MS-Nutrition/MPH combined degree program, 2013
MPH concentration, epidemiology/biostatistics
Tell us about your current job.
At my current job, Associate at Abt, I work on a few different projects at a time, as is common for contractors in the domestic realm. With a background in nutrition and maternal and child health epidemiology, I work predominantly on projects for the USDA Food and Nutrition Service. Currently, I manage data processing and analysis for the plate waste task on the School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study, which is a nationally representative study of waste and consumption for the National School Lunch Program. I am also contributing to Third National Survey of WIC Participants, and am increasingly involved in projects around SNAP Education and Training, the workforce development arm of SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps). I have also served as a project director and proposal manager for several proposals. One great thing about my current position is that I am always learning something new and developing new skills.
What inspired you to pursue an MPH in your area of specialization?
I chose to be a generalist in the MPH program, which allowed me to carve out a path for myself in maternal and child health, an area in which Tufts does not have a specialization. Because maternal and child health really spans so many disciplines, I was able to take the classes that I knew would be relevant for such a career path. Frankly, I was inspired to pursue that specialization because I had a child during the second semester of my program, which shifted my priorities and interests.
What drew you to the Tufts’ Program?
The Tufts MPH program has smaller class sizes than many other MPH programs. I knew that I wanted greater access to the professors and more opportunities for class discussion, which smaller classes facilitate. In addition, I also knew that the MS-Nutrition/MPH program was the proper match for my passions. I always found myself drawn to how nutrition impacts health.
How did your Tufts degree help prepare you to work in the field (or what were the highlights of your Program)?
My Tufts degree was integral to repositioning myself and my career. Prior to attending Tufts I was a grants manager at a Foundation, which certainly gave me a lot of excellent experience, but it didn’t provide me with the content knowledge or credibility that the MS/MPH program provided me. A whole new array of jobs and a whole new field of work opened up to me after graduation that had not been within my reach previously. In addition, my professors were extremely helpful with networking, which is how I ultimately found my current position. Finally, through my coursework, I developed the quantitative skills that I needed to be considered for analyst positions. These skills are most obviously helpful when I have an analytic role on projects, but they are also invaluable for me when I am managing project proposals or tasks, as well. In addition, I am able to understand what people are talking about, and how labor intensive analysis is. That allows me to help make staffing decisions.
What advice do you have for prospective students?
I offer three major pieces of advice:
- Don’t be afraid of what you’re good at. I have always been an analytic people person who gravitates toward leadership roles. I didn’t think that I wanted my career to lead in the leadership direction, but it’s what always happens to me, because I’m a good communicator and an effective manager. It’s OK to do what you are good at. Make decisions to advance your career in ways that compliment your natural aptitudes.
- Do some informational interviewing both ahead of joining the Program and afterwards to find out what people’s daily jobs are like and what training they either received or wished they had undergone. This will allow you to tailor your class selections and ALE experiences in a way that will help you position yourself for a good job afterward.
- Think wisely about your ALE so that you can take the best possible advantage of it. Tufts’ ALE is unique, because it is not a standard-issue internship. When you complete an ALE you have a leg up on candidates graduating from other programs, because you have designed and delivered something of value to a potential employer. Honestly, that’s a big deal. The professors and Career Services advisors are of utmost value through this process, and I think it’s one of Tufts’ big selling points.