Category Archives: PROspective

Reaching Your Goals: A Mid-Semester Check-In

Category : PROspective

By: Veronika Laird

As the hot summer finally begins to transition to a cooler fall, many of us start to feel the weight of the semester on our shoulders. We’ve taken midterms, some of us are digging deep into our theses, finally getting used to a new job, or just trying to make it to Thanksgiving break. While midsemester can be stressful, it’s also a time to think about how strong you want to finish the year. It’s a good time to check-in with yourself and set goals for how you want this chapter of the school year to end.

              We’ll soon be receiving midterm grades and other forms of constructive criticism which can help us set achievable goals for the next two months before winter break. Creating goals for yourself not only helps you measure your progress, but they 1) hold you accountable and 2) provide you a “destination”.

              It’s safe to say that many Rollins students are tenacious and driven, but don’t we all want to do well in our classes and jobs? Maybe even exceed expectations? Who is in control of that? YOU.  But first, we have to set realistic, short-term goals and keep ourselves accountable for trying to achieve them. I think this happens easily when we think about the “final destination”.  This semester a goal I set for myself is to finish writing components of my thesis manuscript. In the beginning this seemed daunting. I would often and still do close my eyes when I think about this goal, and I imagine the final product or “final destination”. For me I see a word document filled with citations, tables and figures, and my name at the very top. This strategy is very helpful to mentally think about your end goal and then start taking steps to achieving it.

              To start taking steps toward achieving your goal, you must make a plan. First, you want to do small tasks that lead up to achieving your short-term goal–accomplishments don’t happen overnight. Second, you must make time to work on these tasks and create time in your calendar for them. Thirdly, we touched on how important accountability is and it’s important to check-in with yourself or a friend who also knows the goal you are working towards. This creates time to celebrate your achievement or reflect on why you may not have reached your end goal. Finally, it’s okay if you didn’t complete your goal–we can all grow from our disappointments. What is important is to find where you may have let yourself down and understand how that can be remedied for next time.

              Lastly, a key component to following-through on your goals is knowing yourself. What motivates you to get out of bed every morning and come to class or work? Remember that you didn’t have to choose this career. You didn’t have to come to graduate school. Why did you? If you remind yourself of your “why” each time you are working towards your dreams and goals, it can help you push through the hard times. Don’t forget that there’s always support along the way from your peers and faculty. You have nothing to lose, so reach for the stars.

 

Veronika is a Second-Year MPH student in the Global Epidemiology Program interested in researching zoonotic diseases. She studied integrative biology with a minor in chemistry and global health at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in their honors program.

 

 

 

 

Featured Image by Ronnie Overgoor on Unsplash


Theory of Delegation: Being a More Effective Leader

Category : PROspective

By: Tony Mufarreh (to read Tony’s original article visit his blog here)

As a student, I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of several student clubs/organizations. At this point, I swear I’ve done it all: science olympiad, national honor society, track and field, swimming, student government, jazz band, marching band, band council (can never have too much band, right?).

I had the great honor of being elected “leader” of a variety of these groups: Student Representative x 2, Vice President x 3, President x 6, and countless “social media” roles. I’m unsure if the average number of leadership positions the typical professional holds is known, but I would like to formally submit my application to Guinness.

Spending any time in a leadership position (student or professional), inevitably a predecessor has given you the advice to “delegate” tasks. This is, at its core, the idea of distributing the work load, typically done in a top-down fashion. When done right, this can be an invaluable skill. The problem is: it’s not.

Thus, what I call the Theory of Delegation (ToD) was born. Not only is this a framework for delegating effectively, but another tool in your toolbox for becoming a better leader.

Part 0: Assumptions

To use ToD method effectively, we need to establish some context. First, this method should be used when talking with teammates. There’s little reason to be delegating tasks to someone in a different department or institution, unless they are already a member of your group, ensuring constant communication, follow-up, and check-ins.

Second, make sure the person you are delegating the task to is the correct person for the job. This is a bit tricky at times, and more of an art form on the leader’s side, but your goal is to learn what each person on your team is good at. Figure out what they do well, if they have access to the resources to complete the task, and (often most important) do they have the TIME to complete it? More on this in Part 3.

