Dana Howe, '16, working with Program Director Sue Gallagher
How did you find out about the B/MS dual degree program?
When I was an undergraduate at Tufts, I studied abroad during the Fall semester of my junior year. When I got back, everything felt different – last time I’d been in classes I was a sophomore, and suddenly it was spring of my junior year. I felt like I needed to start thinking seriously about my goals and next steps for attaining them, so I started looking at the options available at Tufts through the Community Health program. I found the B/MS program online, actually.
What was your undergraduate major, and when did you realize that you had an interest in health communication?
As an undergraduate, I was a Biology and Community Health double major. Originally I was pre-med, but at some point along the way I realized that wasn’t for me. Working in the lab didn’t really get me fired up either. I loved my Community Health classes, but needed a way to apply what I’d learned there. I’ve always embraced opportunities to be creative – so health communication felt like a great way to combine many of my interests.
Where were you in your undergraduate career when you applied for the program?
It was the late spring of Junior year.
When did you start taking classes towards the MS, and how did they fit into your schedule as an undergrad?
I started taking classes my Senior year, and I worked hard to fit them into my schedule. I had some flexibility and it worked out well, but if you’re already squeezing in other graduation requirements senior year, I’d recommend starting sooner.
In what ways has your experience as a graduate student been different from your experience as an undergrad? In what ways has it been similar?
Moving from the Tufts undergraduate school and the Medford campus to the Boston campus has been interesting. In some ways it feels safe – many of the professors are familiar faces to me, I’m no stranger to using Trunk, and I still identify as a Tufts student. In other ways, it’s totally different – my graduate school classmates seem much more diverse in terms of both cultural background and age/life experience. I’ve really enjoyed learning about and working with classmates so different from myself.
What are some ways in which the program has equipped you to work in the field of health communication?
I appreciate that this degree focuses on providing me with skills that I can translate into the working world. During my Tufts undergraduate experience, so much of what I learned was about how to think and look at the world. That is important, but I was left wanting more in terms of marketable skills with real world applications. This program has helped with that – classwork often doubles as portfolio pieces, I’ve gained new technical skills, and faculty provide a network to get started on a job search.
Was it difficult to find internships or jobs related to Health Communication after transitioning to the MS degree program at the Tufts Health Sciences campus?
It has not been difficult for me to find internships and part-time work related to health communication. Last summer I started my coursework in Boston and worked as an intern in the communications department at Dana-Farber Cancer Center. In the Fall, I transitioned to working part-time as a communications assistant for a health non-profit in Cambridge. The non-profit actually reached out to me for the position because they had had a Tufts Health Communication student in the past and had a great experience.
Tell me about your ALE
My ALE is titled: “Nonprofit website design and development: building an online presence for the Institute for Pediatric Innovation”. Essentially, I am redesigning a website for a health nonprofit organization. But rather than guessing at what might work, I’m using the skills I’ve learned in the HCOM program to create something evidence based. To do this, I’m conducting an environmental scan assessing web trends on eight other nonprofit websites, researching and compiling best practices, developing user personas, and interviewing potential site users. Ultimately I will synthesize what I learn to create a website that serves both the nonprofit and the users well.
What's next for you?
I’m going to graduate and take a deep breath – I just worked straight through a 5th year. After graduation I’m planning to take some time to think about next steps, then ramp up my job search this summer. I’d like to work in the type 1 diabetes world (as a type 1 diabetic myself). I’m looking at full-time positions that involve content creation, community management, and project coordination. I’ll also be an Elite Coach for Riding On Insulin next winter, helping kids with type 1 diabetes learn to ski and manage their diabetes with an active, outdoor lifestyle.
Is there any additional information that you would like to share with Tufts undergraduate students considering the B/MS dual degree program?
If you like health science or community health but you aren’t sure what you want to do with it yet, consider health communication! The B/MS gave me tangible skills to apply what I’ve learned the past five years.