The Physical Activity and Healthy Lifestyles concentration through the Colorado School of Public Health at Colorado State University, offers unique perspective to MPH students to facilitate health promotion and behavior change. For recent alum, Chase Therkelsen, the concentration enabled exploration of psychological motivations for healthy behaviors and their influence on the adoption of positive lifestyle changes.

The MPH experience allowed for a direct transition into post-grad employment for Chase. He currently works as a Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist with the CSU Health Network. In this role, Chase assists with alcohol and drug initiatives on campus, develops educational materials, and evaluates various campaign initiatives. “I was hired for my initial position [with the Health Network] near the end of my first semester in the MPH program, having applied via one of the job opportunities sent out to all MPH students. While it wasn’t necessarily physical activity related, I had an interest in the impact of substance use on behavior and health. At the time Colorado was still new to legalized adult cannabis use, so it has been interesting to see how things have changed over the past couple of years,” Chase said of his experiences.

A practicum with TEAM Wellness and Prevention (a non-profit focused on promoting healthy lifestyles through the prevention of substance abuse), flourished into a capstone project that was a collaboration between TEAM, the Health Network, and the City of Fort Collins. The project was an evaluation of a public campaign ‘Tame Your Inner Party Monster,’ utilizing harm-reduction approaches to encourage responsible decisions around substance use. “The skills learned throughout my capstone are useful going forward, as I continue to work in the public health environment. Through the campaign we learned what did and did not work, and I have been able to carry that knowledge to other campaigns,” said Chase.

Some advice to incoming MPH students; take advantage of opportunities outside the classroom. “So much of what is covered in classes is enhanced and made clear by attending conferences, getting involved in community organizations, and networking with public health peers. There were times in class where I’d think, ‘When am I ever going to use this?’ and then it seemed like only days later the information would be relevant to another class or in one of the workplace meetings I would attend.”

Looking to the future, Chase aspires to stay in higher education. “Overall, my interest is in helping to promote healthy behaviors for young adults, including encouraging physical activity or the prevention of substance abuse,” he said.