Part 1: Start with WHY

This one is taken and adapted from Start With Why by Simon Sinek. The basic idea is to form how you communicate the task to someone into three essential components: What, How, and Why (also known as the “golden circle”). What is the task? How do they complete the task (i.e. resources needed)? Why is this task important for the overarching mission?

https://www.alexanderjarvis.com/simon-sinek-how-great-leaders-inspire-action-the-golden-circle/

The good news is that you probably already know the answer to all of these questions, however, the order in which you present them is what makes the ToD so powerful. Typically what happens is people talk from the “outside-in”, stating What and How, and either glossing over Why or omitting it completely. Instead, speak from the “inside-out”, starting with Why. This puts the sometimes trivial task into perspective, showing how this one piece fits into the larger puzzle. “What if I don’t know the Why for a task?” Then the task doesn’t fit into you mission as an organization, don’t assign it.

Check out Simon’s Ted Talk for more on this.

Part 2: Be direct

Has this scenario happened before: A boss needs a simple task done that can be done by anyone on the team. Believing everyone is willing and able, they send a mass email to the whole team explaining the task (starting with why, of course), and at the very end they add this tag: “Can anyone do this?” The response? Crickets. Why?

It isn’t a result of people’s unwillingness to help. Simple tasks are simple and in general, we want to help. So what went wrong? Lack of directness. Humans have bias, essentially an unconscious preference for certain things and actions. In psychology, the bystander effect is one such bias. It states that when people are in crowds, we are less likely to assist someone in need because of a flawed assumption: someone else will help.

This is why our boss got crickets from the email. Everyone assumed someone else already took up the charge. The solution to this is quite simple, be direct. Ask a single person directly, no matter how trivial the task may seem. If they are unable, ask someone else. Avoid mass emails or cries for help, we’ll just assume it’s already done.

The index team where the Theory of Delegation was formally born. April 2019

Part 3: One at a time

Different people are different. They require different needs and complete tasks at different rates. Give two people 1 hour, one might finish the task, the other may not. Why? Life happens outside of our control that effects productivity. It is nearly impossible to separate our life from work in this sense. As a leader assigning tasks, you must have a gauge for this timeframe for each person.

How do you get a gauge? Know your people. Know what goes on in their lives, take interest in who they are and be their friend. Not everyone can work at 100% 24/7, so don’t assign your tasks with this assumption. Be flexible, be adaptable, and be available if they cannot complete their task during the given timeframe. The task is important, yes, but being there for your people is how you create resilient teams.

Conclusion

Those are my secrets. The Theory of Delegation has been in development for over 5 years and continually improving. However, keep in mind that, just like leadership, the ToD is an art form and takes time to master. With these introductory tips, you will be well on your way to creating more effective and cohesive teams.

My favorite part of the ToD is this: your team will take note of how you lead. Your methodology, your supportiveness, and your mission for a greater goal will show through, and will be inspiring. Legacy is built into the ToD, teaching future leaders how to work in their own groups, resulting in an explosion of effective, empathetic leaders. I’ve seen it with my own eyes, and I can’t wait for you to see it, too!

You can watch my Presentation on Theory of Delegation to Kappa Kappa Psi, National Honorary Band Fraternity at University of Michigan at this link.


Anthony (Tony) Mufarreh, MPH (EPI 2021) is currently a first year MD student at Central Michigan School of Medicine. During his time at Rollins, Tony served as Rollins Student Government Association (RSGA) Epidemiology Representative.

 

 

 

 

 

Featured Image by Memento Media on Unsplash

 


Focus On Your Strengths

Category : PROspective

To most of us, the idea of self-improvement is about overcoming or improving our weakest qualities. I followed this conventional wisdom for years, constantly focusing on fixing my weaknesses. So, you can imagine my surprise to learn that research suggests the opposite may lead to faster, more efficient professional growth. One study found that employees feel more confident, self-aware and productive when focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses…which leads to higher employee engagement, increased performance and significantly lower attrition rates.

This idea of focusing on our strengths rather than weaknesses to develop ourselves was first introduced to me at a Strength Training workshop by Dr. Ariana Freedman from Maventree Consulting. We took the Clifton Strengths Assessment to determine our strengths and the workshop focused on how to best utilize our top five strengths. When Dr. Freedman was asked how we can learn what our bottom five strengths are, she responded that this was irrelevant. She explained that our greatest potential for improvement did not stem from the competencies that we struggle with, but rather from learning when and how to use the ones we excel at.

Why focus on strengths?

