(JACKSON, Miss.) — Jackson State University and Mississippi College are set to receive a $5 million Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund (GEER) grant for a joint venture aimed at promoting and protecting population health by focusing on academics, community and the workforce.
Among several initiatives, the collaboration allows for the creation of a bachelor’s in public health program at both institutions, creating a pipeline of students with undergraduate degrees who can easily transition to a master’s then doctoral program in public health at JSU if they choose.
“Current times demand that we find innovative ways to improve public health in Mississippi and in turn the health of Mississippians,” said JSU President Thomas K. Hudson “This partnership allows us to do just that. It also means that our students receive enhanced educational opportunities that will benefit them long term.”
The three-year grant stems from the second round of GEER funding provided by the federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act administered by Gov. Tate Reeves.
Provost Alisa D. Mosley, Ph.D., points out that the partnership between JSU and Mississippi College is a response to the growing need for public health professionals and that the public health sector accounts for the majority of employment growth.
According to a 2020 report from Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, the shortage of healthcare workers is due to several factors, one being the limited capacity of education programs.
“These two premier institutions will develop quality options for students and opportunities for our Mississippi citizens,” said Mosley. “Jackson State is excited to be a part of offering academic programs that matter for our economy.”
In a release from Mississippi College, Keith Elder, Ph.D., provost and executive vice president, credited the collaboration to the schools’ mutual interest in meeting the needs of their fellow Mississippians.
“We met and thought through how, with the strengths of both our universities individually and collectively, we could come together to improve public health in the state of Mississippi,” Elder said. “The needs of Mississippi, particularly in the area of public health, are great. By coming together, we can reach our goal of providing high-quality public health training at every level throughout the state.”
JSU Associate Provost Brandi L. Newkirk-Turner, Ph.D., was key in the merging of the two schools by working with Elder to craft a successful proposal. She described the partnership as a “wonderful opportunity” for both institutions to make a positive difference in Mississippi.
“We were very interested in partnering Jackson State, an HBU (Historically Black University), and MC, a Christian private college, together in a relationship that guarantees to bring together people of different backgrounds,” she said. “We thought it was a ‘win-win’ to accomplish the goal of collaboration while promoting appreciation for the important role of diversity in an academic environment.”
Newkirk-Turner, who is also a professor of communicative disorders, intimated that authentic learning experiences can arise from the bringing together of two campuses (and students) who may not have the opportunity to interact and learn from each other if not for intentional collaboration.
She expressed that the institutions are focused on designing and implementing a curriculum that responds to a changing world that meets students’ needs and will best prepare them as professionals in a state that needs them.
“We have an opportunity to develop a dynamic curriculum that will draw students to our major,” she said.
As Newkirk-Turner noted, the collaboration is a “win-win” for several reasons.
Aside from the creation of the bachelor of public health degree, the schools will be able to share resources such as faculty, class spaces, mobile health labs, courses and research, as a result of programming similarities.
Individuals working in public health will be able to attain certification from Jackson State, which aids in career opportunities and enhances the level of expertise and care provided to Mississippians.
The grant also offers training in public health for community members to furnish them with the necessary skills to be formidable public health advocates through the educating of their peers and helping to address community healthcare needs.