As part of the Master of Public Health program, each student is required to complete a practicum and capstone experience. These practice-based learning opportunities allow the student to personalize their public health education, and explore unique career opportunities. This summer, we are featuring a four-part series about ColoradoSPH@CSU students who are completing their practicum.

Selecting one of the six concentrations through the Colorado School of Public at Colorado State University is the first step for students to narrow down the broad field of public health to match their interests. Once steeped in coursework, students then craft their practice-based learning experiences – a practicum and a capstone project – around a more specific issue. Myra, a soon-to-be second-year MPH student in the Physical Activity and Healthy Lifestyles concentration, designed her practicum to help her learn about locally-grown food and Community Supported Agriculture in Fort Collins. Myra is completing her practicum with the Friends of Happy Heart Farm, an organization with the mission to connect community members to fresh foods and to the people who grow it. Friends of Happy Heart Farm aims to improve the health of the community through increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables while improving individual’s food knowledge.

Myra is a Public Health Summer Intern, taking on a variety of different tasks for Friends of Happy Heart Farms. For instance, she has helped to build a fourth-grade food and garden curriculum for one of the organization’s programs called “The Food School.” Other opportunities have included conducting research on local food security and Community Supported Agriculture models. Friends of Happy Heart is expanding a program called “Feeding the Families” in which subsidized CSA shares are provided to low-income families. Myra’s research has been guiding this expansion by providing data-based analysis.

The coursework taken during her MPH program has certainly helped to shape Myra’s practicum experience. “I have taken courses in food systems and in nutrition while at ColoradoSPH@CSU,” she notes. “These have reinforced my interest in improving food behavior and access to healthy foods. I also learned about my practicum organization through a tour with a ColoradoSPH class.”

Friends of Happy Heart is a small non-profit organization, and since her supervisors wear many hats throughout the day, Myra has learned the value of adaptability and personal initiative. “The organizational realities of my practicum has cultivated my confidence working independently and encouraged me to take the initiative for all my practicum projects,” she says. That attitude has led to some rewarding moments for Myra: “Early in the summer, I worked on entering the organization’s program surveys from the past year. The responses on the surveys were overwhelmingly positive and offered solid evidence that the programs of Friends of Happy Heart are having a measurable impact on their program participants. Seeing this evidence and sharing it with the organization staff was very rewarding because it reinforced their mission and approach, and my commitment to their work.”

As the summer winds down and ColoradoSPH students return to the classroom, Myra has begun to plan the next steps in her education. She hopes to complete her practicum with Friends of Happy Heart Farm, perhaps relating to the expansion either of the “Feeding the Families” program or the “Food School”curriculum. Eventually, Myra hopes to use her MPH degree to work in the non-profit or policy sector, improving access to healthy foods and active recreation resources.

[Photo Credit: Happy Heart Farms]

For more stories on students completing their practicum and capstone, please visit our news page.