UAMS College of Public Health Team Members Recruit UAPB Biology Club Students

By Kev' Moye

More than 40 members of the club attended the program, which took place in a UAPB auditorium.

“Most students are not aware of the educational and career opportunities available in public health,” said Tiffany Haynes, Ph.D., College of Public Health associate professor. “It’s important that we’re intentional about raising awareness of our programs and how the programs prepare students for meaningful careers in public health.  Also, building collaborations with other state universities, and especially historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU), is critical to both increasing and diversifying our student body and ultimately Arkansas’ public health workforce.”

The program featured presentations, a question-and-answer session and an opportunity to get exclusive COPH pamphlets and swag.

In addition to Haynes, representatives from the college were Lorraine Stigar, MPH, director of recruitment and student life cycle; Austin Porter, Dr.P.H., MPH, assistant professor; and Alice Gardner, MPH, Ph.D., doctoral student.

Amanda Winston, MPH, the education coordinator for the UAMS Division for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and an alumna of the college, also spoke to the group, which consisted of mostly biology, chemistry or biochemistry majors.

“I strongly encourage each of you to research the college,” Winston told the students. “I’m well-versed in numerous concepts of public health because of the education I received at the UAMS College of Public Health.”

When asked about the importance of the students seeing some of the college’s Black faculty members, Winston referenced the value of representation.

“If people don’t see someone they can relate to, they may feel like it’s not meant for them,” she said. “If our students at UAPB get to see people who look like them with a degree in public health or who work in the field of public health, they’ll believe they can also attain similar levels of success in public health.”

When organizing the event, Stigar knew it was imperative to include Black faculty and students from the college.

“When recruiting, I always tell students to, ‘Go look at the faculty. Go look at their research. Do you see yourself there? Are your interests and values represented?’” Stigar said. “These are important questions to ask, especially when looking at pursing a masters or doctoral degree because the instructors and students are who you’ll spend a lot of time with.”

As of the spring 2023 semester, there are 390 students enrolled in the college, including 66 who identify as African American.

Porter enjoyed having the opportunity to help increase those numbers. While presenting, he could tell most of the students had an interest in learning about public health and the college.

“Many undergraduates do not have a true understanding of public health and everything it includes,” he said. “However, we were able to provide those students with some valuable information.

“As an alum and faculty member of the College of Public Health, I’m committed to our success and a big component of that is recruiting. We have a great college. I want people to know about us.”

Having an increase in African American students in the college is helpful for all Arkansans, Porter added.

“The diversity of thought and experiences are beneficial to the overall learning experience for both students and faculty,” he said. “Another benefit is that this will ensure a more diverse public health workforce, which creates a more diverse collection of public health leaders. That’s a win-win for everybody.”

Stigar said a number of students had more questions about the college.

“I had several students ask me about the programs, how we got to this point, what we do with our research, and how they can learn more about the 4+1 program,” she said. “Hearing from faculty and a doctoral student helped the Biology Club understand that there are opportunities for continued education beyond health legacy programs like medicine and pharmacy.”

The students also received info about the Arkansas HBCU Scholarship and the college’s Second Presbyterian Church Health Equity Scholarship, which supports MPH students’ effort to reduce racial health disparities in Arkansas. Additionally, they learned about UAMS Division for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion’s HBCU Med Track Programs.

The students also received info about the college’s Stead Scholars program, which is an eight-week, paid, public health internship.

“There are a lot of great opportunities for you in this college,” Haynes said. “Find out what we offer and see what applies to you.”

Gardner enjoyed sharing her journey to becoming a doctoral student. She also liked how the Biology Club members, and the organization’s sponsors, wanted to know more about the college’s curriculums.

“I felt honored that they were so receptive and engaged,” Gardner said. “Our presentations piqued some interest. I had great conversations with some of the students about COPH programs and how public health can really tie into any career path that they might be considering. It was definitely a productive event.”

Since the program, Haynes has received numerous emails from UAPB students wanting to learn more about the college.

The students finding out what public health is, the college itself and the opportunities affiliated with it — made the program a success, according to Winston.

“My hope is that seeing people who look like them as examples of public health researchers and practitioners will encourage the students to consider an education and career in public health,” Haynes said.

“I wanted those students to realize that there’s an opportunity to connect with the population on a deeper level — through a public health education,” Porter said. “Having more African Americans in the realm of public health can increase the solutions to health barriers associated with our community.”

For information about the college, contact Stephen Williams, admissions and student relations director, at swilliams9@UAMS.EDU  or via the phone at (501) 526-4264.