Public Health Studies

Andrea Conger, Holland Hall 424

Overview of the Concentration

Students pursuing a concentration in Public Health Studies develop an overview of the breadth of the fields comprising public health, a sense for its interdisciplinarity, and skills for interpreting and contextualizing public health research findings.  Students practice communicating the social, humanist, and biological complexities of public health across cultural, political and disciplinary boundaries. Special attention is given to understanding diverse populations and their unique circumstances domestically and globally. Completion of the public health studies concentration promotes a lifetime of informed civic engagement relevant to public health.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Can I Do with Public Health Studies?
The Public Health Studies Concentration is designed to provide students a broad background in public health that can be explored across the curriculum. We are interested in giving people tools to improve health and well-being through direct care, informing the public, education which is huge, people who want to shape policy and the future of humans on this planet. We invite scientists, poets, social thinkers, writers, pre-health and the computationally inclined, entrepreneurs, organizers and activists, historians, artists, physical trainers and athletes. Anyone who is interested in social well-being, health care delivery directly – as the context of the populations served is an important context, global affairs or international service of any kind - to consider the health capabilities and constraints in other countries or respond to disasters (Pakistan’s flooding, food limitations due to the war in Ukraine….etc.), and those who have a desire to prepare for a future we cannot yet even imagine. There is a place for you in public health.

How Do I Declare the Concentration?
Students from any class can declare a Public Health Concentration starting this year. Because we are currently working with two different sets of GEs this year, the process will be slightly different depending on which class you are in. For the 2022-23 school year, if you are a first year, you can go directly into SIS and declare the same as any other concentration. Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors should contact the registrar who will help set up a degree path according to your specific class year. Or contact Dr. Conger directly with questions.

Why a Concentration?
While the pandemic has certainly brought public health into the public eye, the idea for a public health studies program at St. Olaf has been being explored since the early 2000s. Interest in a systematic way to pursue public health studies has had steadily growing interest over the years from both students and faculty. The concentration was a deliberate choice at this moment. It allows us to have a thoughtful and intentional way of looking at the world through the lens of public health without narrowing our focus to one field or discipline. This is an inherently interdisciplinary and collaborative field that has many diverse paths and applications so structuring something that would give students a set of tools they could apply in new and innovative ways across the curriculum that could keep up with the speed of the problems it tackles was really key in our thinking.

Requirements for the Concentration

Choose one course from each of the following categories.
Fundamentals of Public Health 11.00
Peruvian Medical Experience (abroad)
Introduction to Public Health
Biological Basis of Health 11.00
Biological Science: Issues in Biology
Human Biology
The Biology of Women
Human Anatomy and Physiology: Organs and Organ Systems
Topics in Biology (When topic is Virology)
Environmental Health
Nutrition and Wellness
Drugs, the Brain and Behavior
Social Science/Humanities Perspective of Health 11.00
Economics of Health Care
Public Affairs II: Contemporary Controversies
Biomedical Ethics
Medical Anthropology
Research Methods and Data Tools 11.00
Introductory Econometrics
Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems
Mathematics of Biology
Research Methods in Psychology
Foundations of Social Science Research: Quantitative Methods
Ethnographic Research Methods
Principles of Statistics
Statistics for the Sciences
Intermediate Statistics for Social Science Research
Statistical Modeling
Research Methods in Social Work
Liberal Arts Dialog in Public Health 11.00
Case Studies in Public Health
Total Credits5

Students can petition to have other courses count for any of the above categories.

These Off-Campus programs with a Public Health focus may meet one or more of the requirements listed above:

  • Kenya: Global Health and Human Rights will meet either "Research Methods" or "Social Science & Humanities" through the Research Methods and Ethics course.  Other courses may also be applied.
  • Andean Field Studies in Ecuador offers a Research Methods course that will count.  Depending on the student project, other credits may count as well.
  • DIS-Public Health (Denmark) offers courses that cover "Fundamentals of Public Health" and the "Social Science/Humanities" requirements (e.g., Medical Ethics, Medical Anthropology, Health Delivery and Prioritization, Heath Economics & Policy in Europe).