qualifications in public health and flexible, part-time programs that allow students to further their education while maintaining employment. To meet this demand, we have added three—Global Health Policy and Evaluation, Women’s and Reproductive Health, and Health Policy—for a total of 10 specialized areas of study within the DrPH program.
- Introduced innovations to better serve the growing number of professional master's students. A summer virtual series was created to introduce students to the School and meet faculty before beginning their degree program. New methods of advising include small academic networks within each program and improved access to both group and individual advising.
- Created a council of MSPH directors from across the School to facilitate more cross-departmental cooperation. The council meets quarterly to share best practices, coordinate cross-department social events, and encourage a more cohesive approach to working with MSPH students.
- Reviewed our online Master of Applied Science (MAS) programs and shifted the marketing and enrollment management of these programs inhouse to better and more efficiently integrate the coursework, financial models, and admissions services with the rest of our programs.
Enhance our career services and professional development
- Established five-year benchmarks to track student satisfaction with respect to career development.
- Developed new professional development opportunities for PhD students to address the finding that only 60% of graduating PhD students say that they received helpful guidance regarding nonacademic career options. For example, through a project funded by the Provost’s Office, seven faculty members initiated new programming for short-term professional development activities, including student access to career alumni panels with a specific focus on nonacademic opportunities.
- Provided more robust career development activities targeted to master’s students, including Public Health Industry Days; Conversations and Connections (featuring guest speakers, faculty, and alumni); Public Health Exchange Sessions (informal virtual coffee chats with employers); TED-style talks; increased department presentations; and virtual drop-in sessions.
- Hired an Assistant Director of Career Services to help support expanded programs and services with a focus on master’s students.
- Launched a Winter Intersession Career Development Academy—Jump-Starting Your Public Health Career—as a collaboration between the Career Services Office, Alumni Relations team, and the Office of Public Health Practice and Training. In 2021, its first year, the Academy had nearly 900 registrations and over 20 presentations and alumni discussions on a variety of career and professional development topics such as networking in the digital age, virtual interviewing, and resume writing for public health. The curriculum is being expanded to include instruction in key skill areas such as communications, data visualization, and time management.
Extend the reach and accessibility of our educational programs
Implemented a Schoolwide strategy to improve marketing, messaging, and managing admissions and enrollments by engaging our Communications and Marketing team and working closely with academic coordinators and administrators across all of our programs. After a dip in enrollments in 2019–20, we saw a record number of applications in 2020–21 (up by 19%) and enrollments (up by 24%). In 2021–22, we saw additional increases over 2020–21 in applications (up by 24%) and enrollments (up by 22%).
- Invested in a major upgrade of the School’s website, which offers an improved interface and search functions to help applicants easily find and compare the programs that are the best fit for them.
- Began offering the option of a completely online, part-time MPH program, beginning in June 2020, eliminating the requirement for students to take 16 credits in person. Between 2020–21 and 2021–22, we saw a 59% increase in applications for the June start of the program (269 in 2020 and 429 in 2021).
- Expanded our Marketing team and School-level marketing in the Office of External Affairs and contracted with Hanover Research to conduct targeted marketing research, initially focusing on our master’s programs to include 1) a landscape analysis for our MPH program; 2) a prospective student survey; 3) a tuition sensitivity analysis; and 4) an employer survey. The results of these studies are informing our strategy for marketing, tuition discounts/scholarships, and professional development activities.
- Expanded our online educational programs in response to the pandemic to establish a Virtual Plus campus in Spring 2020, with related resources and strategies continuing today. Our current educational offerings include a mix of in-person, online, and hybrid courses and enrichment activities and opportunities. This increased access to our programs allows us to reach students wherever they are in the world. Student satisfaction with our Virtual Plus campus has been high, with specific course evaluation ratings remaining stable and, in some cases, exceeding ratings before the pandemic.
- Invested in improved classroom technology to support our Virtual Plus campus and developed a Teaching Council to support faculty and teaching fellows in each department and share teaching tips and pedagogical insights with teaching assistants and faculty across the School. A new online (and now hybrid) monthly Teaching Workshop series provides a way to discuss teaching strategies and further build a culture of teaching excellence.
- Continued to grow our non-degree offerings through massive online open courses and our Summer Institutes. Of particular note, more than 1.3 million learners enrolled in and 700,000 completed the contact tracing course we developed on Coursera, which won the 2021 Coursera Outstanding Achievement Award for Innovation. The course has been used by many governments for workforce training and recruitment and has been translated into multiple languages. Enrollments in our 2021 Summer Institutes reached a record high of 2,061 in 135 courses, a 22% increase over 2020 enrollment.
- Introduced a new online Certificate in Product Stewardship for Sustainability that will enable professionals to promote responsible design, development, and management of products throughout their lifecycle. Moving forward, we will market this certificate to targeted industry partners, with aspirations to establish ongoing training contracts that provide sustainable teaching revenue.
Ensure a broad and inclusive community of learners by addressing the affordability of our education
- Provided all PhD students with 100% tuition support, together with health insurance premiums, for years one through four of their programs, beginning in academic year 2020–21. Departments can decide to support more than four years of study and provide stipend support. Students in year five and beyond are only required to register for three credits per term.
- Targeted PhD student support as a priority for fundraising, starting in fiscal year 2020, and have had some early success despite the challenging times in terms of soliciting and securing support for new doctoral support endowments. We received more than $3 million in new commitments toward doctoral support, coming from 330+ donors, with 71 donors giving to an already established endowed fund. (The remaining donors gave to current-use, non-endowed funds.) Several significant gifts were recently committed from previous donors, including a $2 million commitment over 10 years from Health Advisory Board member Bill Clarke, a $1.9 million commitment over four years from Bayer Pharmaceutical (to support doctoral and master’s level students in Population, Family and Reproductive Health), and a pending renewal of the Lerner Doctoral Fellows program in the Center for a Livable Future with a five-year, $2.8 million commitment.
- Experimented with the number and size of tuition scholarships awarded to highly ranked applicants to the full-time MPH program who would not otherwise have received a scholarship. Based on the results of the experiment, we adjusted our policies and are providing some level of tuition assistance to all applicants in the highest- and second-highest ranked tiers.