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Department of Public Health and Human Performance

The Department of Public Health and Human Performance offers 2 majors (Community 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.

Community Health is a field of health practice that seeks, through education, to help people make positive changes in their lifestyles, families, workplaces, organizations and communities, develop and advocate for effective health policy and address health disparities in order to prevent health problems from occurring and improve health and quality of life. Completion of the Bachelor of Science in Community 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 Community 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 Community 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.

Changing Course

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.

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Coming Full Circle

Ever since graduating from SUNY Potsdam with a degree in community 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 community health.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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On the Front Lines

A community 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Lost and Found in the Adirondack Mountains

A university's classroom isn't always what you think. In the SUNY Potsdam Wilderness Education Leadership program, students build inner strength and outer savvy in the deep woods of the Adirondacks.

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Taking the Lead

When Adam Smith ’15 entered SUNY Potsdam his freshman year, he never imagined he would be backpacking throughout the Adirondacks or scaling walls of ice and rock. Through the wilderness education program he gained leadership skills that set the stage for a successful career in outdoor education. Now he’s come full circle, back at SUNY Potsdam as an instructor in the same program where he was once a student.

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Road to Physical Therapy

SUNY Potsdam’s exercise science program has been a treadmill to success for Lucas Rucci ’20 and Wilber Parada ’20. Now in their final semester at SUNY Potsdam, both students were just accepted into the Doctor of Physical Therapy programs of their choice.

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Neishja Ransom ’17

After growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., Neishja Ransom ’17 never expected to be bushwhacking through the Adirondacks or dangling from rock climbing walls, but that all changed when she came to SUNY Potsdam. The wilderness education program provided her with skills ranging from wilderness first aid and rock climbing to leadership in the backcountry that she parlayed into a leadership position with the Girl Scouts of Greater New York.

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Brooke Falsion ’19

Brooke Falsion ’19 is a record setter. During her time at SUNY Potsdam, she became the first All-American in the history of the SUNY Potsdam women’s soccer program. She was also the SUNYAC Offensive Player of the Year during her senior year, while setting several new SUNY Potsdam women’s soccer records, including being the all-time leading scorer with 46 career goals. Academically, she was just as impressive—recently graduating summa cum laude with a degree in exercise science.

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Dr. Janelle Jacobson

As a faculty member in SUNY Potsdam’s Department of Public Health and Human Performance, Dr. Janelle Jacobson teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in community health. From classwork to internships to professional projects, Jacobson believes that the best foundation for community health majors is to start tackling real-world problems.

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Faith and Compassion

Othman Ladan ’19 cares deeply about helping people, a devotion that is bolstered by his Muslim faith. During the summer of 2018, he returned to Ghana to educate Muslim women about breast cancer and co-founded an organization to help blind people.

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Joey Boswell '18

As a military veteran, Joey Boswell ’18 found SUNY Potsdam later in life—a transformative decision that helped him transition from a tumultuous time in the U.S. Army.

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Sarah Lister

As the internship coordinator for the Department of Public Health & Human Performance, Sarah Lister helps to connect students with local agencies for on-the-job training. Since she started at SUNY Potsdam in June 2017, forty percent of her students have been offered a job by at least one of their internship sites.

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Megan Schneider '21, an exercise science major at SUNY Potsdam, discusses her life-changing fitness and nutrition regimen since arriving at SUNY Potsdam.