Health Studies Minor Continues to Grow in Numbers and Importance
As the physical footprint of Fairfield’s campus continues to grow with the construction of the University’s new state-of-the-art Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies building, so does the number of students interested in pursuing the facility’s hottest minor.
After launching in the Fall of 2015 with a cohort of 12 students, the College of Arts and Sciences’ Health Studies program has quickly become the largest interdisciplinary minor on campus. At the end of the spring 2017 semester, the program will have more than doubled in size with 32 seniors scheduled to graduate in May, and an additional 60 students expected to complete the minor at the end of the 2017-18 school year.
“It was quite a surprise to get such high numbers,” confessed Dr. Brian Walker, director of the University’s integrated health studies program and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “When we started to discuss the idea of this minor, we discovered there were already 30-plus courses taught on campus relevant to health related issues. We knew students were already taking these classes, so we repackaged them, added a starter (HS 101) and finisher (Capstone HS 399) and developed the most popular minor on campus.”
The products of that ‘finisher course’ will be presented this Sunday, April 30, when graduating seniors from the program present their capstone projects at the inaugural Health Studies Minor Capstone Symposium that will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the DiMenna-Nyselius Library Auditorium. In addition to showcasing seniors’ independent research projects, the event will also highlight the program’s service learning project, which was conducted in partnership with the Council of Churches of Greater Bridgeport’s Community Engagement and Food Access Program.
Stemming from some initial work completed by Dr. Catherine Andersen, a Biology Department faculty member who specializes in nutrition science, the service-learning project was expanded to feature four sub-groups of students who conducted varying research under the larger umbrella of the food bank program. The scope of the project’s activities included evaluating the nutritional quality of the pantry’s inventory in relation to national nutritional guidelines, determining the effectiveness of nutrition education in disadvantaged communities and identifying the barriers that hinder food banks from providing healthier food options.
With students working on research and real-world service learning projects, the Health Studies minor is not only growing in numbers but is also growing timelier in a world that increasingly demands healthcare professionals. According to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Labor, employment of healthcare occupations is projected to grow 19 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations, adding 2.3 million new jobs. In 2016 alone, nearly one in four jobs was created in the healthcare sector with 234,600 jobs being created in just the first half of the year.
While the data certainly indicate a trend toward an increased need for healthcare professionals, Dr. Walker believes that health issues are important for everyone, no matter their career path.
“Health issues are relevant for us all — whether as a career choice, or simply because we will all have health issues confront us,” he said. “As a result, Fairfield will continue to lead the way with more programs, courses, research and other exciting activities related to health studies that will benefit our students, faculty, staff and the surrounding community as a whole.”