St. Lawrence Announces New Public Health Major
St. Lawrence University has created a new bachelor’s degree program in public health, enhancing a curriculum that reaches beyond traditional biomedicine to examine issues of health and well-being and prepare graduates for careers in the public health field.
“The new public health major provides students with a breadth and depth of knowledge that’s unique to St. Lawrence’s liberal arts education,” says Leah Rohlfsen, associate professor of sociology and program coordinator. “Our program emphasizes the contributions of social and cultural contexts, historical and personal traumas, structural inequalities, the intersections of race, socioeconomic status, and other social determinants of health as the key drivers of health outcomes and disparities.”
The new major, which evolved from the popular public health minor implemented in 2017, provides students with the tools and knowledge to examine factors that impact the health of individuals, groups, and populations on a local and global scale.
“It was clear that student demand for a public health major was strong,” says Rohlfsen. “While a few students arrive at St. Lawrence with an interest in public health, many discover the public health program through electives that are related to public health offered in departments across campus. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to students’ awareness of the importance of public health as well.”
A hallmark of the new major is a required experiential component that provides students with hands-on experience through community-based learning (CBL) courses, independent research, or internships that can be completed locally, regionally, or during an off-campus study program.
Thanks to the generosity of Laurentian donors, students have conducted research and completed internships related to gestational diabetes, microplastic contamination in the North Country, food security and access, and legislative policies on health.
“Today’s increasingly complex global health issues require a multifaceted strategy that takes into account politics, culture, communication, and many other fields,” says Karl Schonberg, vice president and dean of academic affairs. “St. Lawrence students majoring in public health will be prepared to lead the effort with an understanding of how the scientific and non-scientific fields fit into an overall solution and will be equipped to bring about consensus among many interests.”
Students can declare a public health major in fall 2022.
St. Lawrence’s new public health, biomedical sciences, data science, digital media and film, and finance majors are a result of the Experience St. Lawrence: The Task Force on Institutional Structure, Policy, and Planning, which was created in December 2019 with the charge of reimagining a liberal arts education in the 21st century and recommending a pathway to position St. Lawrence as a leader among its peers for decades to come. The process enlisted the expertise of numerous Laurentians across disciplines and divisions, and the new majors are part of several inspiring academic programming recommendations made by the Task Force.