SPH Commits $1M to Support Student Practica.

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SPH Commits $1M to Support Student Practica

The new SPH initiative, called Generation Health, will fill gaps in available funding for students seeking practicum experiences in support of community-based organizations doing critical public health work.

November 4, 2022
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As a mission-driven institution, the School of Public Health’s work centers around a number of key commitments. Among them is a commitment to ensure equitable opportunity for all students, as well as a commitment to engage with community organizations whose work aligns with the school’s values of improving health at the local, national, and global level. To advance these commitments and the school’s collective effort to improve the health of populations, SPH is pledging one million dollars over the next two years to support student practicum experiences with community-based organizations.

The new SPH initiative, called Generation Health, will fill gaps in available funding for students seeking practicum experiences in support of community-based organizations doing critical public health work.

At SPH, the 240-hour practicum experience is a practice-based internship that provides all Master of Public Health students with the opportunity to gain experience applying what they learn in the classroom to real-world public health problems. While all students must complete a practicum to fulfill their degree requirements, many face restrictions and financial challenges when pursuing their practicums due to a lack of funding. Currently, less than half of SPH students receive funding for their practicum, consistent with the more than 40% of unpaid higher education internships across the country. This lack of funding leads the students who are unable to accept an unpaid position to seek out additional job opportunities to makes ends meet or pursue practicum experiences that do not align with their own public health interests in order to obtain some financial security.

Additionally, the smaller, community-based organizations that would greatly benefit from the capacity, skills, and expertise that SPH students bring to the table may not have the funding to support a paid practicum opportunity. This, unfortunately, can leave these organizations overlooked and under-resourced.  

By subsidizing unpaid and underpaid practicum opportunities, the Generation Health initiative aims to reduce financial barriers for students seeking practicums while supporting organizations in recruiting students to help advance public health and equity in communities, both locally and globally.

“Generation Health acts as a bridge between students and the community, working to make community-based public health work more equitable and accessible for the growing public health workforce” says Julia Lanham, assistant dean for careers and practicum. “This is also a concrete example of SPH living up to our values as a school, equity in all that we do.”

The initiative will expand upon SPH’s previous Practicum Access Award, which launched last spring and financially supported 35 students in fulfilling their practicum requirements. Now, with significantly more funds available, Generation Health will allow more SPH students than ever before to seek out practicum opportunities that align with their public health goals without worrying about financial barriers.

Starting in Spring 2023, students will be able to apply for up to $5,000 in funding for their practicum. Application windows will be open three times a year, and funding will be allocated throughout each application cycle. This year-round funding comes as a welcome change from the Practicum Access Award, which previously only provided funding for students over the summer.

“Many of our students look to do their practicum over the summer because they are not taking classes, but this is not the case for everyone, as many students use the summer to travel or visit their friends and family,” says Ryan Wisniewski, assistant director of the practicum program. “This expanded, year-round funding now gives our students more flexibility over when and where they seek out their practicum experience without sacrificing their professional goals or personal needs.”

Funding for Generation Health is made possible by the philanthropic support of SPH’s alumni and friends. While the school’s two-year commitment is a necessary first step toward creating both opportunity and equity within community-based practicum experiences, SPH has set an ambitious goal to reach complete funding for all students over the next several years. To meet this goal, further support from industry partners and leaders of public health is essential. As part of the Generation Health initiative, those partners who make financial contributions to advance this work and build a more diverse and equitable public health workforce will be named Generation Health Champions.

“Generation Health is an investment in the future of public health,” says Dean Sandro Galea. “Together, we can provide new opportunities for our students to further their professional development and create a world where all students can work with organizations whose work aligns with our collective mission to build a healthier world for all.” 

To learn more about Generation Health partnership opportunities, the application process, or how to donate to support our students, please reach out to the Career and Practicum Office at sphpract@bu.edu.

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SPH Commits $1M to Support Student Practica

  • Mallory Bersi

    Mallory Bersi is the writer and editor focusing on school news at the School of Public Health. Profile

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