With a new faculty member on board, a learning space in the works, and connections with employers in the region being established, the University of Maine at Presque Isle is on schedule to begin delivering a high-demand bachelor’s degree program this fall, its new B.S. in Health Administration.
“In our continuing efforts to meet workforce development needs, we’re so pleased to be offering this new program in a high demand and high wage field,” UMPI President Ray Rice said. “We’re excited to have Dr. Tara Whiton on board as our new Assistant Professor of Health Administration-Community Health and to develop a new instructional space that will help students to gain important hands-on experience while helping to address identified needs on our campus and in our community.”
This new degree program focuses on developing administrative and organizational skills for leading health agencies as well as understanding and addressing community-level health issues and their impacts. The program includes two concentrations, Community Health and Health Informatics, both of which are subdisciplines of Public Health, with an emphasis on rural community health. In the area of Health Administration, 62% of health administration positions in Maine require a bachelor’s degree, with a median salary of nearly $69,000. The State of Maine anticipates 12% job growth over the next decade for health information managers, with a median income of $62,060.
UMPI is able to establish this new Health Administration B.S. because of the U.S. Department of Education Title III Strengthening Institutions Program grant it received last fall. The grant is for $2.25 million over a five-year cycle and allows UMPI to create two high-demand bachelor’s degree programs and develop stronger career readiness and experiential learning offerings for students.
In the Health Administration program, students will learn about health care delivery systems, creating and strengthening health structures, health literacy education and promotion, information management and efficiency, and health research and policies. They’ll get out-of-the-classroom service learning experiences that connect them with industry practitioners and local employers, while helping to complete projects; anything from trail signs, to working at farmer’s markets, to developing podcasts and webinars. They’ll also participate in “community-based challenge learning”—helping local organizations address the real community health challenges they’re facing, from obesity to mental health to drug and alcohol abuse.
“Students are going to hands-on tackle community health challenges with the goal of increasing the quality, availability, and effectiveness of community-based programs designed to prevent chronic disease, prevent injury and illness, and enhance the quality of life for community members,” Dr. Whiton said. “A very unique component of the program is that students can tailor their experiences through a variety of community agency collaborations, enhancing their knowledge and experience base while simultaneously working for the community and helping to improve the health of the community.”
Health Administration students will have the opportunity to learn in a highly functional space designed to foster community. The Community Health Instructional Center will feature Smart Classroom technologies and ergonomic workstations. Whiton said the goal for the space is to have a faculty-sponsored, student-run Community Health Club oversee an on-campus community health education center where students can gain practice as health educators working with members of the UMPI community and the greater community. The aim of the Community Health Club is to strengthen the community by responding to and fostering human needs while enabling people to maintain a high quality of life and productivity. Those who utilize the center will have an opportunity to learn, in a supportive educational environment, about important health-related topics that help to prevent illness and disease.
In addition to these opportunities, students in the program will be able to participate in multiple internship opportunities if they choose. Field sites include offices within the Maine CDC and Aroostook County Action Program, and Whiton is in the process of coordinating other internship opportunities with local hospitals, community health center sites within the Maine Primary Care Association, Penobscot Community Health Care, Aroostook Mental Health Center, and MCD Public Health.
The program prepares students for a wide range of careers, from community health workers and health educators to healthcare administrators and nongovernmental agency directors. It also prepares students for a variety of healthcare and public health certifications upon graduation, including Certified Wellness Practitioner and the Certified Health Education Specialist credential through the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing.
Whiton explained that the program aligns well with those who are health-minded but aren’t necessarily looking for a career in clinical health, such as Nursing and other medical fields.
“This program is for students who are passionate about disease prevention and getting at the root of health problems before emergency care is needed,” Whiton said. “It’s for students who have a desire to help their communities, are creative and resourceful, and care about environmental impacts on health. We’re looking forward to welcoming our first cohort of students this fall.”