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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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First cohort of online Master of Public Health program students to achieve degrees

Fourteen distance education students, who were part of the first cohort of students to enter the online Master of Public Health program, will achieve their degree from New Mexico State University in May.

The students were among the first to enroll in the online MPH program in 2008.

"We're really proud of all of them," said Sue Forster-Cox, associate professor of health science at NMSU. "This is a milestone for the department and the university."

Five of the 14 MPH graduates are American Indian students, another milestone for the university, considering the large demographic of American Indians in New Mexico and the need for health care professionals in tribal communities.

"This really ties into the land-grant mission of NMSU to serve the needs of people in the state," said Justin McHorse, director of the American Indian Program at NMSU. "One of the biggest benefits of having American Indian students graduate with this degree is that they understand the needs of tribal communities, and now they are credentialed and can better address health concerns specific to their jobs and communities."

Forster-Cox said many of the graduates from this program already work for the Indian Health Service. The program allows the students to achieve their degree while remaining in their hometowns.

"The online degree is absolutely crucial," Forster-Cox said. "It allows people, especially those from tribal and rural communities, to advance their education and to get real, applicable public health knowledge to use in their own communities."

Shaundale Gamboa is one such student. Gamboa works for Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock and said the online program allows her to be a full-time mother and wife while keeping her job and earning the degree she has always wanted.

"This is a great program because it allows a lot of people, especially those in minority communities, to further their education while maintaining a job," Gamboa said. "It has also expanded my knowledge and abilities in certain areas, allowing me to help benefit the Navajo community."

Forster-Cox said the degree program is intensive, and students still put in as much work as an onsite program, but the online element makes the degree more achievable for students with jobs and families.

"The degree gives you flexibility," Gamboa said. "You have to have the endurance."

The students who will achieve their MPH in May include Gamboa, Jessica Apodaca, Elvina Clark-Joe, Samantha Claw, Kiana Cook, John Ely, Amanda Gutierrez, Carol Hanson, Vanessa Martinez, Janet McAndrews, Shirley Peaches, Rene Robles, Brittany Waggoner and Terra Yabeny.

For more information, contact Forster-Cox at sforster@nmsu.edu.