MPH Culminating Experience

MPH Student Handbook

According to CEPH, all MPH students must demonstrate skills and integration of knowledge through a culminating experience. A culminating experience is one that requires a student to synthesize and integrate knowledge acquired in coursework and other learning experiences and to apply theory and principles in a situation that approximates some aspect of professional practice.

The MPH culminating experience at UNR has three components:

  1. the field studies/internship;
  2. the MPH professional paper; and
  3. the Capstone course.

Through the MPH culminating experience students will demonstrate proficiency in public health knowledge and competencies. Successful completion of all three components of the culminating experience is evidence that the MPH graduate is prepared to become a public health professional.

MPH Internship

"All MPH Students must have planned, supervised, evaluated practice experience; in a variety of settings, but especially state and local Health Departments; Preceptors must be qualified public health professionals." Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), 2005 accreditation criteria.

  • The purpose of the internship requirement is to provide each MPH student with significant practical public health experience in a community-based agency outside of the University. While CEPH specifically mentions state and local health departments above, there are a wide variety of local organizations that would qualify for internship sites.
  • The MPH student is expected to find an organization to complete the internship opportunity. The Internship Coordinator, advisor and other faculty can provide support through their various connections in the communities, but it is up to the student to arrange an internship that fits best with their area of interest. The identification and approval of possible internship sites should begin in the first semester of fall classes.
  • Students must register for a total of three credit hours of CHS 798 and complete 270 total work hours. Students are flexible to meet the hour requirement at their own pace, with the understanding that all hours must be completed within the summer semester.
  • Full-time students who begin the MPH program in the fall semester should plan on taking CHS 798 during the summer between their first and second year, with the goal of completing the Internship prior to their final spring semester, when they will be enrolled in the MPH capstone course.
  • Part-time students should consult their Faculty Advisor and the Internship Coordinator to determine Internship timing.
  • Ideally, the student should begin planning for the Internship in the fall before the desired start date by meeting with their Faculty Advisor to determine interests, concentration, competencies, and goals for the Internship. Emphasis should be placed on arranging an internship experience that will provide the student with new skills and experiences, where the student will be working in a professional capacity. Once a site and Preceptor (site supervisor) have been identified and arranged, the student will work with all parties to complete the Student Learning Contract (SLC), which outlines student goals, objectives, and competencies to be addressed during the Internship. Competencies are defined by CEPH as: Competencies clearly define what the student will do to demonstrate learning for a workforce-related need. The course objective specifies what the institution intends to do to achieve its course goals."
  • The SLC must be signed by all parties and submitted to the Internship Coordinator prior to the start of any internship hours. Preceptors must have significant education and/or work experience in public health in order to qualify. Final determination of preceptor qualification will be made by the Faculty Advisor and Internship Coordinator.
  • IMPORTANT: There are several prerequisites that must be passed prior to enrollment in CHS 798 or beginning work on the internship—please see "Significance of Grades" section in the Program Overview section.

MPH Capstone Course

  • The MPH capstone course will give students an opportunity to integrate coursework and fieldwork by completing the final components of the culminating experience. The MPH culminating experience will include assistance in completing written and oral components (the MPH professional paper and presentation) and students will demonstrate proficiency in public health knowledge and competencies. The nature of the MPH culminating experience topic may vary given the student's career goals and chosen area of MPH emphasis.
  • The MPH capstone course will also cover important competencies related to professional development. Special sessions and assignments related to professional development include: public health ethics and professionalism, group facilitation/mediation, public speaking/presentations, resume development, and applying for a job. In addition, students will complete a competency assessment to identify competencies that need to be further developed. This assessment will provide valuable feedback on MPH curriculum competencies. Students will use the assessment to develop a post-graduation professional development plan.
  • Successful completion of the capstone course (grade of "C" or better), as well as successfully passing the professional paper and presentation (which are determined by the student's advisor and committee, independently of the capstone course), are all required for the degree.

MPH Committee Selection Guidelines

MPH Academic Advisor

Each MPH student is assigned an Academic Advisor when they are admitted to the program, depending on the student's specialization. The advisor provides guidance throughout the course of the student's MPH career and works closely with the student in developing their program of study and internship.

MPH Advisory Committee

The Advisory Committee oversees the student's culminating experience, professional paper, and presentation. The committee must be organized no later than the fall semester preceding the capstone course. It is the student's responsibility to form this committee, working closely with their academic advisor.

All master's programs require two advisory committee members which must be graduate faculty members.

The MPH culminating experience committee includes:

  • The student's academic advisor (committee chair)
  • Another faculty member from the School of Community Health Sciences
    • This faculty member will generally have a related interest to the student's project
  • In addition, a professional practice representative, typically the preceptor from the student's internship site is highly encouraged, but not required to serve on the committee.
    • This potential committee member is typically a representative from the agency involved with the culminating project. Preferably, this person should be trained in public health at the doctoral or masters' level (Ph.D., Ed.D., Dr. P.H., M.D., M.P.H, etc.).

Formal approval of all student advisory committees is made by the Graduate Dean.

MPH Professional Paper and Presentation

  • Students will complete a MPH professional paper that represents the culmination and mastery of the MPH curriculum. The culminating experience paper will typically be based on student's field studies experience, but occasionally it could be related to faculty-student research, or another field experience. Some examples of culminating experience that could be the basis of the paper include: needs assessment, program planning, program evaluation, product or curriculum development, a research report (analysis of primary or secondary data), policy analysis, or grant development.
  • Before beginning the MPH professional paper, students must:
    • establish a professional paper committee
    • obtain committee approval for their proposed paper topic
    • obtain committee signatures on their program of study
  • In addition to the competencies identified by the capstone course instructor, students will choose three competencies within their area of emphasis that they will emphasize in their MPH paper and presentation. The MPH professional paper will typically be about 25-30 pages in length, not including references and appendices.
  • Note: If the work contributing to the MPH paper involved human subjects, make sure you have received appropriate approval from the University of Nevada, Reno Office of Human Research Protection. IRB approval must be obtained before any data collection with human subjects can begin.
  • MPH Paper Presentations: Students are required to present their MPH paper to MPH students, faculty, and graduate committee representatives. The presentation will be approximately 30 minutes with 10 minutes for questions and discussion.
  • Once all requirements have been met, students need to submit a Notice of Completion form in order to graduate.