Practical Advice about Practicums

By: Zara Khan – 2nd Year – Epidemiology

What unites all Rollins students (beyond their dedication to public health, devastatingly good looks, and the fact that they can always be found in the Gracement)? Over the course of their two years here, all Rollins students complete a practicum – a 200-400-hour work experience that allows students to apply the knowledge they learn in class in a real-life setting, be it a hospital, a nonprofit organization, a local or state health department, or federal-level organizations like the CDC and HRSA.

When I was still an admitted student, I would eagerly read through this very blog for students’ perspectives about their practicum (some posts here). Most Rollins students will complete their practicum requirements over the summer between first and second year; some will complete theirs over the course of a semester – any semester except the first. Some students will plan out their time at Rollins in such a way that they are able to complete multiple practicum, sometimes because they have diverse areas of interest and want practical experience in each. Many students are able to grow their practicum out of their Rollins Earn and Learn (REAL) positions, and some achieve the holy trifecta – they use their REAL (or non-REAL) job position to complete both their practicum and thesis requirements.

I certainly did not achieve the trifecta. Towards the end of my first year, I watched friends complete the process of finding a practicum, developing a relationship with their practicum supervisor(s), and outlining their goals for the practicum. Meanwhile, I couldn’t make up my mind on whether I even wanted to stay in Atlanta or find a practicum elsewhere. Rollins students will complete practicum around the U.S. and the globe (check out this non-exhaustive map!). There are plentiful opportunities to fund global practicum – the Global Field Experience award is one prominent avenue, as is the GEMMA award (if your interests align with the global elimination of maternal mortality from abortion).

Coincidentally, that is where my interests lie! After realizing that my plan of traveling to conduct independent research abroad was too hastily-conceived, I decided to stay in the states. I would scroll day in and day out on Rollins’ online job portal, Handshake, in hopes of finding a research-oriented practicum within the field of sexual and reproductive health. I interviewed for unpaid positions with the CDC and with professors at Rollins before landing an interview with the nonprofit that I ended up working for – Ibis Reproductive Health. At Ibis’ Oakland office, I was responsible for data cleaning and analysis for projects related to complications from abortion in global settings where abortion is restricted. Ibis never treated me like “just an intern” – I was assigned immediately to multiple projects and had serious responsibilities.

One of the best parts of working with Ibis, beyond the beautiful Bay Area summer weather, was that my practicum supervisor was herself a graduate of Rollins and the Epi department. Rollins alumni are located the world-over, and they’re enthusiastic about engaging current students in the work that they do now. When you’re looking for a practicum or find yourself away from Atlanta, whether in the U.S. or abroad, seek out Rollins alums. Beyond their dedication to public health, devastatingly good looks, and the memories they can share about late nights in the Gracement, they are wonderful resources for questions about methods, about professional development, about practicum.