The premise of this workshop was that we are our best selves when we focus on what we do well, rather than what we do wrong. First, when we spend more time working on the things we enjoy and excel at, we’re more likely to feel fulfilled and accomplished. How many of us have forced ourselves to study our least favorite subject or practice one of our weaker skills, only to end up feeling defeated and discouraged? That’s not to say we shouldn’t try our best at the skills we struggle with, but rather we should focus more energy on improving our strengths than our weaknesses and use these strengths to approach our problems in new ways.

Focusing on strengths is about more than just making yourself a better person, though. This tactic can help us in our relationships with others as well, both professional and personal. The idea of avoiding criticism in favor of praise isn’t a new one, and is in fact a common theme in the famous book How to Win Friends and Influence People. I don’t know about you, but I definitely feel a lot more motivated when given praise rather than criticism, so this rang true for me. The book’s author emphasizes that one of the things good leaders do well is praise others often. Praising others can be a powerful motivator, so taking the time to recognize people for their hard work or talent may encourage them to continue performing at their best.

How can we use our strengths to develop ourselves?

One of the things we discussed in our Strengths workshop was how underutilizing or overutilizing our strengths in different situations can be what causes us to struggle with certain tasks. As an example, my top strength was being analytical. This meant at my best I can use this strength to solve problems logically, but at my worst it hindered me when I removed emotion from situations that require feeling, or tried to solve problems that didn’t need solving. We can improve ourselves by learning when and how to dial up or down certain strengths and when to use others. I had never put much thought into how to approach certain situations, but this exercise made me realize I could improve how I handle certain problems by using other strengths.

One of the other strengths the assessment identified was being deliberative, which meant I was good at reflecting and putting a lot of thought into decisions. I learned that while being analytical might help me strategize how to structure a group project, being deliberative may come in handy more for helping resolve a relationship conflict between friends. The first step in taking this approach, however, is knowing what our strengths are. Our strengths are a combination of what we are naturally talented in and the skills in which we invest time and energy. Once you recognize what these are, learning when and how to use them may just help you find more fulfillment in your life and more success in your professional pursuits.

 

Featured Image by Meghan Holmes on Unsplash


The Student-Leader Conundrum

Category : PROspective

By Katy Krupinsky

According to the *very* reliable source of Wikipedia, a student leader is someone who “strives to change the world by starting with their own community.”  I’m not sure I completely buy that definition; however, it makes me laugh, because, while student leadership does involve making changes to better the community, it means SO much more than just that to me.

The student-leader conundrum

I wish I could say that being a student leader is all sunshine and rainbows and that these roles are just like any other leadership position.  However, student leadership is unique because you must simultaneously wear two hats – the student and the leader. Let me explain –

On the one hand, you are a student.  You struggle to find motivation to complete assignments and complain about having to show up to that 8am class.  You get annoyed when “the powers that be” send yet another email that you are going to delete without reading and are sad when you can’t get into the classes/sections you want because your Wi-Fi was a little too slow. You worry about your future after graduation and become overwhelmed by the sheer number of expectations that come with graduate school.

On the other hand, you are a leader.  You get to serve in a role in which you can shape the future of an organization and advocate for your community. You are given the amazing opportunity to make changes for the better within the community culture and create events that allow your peers to connect with one another and grow as individuals. You have at your fingertips university resources and funds which were seemingly overnight bestowed to you.

Some people can wear these two hats one at a time and separate these roles of student and leader; however, if you are anything like me, these roles constantly overlap and it’s almost impossible to keep them distinct.

As a student leader, you are seen as an extension of administration and a role model among your peers.  You constantly feel you are being watched and expected to perfectly respond in alignment with your role as a student leader regardless of your personal thoughts or how you would act if you didn’t have this title.  From touchy situations in class or in GroupMe’s to navigating the relationships with your advisors who also happen to be your professors, you are expected to be a leader when, sometimes, all you want to do is just be a student without having the weight of an organization behind you. 

Without a manual or any sort of instructions, you must figure out how to live out two identities which, at times, require opposing ideas and actions. You must satisfy your expectations for yourself as a student and rectify them with your responsibilities as a leader – something which is no easy task.  

The student-leader opportunity

Being a student leader has its challenges and, at times, feels like more effort than it’s worth.  However, I would argue that these unique student leadership challenges are not really problems, rather, a set of amazing opportunities.

At the start of last semester, to be honest, I was starting to think that student leadership was more effort than it’s worth.  However, by the end, my outlook had changed completely because of a conversation with Dr. Christensen-Lindquist. 

