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The Scarlet & Black

Grinnell partners with University of Iowa for master’s program

Beginning with the class of 2016, Grinnell will offer students pursuing a master’s degree in public health the opportunity to take part in a jointly-sponsored program with the University of Iowa (U of I) that will allow them to complete the degree in five years.

Grinnellians on that track will take graduate classes their senior year and continue to Iowa’s graduate master’s program in public health, if they are accepted to the program and meet Grinnell’s prerequisites.

Interested students should take a sample course in public health their first or second year at Grinnell to confirm their interest. Before applying to Iowa’s program, Grinnell students must have at least a 3.25 GPA and have taken one math class and Introduction to Biology, Introduction to Physics or Introduction to Chemistry. The first students in the class of 2016 to begin the program will be able to apply in February.

“We have been led to believe that the application process won’t be very competitive,” said Professor Jim Swartz, Chemistry, co-developer of the program with Professor Shannon Hinsa-Leasure, Biology.

Typically, students would apply to the program in February of their third year. If accepted, they will take three courses their senior year that graduate students in Iowa’s public health program would be taking their first year of the traditional two-year master’s degree program. These classes are taught online with capped enrollment by Iowa professors, but Grinnell students will also have the opportunity to commute to the U of I campus in Iowa City.

Immediately after graduating, students would continue with three new classes over summer. Afterwards, Grinnellians would start as graduate students at Iowa the following fall with only two semesters left of classes before receiving their master’s degree.

The program was developed a few years ago when the Associate Dean of Iowa’s Master of Public Health Program, Mary Aquilino, visited Grinnell and met with Swartz, who was then head of the Health Professions Advisory Committee (HPAC). Typically, the HPAC guides students applying to medical school, but Aquilino’s visit sparked a discussion regarding public health graduate programs and Grinnell’s role in preparing students for the field. Notably, Grinnell is also tied to the Iowa Department of Public Health because President Raynard Kington used to serve as the head of that department.

Other liberal arts colleges that have five-year master’s programs tend to dedicate three years to the bachelor’s degree and two years in the master’s degree program. Hinsa-Leasure wanted to ensure that students would not have to compromise any opportunities offered for Grinnell students, such as study abroad programs and financial aid, to pursue this program.

Swartz hopes to bring in faculty members from the University of Iowa over the next year to teach seminars and give lectures to the Grinnell student body. According to Swartz, public health programs are generally not very popular as bachelor’s degrees. Due to Grinnell’s limited size, the science division likely will not offer its own public health classes, so students interested in acquiring a degree in public health will be able to receive a master’s degree from the University of Iowa within five years of starting at Grinnell.

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