The Department of Public Health and Human Performance offers 2 majors (Public Health and Exercise Science) and six minors (Wilderness Education, Community Health, Sexual Health, Fitness, Nutrition, and Therapeutic Recreation).
The bachelor's degree in Exercise Science focuses on the scientific and applied study of the human body with regards to performance and prevention of injury. SUNY Potsdam's Exercise Science program is part of the National Strength and Conditioning Association's Education Recognition program, a prestigious recognition that gives SUNY Potsdam Exercise Science students an advantage over the competition.
The Public Health major prepares students for work as Public Health Educators. Graduates are prepared to identify health risks facing a diverse set of individuals and communities, develop and evaluate programs and other strategies to promote health and prevent disease, advocate for health-related legislation and policy, and serve as a source of accurate information for your community about health issues. The goal of the those working in community health is to prevent health problems from occurring and improve health and quality of life for individuals and communities. Graduates are prepared for careers in areas such as substance abuse prevention, nutrition and physical activity promotion, sexual health education, and are employed in local/state/national public health agencies or local/state non-profits. Completion of the Bachelor of Science in Public Health makes students eligible to sit for the Community Health Education Specialist Exam (CHES), a certification nationally recognized by employers as a gold standard in public health practice.
The Department of Public Health and Human Performance also hosts a 100% online Master of Science in Public Health. This degree, designed to meet the Council on Education in Public Health Accreditation criteria, prepares students to take on leadership roles in agencies that respond to the most pressing public health problems. Graduates of the MS Public Health are prepared to plan and evaluate public health programs, analyze public health policy, manage in healthcare industries, and conduct theoretical research in preparation for a Doctoral degree.
Caleigh Trzcinski ‘23 discusses the hands-on approach of SUNY Potsdam's exercise science program, and how it's preparing her for a career as a chiropractor.
After graduating with a degree in community health (now public health), Danielle Thompson ’15 immediately landed a job with the New York State Department of Health. She’s now an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), and in 2022 she launched her own business, Bloom Breastfeeding, to support new mothers with their breastfeeding goals.
When Opportunity Calls
As athletes from around the world converged at Maxcy Hall for the 2023 FISU World University Games, Melanie Heidman ’25 stepped up to the plate as an integral part of the statistics team for the international event. An exercise science major from Rochester, Heidman is parlaying the experience into an internship to examine how people from around the world unite and transcend language barriers through sports.
As the director of healthy communities for the Special Olympics, Onolee Stephan ’06 has dedicated her life to helping others, and it all started at SUNY Potsdam. After completing the College’s community program, and getting her MPH at Boston University, she landed a job as the director of healthy communities for the Special Olympics—overseeing the funding for health programs in six U.S. states, and 50 international chapters, while leaning on the skills she acquired at SUNY Potsdam years earlier.
Coming Full Circle
Ever since graduating from SUNY Potsdam with a degree in community health (now public health), Missi Wooldridge ’08 has continued to make a positive impact on the world around her—focusing her career on drug policy reform and harm reduction. This fall, she will be giving back to her alma mater, and returning as an adjunct professor in the College’s fully online master’s degree program in public health.
Expanding her Horizons
Relocating from Ghana to New York City when she was 10 years old, Jessica Semenyo ’22 found herself looking for a college experience away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. That’s when she discovered SUNY Potsdam. Over the past four years, she has embarked on many adventures through the Live Now program, while completing her degree in community health. After walking across the stage at commencement in May, Semenyo plans on attending graduate school to become a registered dietician.
Motherhood and Education
As she handles the responsibilities of marriage and motherhood, Elizabeth Criscitello ’22 has faced the challenges of adulthood much quicker than many of her classmates. Engaged at the end of her freshman year, married the following year, and then having her baby in the spring of 2020, she has continued to balance parenting with her educational goals as she pursues dual degrees in English writing and community health.
Caring for Others
Always encouraged by her mother to help those in need, Kristy Coyle ’22 has harnessed those values as she pursues a degree in community health at SUNY Potsdam. Her internships and faculty mentorship opportunities have reinforced her educational experiences—as she looks ahead to a career focused on assisting the less fortunate and educating the community about health disparities.
Foundations for Success
Not far from their childhood homes, Emily Vierno ’22 and Kristen Parker ’22 realized that SUNY Potsdam was the perfect fit to launch their careers in health care. The North Country natives are now in the final semester at the College, wrapping up their degrees in exercise science as they prepare for graduate school. Both students were recently accepted into the graduate programs of their choice as they pursue their passions for physical therapy and sports nutrition.
The Stars Aligning
Jaylen Kawenninon Francis-Herne ’23, who is pursuing a degree in community health with a minor in human services, first enrolled at SUNY Potsdam in 2012. Fresh out of high school, she wasn’t prepared for the road ahead, and withdrew during her first year. Eight years later, she has returned to the College—this time with an unwavering determination and focus driven by the responsibilities of motherhood and a commitment to serve the Mohawk people within her community.
Making an Impact in Africa
Balancing his education at SUNY Potsdam with his commitment to the U.S. Army Reserves, Joseph Bovee ’23 is in the midst of a nine-month-long deployment to Niger, Africa. He’s been busy fostering relationships with local communities in the region, using humanitarianism as a tool to thwart terrorism throughout the country. He will be back on campus in the spring of 2022 to continue working on his degree in exercise science, with the goal of one day opening his own gym and continuing his career in the military.
On the Front Lines
A community health (now public health) major with graduate school on the horizon, Monica Montero ’21 just wrapped up her senior year with an internship like no other—working for the American Red Cross to assist asylum seekers in Texas. After completing the necessary online trainings and certifications this spring, Montero was deployed to Midland, Texas, to support undocumented teenage boys seeking refuge in the United States.
Answering the Call
COVID-19 has presented challenges that we never could have imagined. Social distancing, wearing masks, and weekly pooled saliva testing have become as familiar to the campus community as late-night visits to the library. This semester, nine SUNY Potsdam students have embraced the challenge, and are giving back to the campus community as part of a new internship to meet the demands of the global pandemic—answering the call as newly appointed contract tracers for the College.
Staying Fit During the Pandemic
Adaptation—the pandemic forced it and we can see it all around us. Right in step with the spirit of innovation are Tanya Hewitt and her exercise science students, who have found some unique ways to stay fit while gyms have been closed.
Combating Disease Through Education
Like an antibiotic rapidly flowing through the blood stream to combat an infection, Whitney Callaghan ’17 & ’21 has used her knowledge to help fight the spread of diseases in Northern New York. The SUNY Potsdam alumna took her degree in community health and parlayed it into a career with the St. Lawrence County Department of Public Health—where she’s busy overseeing contact tracing efforts in response to COVID-19.