I had come to her asking for advice on how to rectify my role as a student and a leader when faced with a duty for my leadership role that I didn’t personally agree with. We talked about many relating to what it means to be a student leader; however, she gave me one piece of advice that still sticks with me because it completely changed the way that I look at tackling this student-leader conundrum. 

She told me that, while we may try, its simply impossible to ignore the fact that the different hats we wear in our lives impact how we act in every role we hold.  Further, there is absolutely nothing wrong with letting one role inform the other – it makes us better and is likely why we were chosen for those roles in the first place. 

In saying this, she made me realize, that student leadership is an amazing opportunity because you can leverage your perspective as a student and use it to make you a stronger and more impactful leader.

One of the great things about being a leader as a student is that you have a level of access to administration which allows you to enact real change within the school.  However, unlike faculty or staff, as a student leader you also have the perspective and access of a student. You get to tread the line between administration and the student body to make immense impact and progress.  And even more, you can enact change which will not only impact you and your academic/social community directly, but also leave a legacy which will last long after you have left and graduated.

While at times challenging, student leadership is something to which I am forever grateful that I have been able to get involved in and something that I highly encourage everyone to try out.  From the late nights drafting emails and getting approvals, to the moments when you get to see someone find their voice because of your work, student leadership is something which has changed my life in so many ways.

I can’t quite say I feel like I have successfully “striven to change the world by starting with my own community”; but I for sure can say that I have learned a lot along the way.

If you are interested in getting involved in student leadership, you can find a list of all of the student organizations at Rollins here.  The organizations are filled with individuals who are passionate about their organizations and are excited to hear from you.  Want to help lead a community which doesn’t already have an organization? Reach out to one of the Rollins Program Coordinators for Student Engagement or Rollins Student Government Association to learn more about the process for founding an organization.

 

Katy is a current second-year Epidemiology MPH student.  Within the Rollins community, she serves as one of the RSGA epidemiology student representatives and the secretary of the RSGA DEI committee.

Featured Image by Jehyun Sung on Unsplash


Self Care

Category : PROspective

I was approached to write this PROspective piece for The Confounder a few weeks back. The idea was to do a follow-up on the Time Management piece I shared in 2019, and to highlight the importance of mental health and wellbeing as we enter yet another new normal. I knew that this post wouldn’t write itself, so I blocked some time in my calendar dedicated to getting it done.

 

 

Fast forward a few weeks…

The reminder for my writing block comes through, and it’s clear that it’s not going to happen (at least not at the time that I had planned!) Our youngest son’s school was closed, and I had a new co-worker for the day. Collin (mostly) kept it together while I held drop-in hours that morning, but by the time 11:00 rolled around, he had had enough. That time slot was no longer mine to use for writing.

Instead of writing this piece, Collin and I played with water beads for a solid 30 minutes, and then had lunch together. Letting the beads run through my hands was oddly therapeutic, and I realized that it was awfully fitting that the time I had dedicated to writing about self-care had turned into a sensory play experience with my 3-year-old.

One of the greatest lessons that I’ve learned over the last 18 months is that I have to be prepared that things will not always go as I planned them. This doesn’t mean that I’ve thrown planning out the window (and if you’re looking for tips on how to plan your weeks – check out this blog post). Rather, when there’s a change of plans, I just roll with it. Instead of wasting time being upset about the disruption, I go into solution mode, figuring out how I will adapt and change to meet whatever challenge has come my way. It’s not always easy, but I recognize that I really don’t have any other choice. In this case, I embraced the break, and realized that my writing would have to get squeezed in somewhere else.

The other strategy that has helped when things don’t go according to plan is that I let go of the guilt that I might have otherwise felt about not having done a task exactly when or how I planned. I remember to extend the same grace to myself as I do to others, and remind myself that it’s OK if I don’t quite hit the mark as I would have expected.

As you meet the new challenges ahead, I hope that you can take some time to plan structure into your weeks, but also remember to bring along a healthy dose of flexibility and grace. We are far more creative and resilient than we let ourselves believe – don’t let yourself forget this!

If you’re in need of some resources to help you de-stress, check out this Virtual Calming Room – designed for both kids and adults to allow you to take a pause and clear your mind.

 

Featured Image by Lauren Christiansen-Lindquist


Networking in the Time of COVID

Category : PROspective

Are you feeling rusty after nearly 18 months of wearing a mask, going through lockdown, and social/political unrest? We have all been cocooning at various levels, and with still so much uncertainty it can feel overwhelming to step outside your carefully crafted comfort zone. So, while you know you have to secure an APE and thesis in a few months, or begin your job search you feel uneasy about how to do so. How do you cultivate and grow your network when you feel like you’ve forgotten how to speak to people again?

