Transformative Experience as a Public Health Major

Valpo’s College of Nursing and Health Professions launched its public health program in recognition of the critical importance of health and in response to a growing demand for public health professionals in the region and across the nation. The bachelor of science in public health program enrolled its first class fall 2016, with more than half anticipated to begin the streamlined, accelerated 5-year (4+1) program fall 2019, allowing them to pursue their master’s while completing their bachelor’s degree.

Originally from Wilmington, Ohio, Ty Snarr ’20 is a member of the inaugural cohort of students pursuing their bachelor’s in public health at Valpo. But public health wasn’t always the plan for Ty, who anticipated his fascination with populations and geography combined with his interest in health care would find him on the pre-med track as an undergraduate.

“One day my grandpa told me about public health and how the field views health care from a population perspective,” Ty says. “Since I learned about the intersection of the two fields, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in public health, and thus I am majoring in it.”

At Valpo, Ty has excelled academically, landing on the dean’s list each semester, participated in undergraduate research, and engaged in the community through a variety of co-curriculars, evidencing his strong commitment to service. He is the vice president of the Public Health Student Association which endeavors to mitigate public health problems, hosting health education and promotion events and running events such as a hurricane relief supply drive. Through Brothers Reaching Out (B.R.O.), a men’s fellowship group, Ty has grown in faith and service, engaging in regular discussions centered around spirituality and serving the community. B.R.O. works extensively with Project Neighbors, a nonprofit organization in Valpo dedicated to providing affordable housing for low-income families, as well as the Foodbank of Northwest Indiana.

“Coming to Valpo I knew I wanted to grow in my faith as well as apply my faith to my vocation,” Ty says. “I chose Valpo as it’s one of the few private universities in the Midwest that offer a bachelor’s of science, rather than a bachelor’s of art, in public health, and faith life at Valpo is stronger than many of the other schools I was considering.”

From the established faculty to the innovative research opportunities and interdisciplinary course offerings, Ty’s appreciation for the public health program at Valpo extends far beyond the nature of the degree itself. He points to the curriculum with its strong basis in the sciences, including course requirements in anatomy, microbiology, and nutrition as providing the training needed for entrance into the public health field — training not available at other universities he considered. Another critical component of Valpo’s public health program is the wide array of public health specific course offerings, providing students with comprehensive knowledge and skills in core public health concepts such as health behavior, health services administration, and environmental health. Over the course of Ty’s undergraduate career, he will take 16 public health courses at Valpo, whereas other public health programs he evaluated offered only five or six such classes.

Perhaps most notable for Ty is the faculty who mentor, motivate, and challenge him both inside and outside the classroom. In March 2018, he engaged in community based participatory research in Nicaragua alongside Professor Cory, joining a research team investigating the effects of cookstoves on women’s health in rural Nicaragua. This research project was established seven years ago to address health inequities in rural Nicaragua, specifically aimed at improving health outcomes in women and children by reducing exposure to black carbon emissions from indoor wood burning stoves. More than 100 improved cookstoves have been built in the community, and now, with Ty’s assistance, interviews are being conducted to determine the health effects on women and children after implementation of the new cookstoves. While definitive results are forthcoming, community members have reported improved health outcomes related to respiratory health, eye irritation, and headaches.

As a public health major, Ty is passionate about working to improve the health of the population and has embraced every opportunity to do so. Merely two months after engaging in research in Nicaragua, he interned with Energize Clinton County, a nonprofit organization in his hometown, as a Clinton Community Fellow. He assisted four public health entities on 10-week projects, working primarily in marketing and logistics. And, the experiential learning doesn’t end there as Ty is already anticipating the practicum component of Valpo’s public health program, where, beginning spring 2019 and extending into his senior year, he will be paired with a local public health agency looking to develop a public health care program.

“From solidifying my excitement to work in public health, to growing and cementing my faith life, Valpo has become a monumental part of who I am today,” Ty says. “Valpo has given me the skills, connections, and confidence to boldly enter the professional world with ideas to and intentions for making the world, even if it’s just my corner of it, a better place.”

Upon receipt of his bachelor’s degree, Ty plans to pursue his master’s in public health with a concentration in disaster preparedness, biosecurity, and/or epidemiology.