Increased interest in public health leads to need for more faculty

Texas A&M School of Public Health embarking on two-year initiative to hire 16 new faculty members and scholars
November 30, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed lives since its beginning nearly two years ago. It has tested the resolve of individuals and has continued to present challenges in the field of public health.

It has also brought more attention to the need for public health professionals, leading to a new wave of individuals interested in pursuing a degree in the field.

The Texas A&M University School of Public Health has seen a 15 percent increase in bachelor’s admissions over the past two years as well as a 26 percent increase in master’s admissions.

On a national level, according to the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH), public health schools saw a 23 percent increase in applicants for master’s and doctoral programs from fall 2019 to fall 2020, and those numbers are continuing to increase.

“The only thing growing faster than our student headcount is the need for more faculty and staff to support them,” said Erin E. Schneider, MPH, assistant dean for Student Services. “Most recently, students have a better understanding of the value of a public health education, hence the growing demand for these degrees and skills.”

To help meet the demand, the School of Public Health has begun an initiative to hire 16 new faculty members and scholars over the next two years.

“It is an exciting time for us,” said Shawn Gibbs, PhD, MBA, CIH, dean of the School of Public Health. “We are hiring at least 16 new faculty which will drastically increase the number of our faculty and positively change the trajectory of our school. We are aligning these faculty positions along our research initiatives and we are really expanding our capabilities and the research footprint of the School of Public Health.

“This is transformational for our school,” he continued. “Then hopefully in another few years we’ll be looking at another round of hiring. This hiring initiative is part of the pent-up demand for the educational and research opportunities that are offered by the School of Public Health.”

Gibbs’ selection as the dean occurred pre-pandemic and was informed in part by his vision which included strategic expansion of the school’s instructional and research capacity. By the time he formally assumed his role in May of 2020, COVID-19 was a global issue.

“Obviously this pandemic has really broadened the scope and brought public health to the forefront, and it has really shown people the importance and the need for public health,” Gibbs said. “Three years ago, one of the biggest issues we had was trying to explain to people what public health is.”

Currently the school is moving toward filling the following positions:

Additionally, the school is seeking candidates whose research interests align with one of the school’s research centers: the Center for Community Health Development; the USA Center for Rural Public Health Preparedness; the Southwest Rural Health Research Center; the Center for Health and Nature; the Ergonomics Center; and the Center for Population Health and Aging.

“We want to bring in great people,” Gibbs said. “We want to make sure we are bringing in individuals who will help push forward School of Public Health research and our classroom experiences. I think right now the School of Public Health at Texas A&M is a very exciting place to be.”

Schneider added, “Our continued focus is to be able to provide the highest quality teaching and support services to our students while also making the School of Public Health a great place to work.”

— Tim Schnettler

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