August 20, 2004

New master's degree program unique to Illinois

by Paula M. Davenport

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- This fall, Southern Illinois University Carbondale becomes the only university in Illinois offering a master's of public health degree in community health education.

The program launches Monday, Aug. 23, the start of fall semester. The Illinois Board of Higher Education recently approved the University's proposal to offer the new degree.

SIUC's Graduate School will administer the program, housed in the Health Education and Recreation Department, chaired by David A. Birch. The department falls under the umbrella of the College of Education and Human Services.

A 43-credit hour program, it will include a six-hour practicum in community health education. The curriculum follows accreditation requirements of the Council on Education for Public Health, a nationally recognized and respected oversight organization.

With the program's kick-off, SIUC joins a select group of only 17 other U.S. universities -- outside those with schools of public health -- offering such a council-approved masters program.

"The addition of the Master's of Public Health in Community Health Education degree will further strengthen a the fine academic health education department on our campus," said R. Keith Hillkirk, dean of the College of Education and Human Services.

Degree candidates prepare to become community health educators able to assess community needs, plan, implement and evaluate programs designed to address those needs.

"Given the fine national reputation of our existing health education graduate program, we expect prospective, high-quality students from across the country to seek admission to this new program," said Birch.

Officials expect an enrollment of 45 students in the master's degree program within five years.

Those interested are welcome to apply. Applicants must have cumulative 3.0 grade-point averages (on a 4.0 scale) for admission in good standing.

In addition to training much-needed public health professionals, officials expect the program will expand research and funding opportunities in SIUC's health education and recreation department while providing opportunities for future collaborative efforts across the entire University system.

Offering progressive graduate education is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.