On May 11, the first cohort of undergraduates crossed the stage at Lane Stadium to receive their Bachelor of Science in Public Health (BSPH). This brand-new undergraduate program graduated almost 70 students last week.

Development of the Bachelor of Science (BSPH) in Public Health began in 2015, and Kerry Redican, professor of public health in the VA-MD Vet Med, Department of Population Health Sciences, and current BSPH director, was instrumental in its development.

"With all VA-MD Vet Med programs being done at the graduate level and above, it was important for the veterinary college to have an undergraduate presence.  

Developing a new academic program is a complex process with many moving components, starting with identifying the courses to be developed. Proposing and developing eight to nine courses was labor-intensive, Redican said, with 15-day reviews, revisions, curriculum committees, and about a year-long process to get them through governance. It took about three years from the idea to enrolling in the first BSPH freshman class in Fall 2018. Other colleges at Virginia Tech have public health-related courses and minors, so during the development stage of the BSPH degree, many representatives from these colleges were brought in to help explore interdisciplinary options for offering the undergraduate degree," said Redican.

BSPH Commencement 2022

A nice feature of the BSPH program is the 30 hours of free electives that BSPH students could use to tailor to their career goals. For example, "If a student's goal is to implement public health in South America, they can use those 30 hours to get a minor in a respective language and take courses that will help them be more culturally competent," said Redican.

In addition, "The veterinary college emphasizes One health in all its educational programs, including the BSPH, which makes our BSPH program unique nationally," said Redican.

"We have 400 undergrad majors right now and 150 minors, so we are a fairly sizable program with the potential to grow. Departments like ours run 800 undergraduates, so it wouldn't surprise me if we got to that point soon," said Redican.

By 2018 the program received approval at the state level, and now, after enrolling in its first class in 2018, almost 70 students will be utilizing a BSPH degree in their post-academic careers.

"We have a very engaged group of students, many of whom are going on to jobs, post-graduate work, fellowships, nursing school, and medical school. They are an intrinsically motivated group of students that we're especially proud of."

Graduating at the head of this first class of BSPH graduates is Kaitlin Phelon. She's the recipient of the Phi Kappa Phi medallion, given to an undergraduate with the highest GPA. Phelon said, "Pursuing this degree during a worldwide public health crisis highlighted how essential this field is for the future. Virginia Tech allowed us to not only learn inside the classroom in an academic setting but also to gain first-hand experiences in professional settings throughout the community. This program was highly impactful and rewarding."

Congratulations to all BSPH graduates!

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