College of Public Health hunts for students and dean

Ashley Sepanski

Bachelor’s degree to be fully accredited by 2013

The College of Public Health has grown in both size and substance during its seven months of formal existence at Kent State.

Fall 2010 will welcome the first class of students for the bachelor’s of science in public health and hopefully a new dean, said Sonia Alemagno, interim associate dean of graduate studies research and graduate studies.

“Our goal is 100 (undergraduate) majors by next fall. It’s a hefty goal, but we’re happy,” Alemgno said. “Right now, the acting dean of the college is Bob Frank, who is also the provost. The good news there is he was already formally a dean of public health.”

Kent State President Lester Lefton said the search for a dean, although not too timely an issue, is a thorough and important process.

“This is a new college, so the founding dean is often a very important person,” Lefton said. “We’re going to be very, very careful in choosing someone who is student oriented and understands the research and the practitioner part of being a public health official.”

Currently, the College of Public Health has about 16 faculty members and 146 students enrolled in its four available online classes. Alemagno said the college hopes to expand to have a mixture of both online and lecture classes by fall semester.

“Students can either complete the degree totally online, a blended mixture (of in-class and online classes) or in the classroom,” Alemagno said. “We recently had about 70 students show up for open houses, so there’s pretty good interest.”

The college also provides the opportunity to earn an 18-credit-hour undergraduate certificate in public health, similar to a minor.

“Non-public health majors can get the undergraduate certificate and apply it to their majors,” Alemagno said. “For example, a journalism student could complete the certificate and then be qualified to report on public health issues.”

Alemagno said the college is also awaiting approval for a master’s and doctoral program from the Ohio Board of Regents. Along with accreditation from the Council on Education and Public Health, Kent State is on track to have the only fully accredited bachelor’s of science in public health in Ohio by 2013.

“When things are working fine, no one thinks about it (public health),” said Madhav Bhatta, assistant professor of epidemiology. “Here (in the United States) you can go to the tap and drink drinking water without thinking twice, but once something goes wrong, such as H1N1 or some sort of food-born illness, then health comes to the forefront.”

Bhatta, previously a program director at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said building the College of Public Health is an exciting opportunity.

Lefton said the college also offers international opportunities.

“(Kent State) has programs in Geneva,” Lefton said. “Where is the world health organization? In Geneva. Students will have the opportunity to work at the World Health Organization. It’s an extraordinary opportunity.”

With full accreditation on the way and a growing need for public health workers, Alemagno said the college is in a good place.

“The message is: Things are good. The dean hunt is ongoing and things are solid.”

Contact health reporter Ashley Sepanski at [email protected].