What is an Applied Learning Experience?
The ALE is a practice experience, undertaken in the final two semesters of the program which offers students an opportunity to integrate and apply public health knowledge and skills gained in the classroom to a real world public health problem.  Further, it is an opportunity for students to provide service to the community by working at an organization that promotes and protects the health of the public from a population-based perspective.  MPH students identify their ALE field sites in the second-to-last semester of study and use most of that semester to develop work plans to guide implementation of their projects; they spend the following – final – semester implementing their projects.

What are the criteria for placement?
To qualify as an ALE placement site, an agency or organization must be willing to designate a preceptor who will provide guidance to the student, be available to meet with the student on a regular basis, hopefully weekly, and provide feedback on student performance to the ALE course director.

What are the criteria for an ALE project?
The best ALEs involve a well-defined project that is needed by the host agency and can realistically be completed within one semester. Students are expected to act as part of the "team" of professionals and to contribute to additional projects/tasks as needed and directed by the preceptor. Students should be viewed as a consultant to a specific project rather than as an intern for the agency. MPH students are required to spend a minimum of 160 hours over the course of a semester performing their work on behalf of their field agency.  ALE projects must be population-based and related to a student’s concentration (epidemiology & biostatistics; global health; health services management and policy; nutrition; health communication or generalist).  Projects must blend theory and practice, and require the student to demonstrate knowledge and skills in public health practice. In addition, the project must have a specific focus (defined by measurable objectives) to be accomplished over the period of one semester, and have significance to the agency or organization in which it is based. 

What is the role of the ALE preceptor?
Preceptors are a critical element of the ALE.  We ask that preceptors function not only as a supervisor, but also as a mentor providing guidance to yield a successful project for the student, and a valuable deliverable for the organization. We request that preceptors confer with their student intermittently during the planning semester as the student develops the project and the work plan, and we ask that preceptors spend a minimum of one hour per week directly with their student. We also ask that preceptors evaluate student performance at two points – midway to assess progress and decide upon any mid-course corrections, and near the end of the project – by completing evaluation forms and talking with the ALE course director.  We also encourage preceptors to attend the student’s final oral presentation.

How do I become an ALE preceptor?
Please contact:

Doina Iliescu, Assistant Director of Career Services or 617.636.3519 or

Virginia Chomitz, MPH ALE Course Director