Yes, it is hard. But the one certainty that has emerged is our universal need for human connection, in whatever form. If you want to maximize your opportunities, engaging with humans is a necessity. The thing about connecting with people is the more you do it the easier it becomes. Everyone you meet has a network waiting to be discovered that you can tap into. In a world where 6 degrees of separation has reduced to 4, you can learn to leverage this. We never know who has a hidden connection that will change the trajectory of our professional life unless we reach out to them. And there is a tremendous cost to avoiding social engagement during everyday interactions. Relationships are important. 

Like learning any new skill, practice really does make a difference. And we can practice networking in every situation and scenario possible. In Joe Keohane’s new book, “The Power of Strangers, the Benefits of Connecting in a Suspicious World,” he stresses the importance of cultivating this “skill”. Interactions with strangers promotes empathy, and connection. It is dehumanizing not to engage with others because this can lead to you thinking of people as objects or simply a means to an end. The other person can always sense this.

Some suggestions for networking in this article in Forbes  may be constructive, however, I think this article on why your networking strategy is NOT working bears more consideration. Some key take-aways  of mistakes you may be making include:

1) Asking for too much too soon – no you can’t ask a professor to write a letter of recommendation for you just because you were in their class.

2) Missing easy wins – ask questions and make comments in class. It is often during breakout sessions “where the real networking happens.” 

3) Viewing meetings as one-offs – cultivate those relationships with faculty, students, and staff. – “Even if only subconsciously, viewing a networking interaction as one and done will have a negative impact.”

4) Being robotic – yes, you should practice your “elevator pitch”, but reciting it verbatim at every encounter sounds, well, too scripted and practiced. Bring you, your experiences, and your areas of interest to the encounter where appropriate.

5) Not reading between the lines – absolutely follow up with an email if your new connection has offered to mentor you, but if it’s still crickets after your third attempt – perhaps they were being polite and/or don’t have the bandwidth or interest to follow through. Move on.

Finally, if you have 16 minutes, watch this TED talk – spoiler: “one brief conversation landed me my job.”

Now more than ever – people matter. Connections matter.

 

Featured Image by Antenna on Unsplash


Teamwork

Category : PROspective

As we begin a new semester, we are preparing to dust off many skills we haven’t put to good use in a while. So, this week, we wanted to take a look back at an article which reflects on one of these skills – teamwork – which we may find looks a little different in our classes and jobs this year as we navigate a new, in-person setting.

In your coursework at Rollins, you will often be asked to complete group work either in the form of larger projects or smaller discussion groups. After Rollins, being able to enhance the work of a team will be an invaluable skillset in the professional setting. Epidemiology is a field that needs to communicate effectively with other science fields, policy makers and the public to gain support for recommendations. Collaborative relationships are necessary for success and in public health, success means saving lives and increasing quality of life.

-Introduction by Alex Whicker


Originally published on October 18, 2020 by Dr. Jodie Guest:


When I think of teamwork, I think of the African Proverb:

“If you want to go quickly, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.”

 

While group assignments are not always met with excitement, they are a great way to practice teamwork and flex skills that help everyone succeed. Teamwork is everyone’s responsibility and will be an important skill in your career. Some important traits that I seek out in good team members include accountability, commitment, flexibility and optimism.

 

Accountability and commitment

Every individual on a team has an enormous effect on a team’s dynamic and its performance. While a leader might seem like the person who can solely guide a team to success, I believe each member plays a significant role in deciding how the team will function. It does not take many team members to lead a talented group towards dysfunction. Individuals are ultimately responsible for deciding whether the team will be stymied by this dysfunction or will hold each other and themselves accountable to being functional and high performing.

This commitment to high standards can be coached, but a team is so much more effective if this comes from each individual in a team. You want team members who are committed to the goal and to each other. This commitment includes supporting each other. When others need help, every team member should be aware of those needs and willing to provide their support. This commitment to each other is an essential ingredient in successful teams.

 

Flexibility and optimism

Team members also need to be flexible. When talented individuals with different approaches, ideas, and skills are brought together on a team, some conflict will be inevitable. The most effective teams have members who actively seek out and include others in making key decisions and solving problems creatively. They understand that having a diversity of opinions leads to optimal solutions and that you need to listen to these ideas and experiences of others because they will stretch you, challenge you, and call on you to empathize. In that context, disagreement is a blessing, not a curse. If you truly value the opinions and input of others, your team will benefit as a whole, and each member will grow.

