Southern Miss’ master of public health program was recently ranked No. 1 as the most affordable program in the East by the Masters in Public Health Degrees, an online resource for exploring MPH degrees in America.
“[The ranking] is amazing,” interim director of the school of health professions and associate professor for the School of Health Professions Hwanseok Choi, Ph.D., said. “We have been working hard to provide good programs to the students for the past years, and this news made us feel good.”
Associate teaching professor for the School of Health Professions Amy Arrington said she was honored that the program was recognized.
“We strive to provide a quality, affordable and accessible program for students, so having this validated by an external ranking is rewarding,” Arrington said. “This is a great recognition of the hard work that all of our faculty and staff dedicate to the program.”
Southern Miss’ MPH program was ranked first among 18 colleges around the eastern portion of the country with an average tuition of $8,514 in state, which online students pay as well, and $10,514 out of state. The ranking is based solely on the online version of the programs, but Choi said online is their strong suit.
Arrington said the school dictates the price of tuition and is proud they can keep the costs down while still holding an accreditation.
“USM’s leadership has worked hard to keep tuition and other costs reasonable, especially in online programs for students,” Arrington said. “That has certainly helped the MPH program remain competitive in terms of cost.”
Accreditation, according to Arrington, is a great marker for how qualified a school is. Choi said the school has been accredited since 1993 and has not lost the recognition since.
“As far as quality, our MPH program is accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health,” Arrington said. “Our entire department recognizes the importance of accreditation and how it keeps us focused on providing a quality education for public health students.”
Choi said many students have had internships across America that led to jobs with prestigious hospitals like Mayo Clinic and St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. He said the department works with students to find internships based on their desired field and location.
“We have a decent program with a small number of students in classes, a close relationship between faculty and students and intensive internship experience, which may be connected to their first job,” Choi said.
Choi, who is a biostatistics professor, said the school has students from all over the world working toward a master’s degree. Still, he said the department is closely knit. According to Choi, there are currently 62 students who take MPH classes on campus and 25 online students.
“The family-like atmosphere is our department’s bragging point. We work together all the time for the most part of work in the program,” Choi said. “Students can also feel the same way when they meet the faculty because of that.”
First-year graduate student in the program Asia McCoy, who attended Southern Miss as an undergraduate, said she jumped at the chance when offered a graduate assistantship. She said the program deserves its ranking because of the dedicated faculty.
“I have highly enjoyed the program so far and look forward to the following semesters to come,” McCoy said. “The faculty and staff are just as invested, if not more invested in the courses, in comparison to their in-person lectures, it makes me feel as though the program deserves the number one ranking.”
Recent graduate Anastasia Walrod, who majored in public health, said her long-term goal is to become a public health professor, which would require her to eventually enroll in an MPH program. Walrod is currently working in the Peace Corps in Malawi, Africa.
“USM has a genuinely awesome MPH program that is beautifully affordable,” Walrod said. “I actually did apply to the program in the spring, though, in case it didn’t work out in the Peace Corps.”
Choi said the MPH program is a great place for those looking to contribute to health without becoming a medical doctor or nurse.
“There are so many ways to improve our community health, environmental health and global health. You don’t need to be a doctor or a nurse,” Choi said. “You can contribute by doing research, medical data science, public health education and so on.”
Brian Winters contributed to this report.