GVSU cites pandemic as interest in public health program rises

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — In the midst of the pandemic, universities nationwide, including Grand Valley State University, are reporting a jump in the number of students enrolled in their public health programs.

GVSU’s masters of public health program has twice as many students enrolled this year compared to last.

“We are seeing an influx in applications and of numbers of students in our programs,” program director Ranelle Brew, Ph.D., said.

While there’s no saying for sure what caused this surge, Brew said the coronavirus pandemic likely has a lot do with it.

“There’s no better marketing for a public health program than a pandemic,” she said. “Certainly, no one wants to be in the space that we are in right now, but it’s definitely bringing some positive awareness to our program of public health.”

One of GVSU’s newest public health students said the pandemic has reinforced his interest in pursuing a career in the field.

“I did apply around the time where the whispers of the coronavirus were coming about,” Sean Verschueren said. “I felt stronger going into public health as all of this was happening, because public health was finally becoming relevant to the world now.”

Within the last year, public health programs nationwide have grown more popular. The Associated Press reports 100 colleges that use a common application saw an average 20% increase in applications to their master’s in public health programs.

With coverage of coronavirus everywhere you look, Verschueren has come to enjoy watching the daily briefings from public health officials, saying it feels like watching his future bosses on the job.

Brew said it’s that kind of relevance that will hopefully inspire people to pursue the public health field for generations to come.

“Every day, all you hear in the media and on the news is public health everywhere,” Brew said. “(Public health) is a household name now.”

Brew said even prior to the pandemic, the program, which was founded in 2013, had seen notable growth over the last few years.

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