GVSU seeing surge in enrollment for public health program

Public health blue light testing equipment.
Image Credit: Mitch Ranger

Recent studies show public health programs at universities across the country are seeing a jump in enrollment numbers, and Grand Valley is no different.

Ranelle Brew, chair and associate professor of public health, said application numbers for GVSU’s Master of Public Health (MPH) program have increased 33 percent from last year.

“When we look at the number of students who were accepted into the MPH program from 2019 to 2020, we have doubled the size of our program in one year,” said Brew. “We are seeing increases in the number of applications as well as the number of students who were accepted into the program for the fall 2020 cohort.”

Brew attributes the increases to two things: Grand Valley’s move to offer the MPH program in an online/hybrid format in fall 2020, (in addition to the in-person format), and how public health has become a household name.

“Public health is being talked about every day; it’s on the news and social media,” said Brew. “Gone are the days when I had to explain my job to others. Obviously, nobody wants to be in this pandemic; from a marketing standpoint, we’ve never seen better results.”

Sean Verschueren is a first-year graduate student in the program; he applied as rumors of the pandemic were just beginning.

“It’s an incredible time to be studying this field and to see how public health can be a positive influence in every aspect of life,” Verschueren said.

As an Army veteran, Verschueren said he is exploring opportunities to support veterans, including their physical and mental health and their transition to civilian life — an interest he said was sparked by the pandemic and after starting the MPH program.

Brew said Grand Valley has always incorporated current events into the classroom, and the pandemic is allowing students to see public health in action.

“Our students are getting a first-hand look at contact tracing, how cases are spreading, how the virus is affecting certain communities and how the community is being impacted,” she said.

Brew added students are also seeing what a pandemic response looks like, who is involved, and who comes to the table when a conversation is needed about how the disease is spreading.

For more information about Grand Valley’s Master of Public Health program, visit www.gvsu.edu/grad/mph.