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Poll: Majority of undergrads support School of Public Health

This article is part of the series Spring 2013 Student Poll

More than two-thirds of undergraduates support the creation of the School of Public Health — approved by the Corporation in February — according to the Herald poll conducted last month.

Over 4 percent of students did not support the school’s creation, with 3 percent somewhat disapproving and less than 1 percent strongly disapproving.

Around 23 percent of students had no opinion, according to the poll, and over 7 percent responded that they did not know enough to answer the question. Class year, religion, sexual orientation and gender did not appear to influence student responses.

“I approve 100 percent,” said Sasha Land ’15, a community health concentrator. She said she hopes the new school will generate more research opportunities and funding for undergraduates, adding that additional resources could encourage more undergraduates to consider concentrating in the field.

Public health is becoming a popular major throughout the country because it “sits at the interface of the biological sciences and the social sciences,” said Provost Mark Schlissel P’15. “Undergraduates love it.”

Currently, more than 80 students concentrate in community health, and the number has increased each year for the past several years, said Terrie Wetle, associate dean of medicine for public health and public policy, who will become dean of the new school.

Students not concentrating in public health have come to her to express support for the school as well, Wetle said. Other students, including engineering students and those in the Program for Liberal Medical Education, have expressed the desire to learn about the research opportunities available through the new school, she said.

“I’m very excited about it because I want to concentrate in public health,” said Tammy Jiang ’16. The “focus on prevention and wellness” attracts her to the field because “people can learn about how to prevent diseases before the onset,” she said.

Though most community health concentrators know about the new school, the general student body does not seem to, Jiang said.

Jonny Abrams ’15, a classics concentrator, said he heard about the school’s formation from a friend who is a public health master’s student. He said he supports having the school for the opportunities and additional funding it will give to concentrators and graduate students in public health.

The new school can bolster the University’s reputation in public health, Wetle said, adding that the “applicant pool for graduate students will grow in size and quality.” Researchers will also be eligible for additional sources of funding that it cannot currently obtain as a department, she said.

Many students who had not previously heard about the school expressed support for the creation when interviewed by the Herald.

“I’m totally accepting of it,” said BEO concentrator Emily Waitt ’15, adding that she had not heard about the school until the interview but thought it sounded like a good idea.

Many students said they did not feel the creation of the school goes against the University’s philosophy of liberal learning, though some said they saw this as a potential concern.

“On paper (the school) sounds great, but then there’s also the issue of it taking away from our undergraduate education,” said Tom March ’14, an economics concentrator. He said he was concerned that the school could funnel resources into one specific area too much and would need more information before he could answer whether or not he supported the school’s formation.

“It’s a nice step forward to some sort of pre-professionalism,” said Grant Drzyzga ’15, an international relations concentrator. Since the School of Public Health, just like the School of Engineering, is not completely separate from the college, it can help students on a path towards health careers without taking away from “Brown’s charm” as a liberal arts school, he said.

“I have faith in the people who are in control of these things,” said Michael Zamost ’14, a religious studies and economics concentrator, when asked if he was concerned about the effect on the Brown’s liberal education.