Internships: Not just about fulfilling the APE requirement

Internships: Not just about fulfilling the APE requirement

Category : PROspective

The second semester is already off to a strong start – 2nd year students are diligently working on their Thesis and Capstone projects (and maybe wrapping up those core course requirements!), and 1st year students are immersed in causal inference, more advanced statistics, and designing & implementing epidemiologic studies. Now that we’ve finally settled into the routine of the new semester, we wanted to shed more light on one of the next milestones that our 1st year students are approaching: identifying an Applied Practice Experience. To our seasoned 2nd year students: we’d love to hear what you’d add to this conversation! Keep an eye out for this topic to surface on Twitter, and feel free to add the ways you made the most of your Applied Practice Experiences! 

There are so many things that I love about Rollins (please don’t make me pick!) – but one thing that nears the top of my list is our Applied Practice Experience (APE) and the vast network of organizations that welcome our students each year. You may have heard this from me before, but my motivation for pursuing a career in public health was driven by wanting to make a difference. The reason why I love the APE so much is that it affords our students the opportunity to make their mark on public health even before graduation.

While some 1st year students are well on their way to identifying an APE, most are in the early phases of thinking about how their APE might take shape. As you begin researching opportunities, I urge you to think big so that you can use this opportunity as more than a way to proverbially “check the box” on this degree requirement.


Q: Did your personal statement outline your passion for studying inequities in birth outcomes, but now you can’t learn enough about the novel coronavirus?

First – you must know that this is very typical in the life of a Rollins student! One of my favorite moments from a recruitment event was hearing a GLEPI student say that his “research interests were aligned with whatever [he] learned about during the last seminar [he] attended.” There is so much great work happening in and around Rollins, and there is no shortage of important public health topics to tackle! Take advantage of your APE as a low-stakes way to test the waters in a new topic area.


Q: Did you come to Rollins because you wanted to soak in all that our neighbors at the CDC have to offer, with the hope of landing a job there after graduation?

Many students are drawn to the Rollins School of Public Health due to our proximity to the CDC, and lots of students complete their APE with a wide range of teams across the agency. The APE affords students an inside look at the work environment of their chosen organization. You might find out that your dream job really is at the CDC, or you might find that the work environment isn’t the fit that you thought it would be. Learning what doesn’t suit your strengths and interests can be just as informative as learning what does.   


Q: It’s all about the Epi, right?

Well, not quite! While you will hopefully get a chance to apply your classroom knowledge and skillset during this experience – don’t forget that your APE is also going to test your soft skills and ability to navigate new workplace politics and dynamics. Maybe this means you will have your first opportunity to ask your manager for feedback, test new time-management techniques, navigate generational differences in the workplace, or find ways to translate the stress into focus. These techniques are just as valuable to an early career epidemiologist as experience with methods and their practical application and I encourage you to keep these ideas close at hand during your APE. 


Q: Are you nervous about navigating the job market after graduation?

Thinking about next steps after graduate studies can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be! You can use the entire Applied Practice Experience process – from start to finish – as a way to prepare for your next steps. The interview process will afford you greater confidence when you are ready to apply for fulltime positions after graduation [NOTE: you may wish to revisit Dr. Lash’s PROspective piece on making a good first impression]. Some students are able to continue working with their APE organization upon completion of the degree requirement, and are even hired full-time upon graduation. If you’d like to pivot to a different area (see above!), your APE supervisor may be willing to serve as a reference for you during your job search.


No matter what APE you choose, I urge you to seize every opportunity that you can to learn from these practicing public health professionals. Keep an eye out for ways in which you are gaining and applying those professional skills and foster good relationships with those you encounter along the way. This will set you apart in the applicant pool as you demonstrate that you have what it takes to be an influential public health professional. We cannot wait to hear how you choose to use the Applied Practice Experience to make your mark on public health!

Interested in more ways that the Applied Practice Experience can expand your horizons? Check out this short article for some additional thoughts!

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