Mark J. Kittleson, PhD, Professor, Academic Head Public Health Sciences, New Mexico State University

Our Interview Series is designed to inspire & encourage students to pursue a career in the myriad sectors within global public health.

Mark J. Kittleson, PhD, Professor and Academic Head of Public Health Sciences at New Mexico State University, joins us today to discuss public health education.

1. Can you tell us about the MPH programs offered at New Mexico State University?

NMSU has two ways to earn your MPH in Community Health Education.  The on-campus program is where one is physically present in Las Cruces, NM.  The second is our on-line MPH program where working professionals can earn their MPH.  Both programs are accredited by CEPH and have a great legacy at meeting needs of the southwest (as well as other places throughout the country).

2. How long does a typical MPH program take at New Mexico State University? What is the maximum and minimum time of completion?

The MPH on-campus program is typically a two-year program (taking 3 classes a semester);  the MPH on-line program, designed for the working professional, is a three year program (taking 2 classes a semester)

3. What do you think makes New Mexico State University’s MPH stand out from other MPH programs?

NMSU is one of  just a few research universities that is considered a Border Universities (those universities within 50 miles of the Mexican border).  This border region has some of the most major health problems in the country.  It has extremely high levels of poverty, lack of access to health care, high teen pregnancies, high obesity and incidences of diabetes.  Some demographers claim that the high Latino population along the border (around 60%) is what the U.S. will be like in 40 years.    Students in our MPH program are required to take a border-health related class to help prepare them in dealing with this unique segment of our population.

The second issue is that NMSU is really leading the charge in providing rigorous, quality online instruction.  NMSU provides faculty incredible support to help them improve all of their instructions—on-campus as well as on-line.  Obviously I’m biased, but I believe these are the best on-line courses in the country.

4. How important would you say accreditation is when choosing an MPH program?

Accreditation is a quality assurance ‘stamp of approval’ and thus it is very important. There are many states that require one to graduate from an accredited public health program to work in any health department.  NMSU has had their MPH programs accredited since the late 1990s and have recently received their continuance until 2018.  It should also be noted that NMSU is the ONLY program in the country that has a SABPAC approved (accredited) undergraduate program in community health education AS WELL as a CEPH accredited MPH.

5. There is some debate as to whether or not online MPH degrees are as worthwhile as traditional MPH degrees. What steps does New Mexico State University take to ensure that online students are receiving the same education that they’d receive in a classroom?

There is a myth (and I’ve conducted enough research on this to know this is a myth) that on-line is not as good as on-campus.  The fact of the matter in that of all the research done on-line has been shown to be superior to on-campus education.  The fact that our program has met the rigorous accreditation of CEPH is a testament to our quality.  As earlier mentioned, NMSU has a Teaching Academy that works very closely with faculty to improve all teachings…both our on-line and on-campus teaching is SUPERIOR!

6. What are the advantages to earning a MPH degree in general?

A MPH, especially one in Community Health Education, provides one with a great set of tools that can be used in any public health setting.  We are just starting to recognize the importance of prevention and public health in the overall health of our society.  Public Health is on the forefront of providing many of those prevention efforts (efforts that should have been started decades earlier).

7. Does New Mexico State University offer job placement for students who graduate in public health?

NMSU has a very aggressive career services center on campus.  However, our faculty are so well-known that we will often get calls from various employers (many who are our alum) asking us if we have a student about to graduate.

8. What type of financial aid packages are available for students in public health? Are there any fellowships, grants and scholarships available?

NMSU has a strong financial aid packet for those that quality.  In addition, the department provides graduate assistantships to select individuals.  Besides departmental assistantship, the graduate school has a series of fellowships for qualified students (some are competitive).

At this time, NMSU only allows on-campus students from holding graduate assistantships, although we have recently seem a ‘loosening’ of this  policy.

9. Do you have any advice for students enrolling in an MPH program for the first time?

Graduate work is intense and it’s important that you do what you need to do to be successful.  Work closely with your advisors (and listen to their advice).  Finally, be sure to read the policies/dates that the university follows.

For those who are considering an on-line program, make absolutely certain that you have the state of the art equipment to be successful.  Finally, you must be disciplined enough to keep up with the assignments.

For on-campus students, make it a point to meet the various other groups on campus that can help make your journey a success.

10. What do you enjoy most about your position at New Mexico State University?

I get to work with a great group of faculty who are truly committed to students, work well in the community, and have a strong  vision for public health along the border (and throughout the country).

For more information on the MPH programs offered at New Mexico State University, visit them online at http://publichealth.nmsu.edu

Thank you Dr. Kittleson, for sharing and participating in this piece.

That concludes our interview!