5 Questions for a Community Health Educator:
How long have you worked at SUNY Potsdam and what is your primary role in the Department of Public Health & Human Performance?
“I started working at SUNY Potsdam in June 2017, and I am the internship coordinator for community health majors. I help students navigate their internship experiences, all the way from building professional portfolios and searching for sites, to finishing up their internships, sometimes with job offers.”
“I love my job because I love my community. I get to mentor these incredible students and help them find the best way to use their skills to serve their community."
Can you discuss your work and the importance of those internship experiences for students?
“As the internship coordinator, it's important for me to keep strong relationships with local agencies, so that I can understand their needs and help guide students to internships that will be mutually beneficial to them, to the organization, and therefore, the community as a whole. To build and maintain relationships with lots of local agencies, I participate in the People Project, the Human Services Committee, Bridge to Wellness, the Youth and Family Advisory Board of Cornell Cooperative Extension, and more. I'm also an elected member of the Potsdam Town Council, which helps me keep abreast of the needs of our community.
Every year, our department hosts a “speed dating event,” during which we invite lots of community partners to come meet with students looking for internships in the following year. It's great interview practice for our students, and a fantastic networking opportunity. We take the opportunity to invite our community partners, the site supervisors, to breakfast every semester, to thank them for the incredible support they offer our students.
In addition to working with students while they're completing their internships, I teach two classes on campus. The Pre-Internship Seminar prepares students for the internships they will conduct the following semester. The Minor Seminar is a required course for all students with minors in sexual health, therapeutic recreation, nutrition, fitness or community health. The students in that class are required to complete 20 hours of community service with an organization related to their minor.
I love my job because I love my community. I get to mentor these incredible students and help them find the best way to use their skills to serve their community, and we all benefit. The students get the chance to apply their knowledge and skills, and through that application, they realize what incredible potential they have to improve the health of their community.
Students need to conduct two internships to fulfill their requirement. Doing two placements helps them determine what population they want to work with, what kind of organization, and what part of the field they would prefer.”
Can you highlight some of the recent internships that students have been doing and some of the statistics related to student success in the department?
“Forty percent of my students have been offered a job by at least one of their internship sites.
Annie Reeves is working with Hospice and Palliative Care of the St. Lawrence Valley, helping create a program for guidance counselors to use in local schools when a student loses a close friend or family member.
Morgan Hillman ’18 interned with ACR Health in Syracuse, where she now works. During her internship, she trained people who used opiates in the use of Narcan to combat overdoes, facilitated a needle exchange program, and visited pharmacies to ensure their compliance with Narcan accessibility laws.
Rachel Barnhart ’18 was hired by her internship site as well—all the way out in Portland, Oregon! She worked with an organization called Doula Love. She taught childbirth education courses, worked with a lactation consultant, and ran support groups for new parents.
Jeff Jonas ’18 interned with the Bronx-Westchester Area Health Education Center, teaching youth in the NYC area learn about careers in the health field.”
What are some of the projects that you oversee at the College, and why is that work important to you?
“I oversee the Campus Food Pantry, which helps students access free food, without judgment. Employees of SUNY Potsdam can give to the pantry by dropping off food in Dunn 101-C, or via payroll deduction by visiting https://secure.potsdam.edu/giving/employee/.
I imagine that most faculty and staff on campus know that many of our students struggle financially, but I think they would still be very surprised to see how quickly food flies off our shelves. Whether a student needs food because they do not have a meal plan, they ran out of money on their plan, or because they're struggling with their physical or mental health, we want to be there to support them.
I am a member of the BearCare Advisory Group to the Provost as well, which aims to support faculty and staff throughout campus so that we can best help our students. We've worked on projects like bringing a navigator from the St. Lawrence Health Initiative to campus to help students solve all sort of problems, from not being able to get transportation to doctor's appointments, to getting car insurance.”
What is your favorite part about working with the students at SUNY Potsdam?
“Students become community health majors because they are compassionate, caring and eager to help. I love getting to work with seniors who are bursting at the seams with knowledge, because I get to help them apply it. Our students are so determined to make the world a better place, and I get to help them find ways to start doing it.”