I also believe successful teams approach the team’s goals and the future optimistically. Optimism tends to lead to more energy about a project and is an approach that feeds connection and commitment. It is much easier to be committed to a team that is forward thinking, flexible in opinion, and filled with the expectation of good work together.

 

Teamwork in action

It is certainly true that teamwork is not always easier than working alone, but the benefits of a connected and hardworking team can be immense. The next time you are part of a team, consider how you engage to support teammates and the goals of the team. Practice being the teammate you want to have. Connect, support, listen, encourage and motivate each other. These skills will serve you well both in school and in your career. 

 

This article was originally posted on October 18, 2020. The original can be viewed here.

Featured Image by Hannah Busing on Unsplash


Flexibility, Empathy, and Patience: A Year Later

Category : PROspective

A year ago, I wrote a PROspective column to welcome students to the Department of Epidemiology at the start an academic year that would be largely completed by virtual learning. This year, we are fortunate to anticipate an academic year that will be largely completed by in-person learning. It is a big and important step towards the lives and learning styles we remember from before the COVID-19 pandemic. But we are not all the way back to the before times. The column below contains many of the same messages from last year, with updates to reflect what we have learned in the last year and what we anticipate in the year ahead of us. We will all be learning, adapting, and improving as we go. That process will accrue benefits most rapidly if we recognize and practice flexibility, empathy, and patience in our endeavors and interactions. Humans are remarkably adaptable and resilient, much more so than we sometimes realize, especially when we can recognize common goals, reorient quickly when necessary, and maintain composure in the face of hardship. With that in mind, I want to take this opportunity to share a few suggestions that, in the past, have helped students to make the most of their Fall semester at Rollins.

Stronger Together

One of the great strengths of the science of epidemiology is that those who study it come from widely different personal and professional backgrounds. We embrace the diversity of perspectives as a strength. In our previous educational experiences, some of us studied public health, while others studied biology, mathematics, economics, psychology, languages, or arts, among others. What you already know will help you with your curriculum this semester, so let it shine through. Bring your unique perspectives to your classrooms and share it with others, and listen to the unique perspectives that others will share with you. Realize, also, that because of the differences in earlier education and experiences, some parts of the curriculum will come easier to you and some will be more difficult. This too will be an individualized experience.

There is no point in comparing your academic progress with your peers; you will only steal your own joy by making such comparisons.

Commit to growing your network

The ongoing social and physical distancing related to the pandemic response will make it more difficult to develop a professional network. We humans are pack animals and having six feet or a computer screen between us is an unnatural way to socialize. It is critical, though, that we adhere to these public health requirements during this pandemic – to protect our own health and the health of our entire community. Finding solutions and strategies for how to develop a social and professional network despite the barriers starts with realizing that it is a problem, and you will have to invest more than the normal effort to solve it. Get to know your peers in the program through the shared experience, even if less than optimal. Imagine how nice it will be to one day greet them with a smile not hidden behind a face covering. The department’s Canvas site provides guidance on how to network with faculty. The guidance suggests that your initial contact with faculty include a specific request. My friendly amendment is to keep the bar low for that ask. For example, many faculty members hold regular meetings with their research groups. Rather than asking to join their groups, ask to listen in on one of their research group meetings. That is not difficult to arrange and provides a point of entrée to the group’s network.

Don’t forget career skills

The department’s overriding educational goal is to prepare students to be influential public health practitioners. The knowledge, skills, and philosophies that you will learn in the classrooms will be instrumental in achieving this goal. Important, too, will be the career skills that, despite often being complex and nuanced, are seldom part of the classroom learning experience. This PROspective column has often addressed these skills, so I encourage you to read the archives and begin work on honing these professional competencies. Once again, the artificial social interactions related to pandemic response will make it more difficult to practice these skills. Recognize the problem, and plan to solve it. Realizing the importance of career skills and learning how to practice them will be instrumental in your success while at Rollins and for many years thereafter.

We can do it!

Welcome to the department and thank you for your faith in us to provide an excellent learning experience this semester. The faculty and staff have worked hard to prepare, and are ready to change and improve as the semester progresses. We look forward to working with you to make it a success.

