The Association of Schools of Public Health’s Student Leadership Institute held on October 29, 2012 in San Francisco, CA was a wonderful opportunity to network and share knowledge with likeminded, highly motivated public health students of all degree levels throughout the United States. Through participating in targeted exercises, we met fellow attendees and formed a group with those seated at our table. Upon completion of each exercise, we examined how effectively we worked together as a group and described our movement through each stage of Networking, Coordinating, Cooperating and Collaborating. We also reflected on our own student bodies and workplaces, and determined which stage each setting operated in and which stage would be ideal to move towards.
The Student Leadership Institute was fertile ground for exchanging ideas on how to encourage student engagement on our respective campuses. After I posed a question regarding the challenges of cultivating campus life (particularly at a commuter school with a large population of working students), Institute participants offered the following ideas:
- Offer free food to draw students to events
- Organize brief meetings in between classes
- Organize a trip to somewhere otherwise inaccessible as individual students (research facilities, government agencies, etc.)
- Inquire about extra credit from professors to attend events
- Identify strengths/skills and delegate – make people feel like they add value and are not just attending a meeting
- Get a commitment from student leaders – sign contract
- Collaboration across other schools/specialties within campus
- Peer tutoring/mentoring – match people’s interests
- Social hour with faculty
During the final portion of the Institute, a panel of public health professionals answered questions regarding the job market and offered advice on how to best capitalize on our remaining time at school. Two discussions I found particularly useful concerned skills that were most attractive to potential employers and regrets or missed opportunities panel participants had as students.
Desired Job Skills:
- Efficiency – move things faster through bureaucracies
- Enthusiasm for work – infectious, inspires curiosity, keeps learning, creates good work environment
- Ability to solve problems – critical thinking
- Independent worker
- Good communicator
- Being able to build a strong case – stand behind data and make a good argument
- Team player – working well with others AND good independent worker
- Writing – succinct, especially in policy
- Communicate, communicate, communicate!
- Connect with program faculty and maintain relationships with them despite distance
- Take time to see what’s happening on the ground by volunteering
- Engage in international public health while there is time/opportunity to travel
The national reach of the Student Leadership Institute opened the door to potential collaboration with students and schools of public health across different states. The structure and content of the exercises and discussions encouraged self-reflection and provided a stimulus for future academic and professional growth. I am very grateful for the opportunity to participate in the Institute at this stage in my public health education, and would encourage all students to seek out similar experiences.