 

Featured Image by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash


Work Smarter, Not Harder

Category : PROspective

In my freshman year of undergrad I pulled an all-nighter every single week. Sleep, I had decided, was at the bottom of my list of priorities. My idea of studying involved me sitting in front of my computer for hours on end while I scrolled through social media pages and occasionally skimmed notes. As you can imagine, I “studied” all the time. It was common for me to even miss meals to spend more time in the library. Since starting graduate school, however, if there’s an event or task that requires me to get less than 7 hours or sleep I know that it’s just not happening. My life hasn’t gotten any less busy in grad school, I’ve just gotten better at maximizing the time I do have and prioritizing the important things in my life. Like sleeping and eating. So how did I go from the poster child of procrastination to a graduate student who still manages to sleep, work, and socialize?

Due Today? Do today

I know we all joke about our procrastination habits, but I’ve actually learned how to take advantage of mine. I used to have the mindset that I should focus on one thing at a time, starting with whatever was due soonest. While that may be a good strategy for some people, that’s just not how my mind works. Now I often switch between assignments while I’m studying, making it less likely for me to get bored with any one project and ultimately give up for the day. I have also learned NOT to prioritize what is due the soonest. This seems counterintuitive, but it prevents me from wasting time on what may be objectively less important assignments. In the past, if given two days to finish a 1-hour long lab, there’s a good chance I would have taken those entire two days, wasting time on social media while I pretend to work or spending too much time perfecting my answers. I’ve instead learned to take advantage of the time that I’m actually feeling productive to work on less pressing, but more tedious tasks, such as writing longer papers. 

Know Yourself

Taking advantage of the times when you’re feeling productive is also important for being more efficient. Do you tend to get more work done in the morning? Schedule your days so that you can do your studying or working then. Take a few days to observe yourself before you come to any conclusions. I used to think, because I’m a night owl, that sleeping in and working later was the best schedule for me. I started to realize, however, that even though I like staying up late, I became less productive after 5 or 6 PM. The rare days I would wake up early, were the days I got the most done. If you had told me a year ago that waking up before 8 AM would become routine for me, I probably would have laughed. But thanks to this schedule change, I actually have time to relax in the evenings.

It’s also useful to keep in mind that what study or work habits work for some people might not work for you. Maybe listening to music helps your roommate focus, but you always have to stop and sing the lyrics. When beginning grad school last year I heard of the Pomodoro Technique, where you study for say 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break. I decided to try it and see if it increased my productivity. Quickly I noticed that getting myself to start a task is often the hardest part for me, so I tended to take much longer than 5 minutes during breaks. Now I’ve learned that if I’m on a roll with an assignment, I should keep going and instead take a longer break later on when I need it. Maybe you’re like me, or maybe you’re a Pomodoro evangelist – only you know what works best for you

Your time is a finite resource

One of the best ways to be efficient is to simply not attempt a task that you know you don’t have time for. This seems obvious, but it’s one of the hardest tips to follow. In my freshman year of college I remember having a breakdown thinking of all the assignments I would somehow have to finish in a single week, realizing I didn’t have time for all of it. Then suddenly, I realized how much more time I would have if I sacrificed even one night of sleep per week. Sleep became optional to me, and so the all-nighters began. Now, sleep is a given. If I don’t have time to complete every task in a day without sacrificing sleep, then I have no choice but to accept the reality that I simply will not accomplish everything. As a result, having his mindset has forced me to be more efficient with the time I do have, because I understand that it is limited. Your time is a finite resource, and understanding its boundaries will help you frame your mindset appropriately.

 

Ultimately, becoming more productive is a matter of doing what works for you. Following habits that go against your nature will only waste your time and energy. Most importantly though, don’t forget to make time to rest, because no one is productive when they’re burnt out.

 

Featured Image by Green Chameleon on Unsplash


4 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting My MPH

Category : PROspective

By Tony Mufarreh, Class of 2021 RSGA Epidemiology Representative

As the class of 2023 arrives on campus for the first time, there are a few principles you should be living by to help maximize your experince in grad school. Graduate school is unlike any other kind of education. It’s difficult, eye opening, and most likely directly related to your desired career path. For me, it opened doors I didn’t even know existed and gave me a more complete understanding of the field of health. That being said, grad school requires a unique set of skills in order to be successful. As a recent graduate of the Rollins School of Public Health, these are the pieces of advice I wish I had on day one at Rollins.

1. Don’t compare

One thing that I was unprepared to encounter, but which became one of my favorite aspects of grad school, is that people come from all walks of life. Some, like me, were fresh out of an undergraduate program, some worked for a year in a related field, and others have had entire careers under their belts.

Each student is therefore here for a unique reason. For me, I wanted a larger breadth and understanding of the field of public health to integrate as a future healthcare provider, therefore I structured my schedule with a variety of topical courses such as nutritional and obesity epidemiology. Others may spend their time deep in practical learning experiences, working year-round with a local public health agency to advance their careers. Others still are looking towards advanced degrees such as PhD or DrPH, so they find themselves in focused methodology courses.

We are all at a different stage in our careers and headed different directions, so it is nearly impossible and, more importantly, unproductive to compare one student’s journey to another. Something I wish I had been told from day one is to focus on your goals, spend your time where you deem fit, and you will be successful in your area. Learning this lesson early made a world of difference in my experience at Rollins.

2. Network(ish)

Networking has a few different connotations, but it is most often focused on ones professional presentation and a set of calculated strategies to build complex webs of colleagues. However, the reality is that ‘networking’ is not that different from making casual friends. 

We’ve all probably heard how important networking is to finding a decent job or breaking into your field of interest. Starting graduate school, I was nervous about how to go about this. Something I didn’t realize is that networking isn’t that different from building any other relationship, and a friendship with a classmate can be just as valuable as a connection at a job. Your classmates can easily become co-authors on a research paper, partners on social justice and public health initiatives, or even just colleagues in the workforce. Many of my fellow graduates now work in the same divisions at companies — I’ve even collaborated with other students on my Applied Practice Experience (APE).

This also applies to professors and faculty. It won’t be long until you are working side-by-side in the real world, so it’s in your best interest to get to know them! Some of my favorite interactions with faculty were one-on-ones in their office (or virtually) chatting about their projects, their career paths, and even my aspirations in life.

The advice I would give to incoming first years who might be a little intimidated by networking at first is to treat networking as a synonym for making friends. Do this and you will find your network expanding exponentially with meaningful relationships. 

3. Not your “thing”? Do it anyway

The umbrella of public health covers a plethora of fields: epidemiology, behavioral sciences, health policy, and environmental health just to name a few. It’s common for people to have their niche field or interest even before starting school. For example, chronic disease was my forte and the beginning of the program, and at that time, I was uninterested in exploring other fields.

As it turns out, this was a limiting attitude. The universe works in strange ways and often the best opportunities come your way when you least expect them. Infectious disease was definitely not my first choice, but when the COVID-19 pandemic first struck in the middle of my second semester, all hands were called to assist in testing sites, research, and attacking misinformation. Mixing my interest with chronic disease, I found myself on a research study regarding Long-COVID and its risks — and this eventually became my practicum experience.

Going into graduate school, one of the best tips I can give you is to keep an open mind when it comes to work opportunities. They may not come from traditional means or even your initial field of interest but may open more doors for you that you never even knew existed.

4. Keep everything

Information you learn in graduate school is different than anything you’ve previously studied. The difficulty may be slightly higher, but its relevance to your career is, too.

For this reason, I highly suggest you keep (and organize!) everything. Your lecture notes, handouts, homework assignments, textbooks, recommended readings — basically anything you receive in a course or lunch seminar, you should maintain a copy of. Right before we graduated, our cohort created a shared drive of notes and key documents from our core courses, and some continue to reference these in their new jobs. Personally, I use these for various summer projects for easy review!

While it may feel early to be preparing for your eventual career in public health, thinking about these things now will save you later. Everything you learn fom day one on is going to be relevant. Keep everything you can to reference in the future; you never know when you’re going to need to review biostatistics 101 (and you will, trust me).

 

Those are my 4 tips for being successful at Rollins: Don’t compare, Network(ish), Not your thing? Do it anyway, and Keep everything. Grad school is an amazing experience, full of intellectually challenging coursework, relevant work opportunities, and friendships that will last a lifetime. You will learn so much while you’re here and look back on your time as, for most of you, the beginning of the rest of your life.

Best of luck, if you want to network (i.e. make friends), you can reach me at mufant15 [at] gmail [dot] com.

 


Anthony (Tony) Mufarreh, MPH (EPI 2021) is currently a first year MD student at Central Michigan School of Medicine. During his time at Rollins, Tony served as Rollins Student Government Association (RSGA) Epidemiology Representative.

 

Featured Image by Braden Collum on Unsplash