Student Spotlight: Mansoor Shafqat, MPH Program
Mansoor Shafqat is a public health student at UNE Online. Located in California, he has many changes going on in his life right now, including becoming a new parent, so he finds the flexibility of the online MPH program to be essential to his success as a student. We spoke with him recently about his experience with the program.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself, and what encouraged you to pursue your Master’s in Public Health?
I received my Bachelor’s of Science in Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior Health from University of California, Davis, and I am currently more than halfway through the Master’s of Public Health program here at the University of New England. I am on track to graduate with my MPH from UNE in May 2019.
I work at the UC Davis Student Health and Wellness Center as a Registered Dispensing Optician, providing eye care to the students and the staff of the university. I’ve been working in the field of health, in particular, the area of eye care, for almost 12 years now. I’ve gained an interest in public health through my background in science, which has been sharpened by working here at the Student Health and Wellness Center. As I interact with the students here I have become aware of the dire need for public health and awareness.
I speak six languages, and I find that being multilingual allows me to more easily interact with International students, the majority of whom do not have English as their first language. I also work part-time at a private clinic on Saturdays, where I see a lot of non-English-speaking patients. I’m able to help them with their eye exams, with picking out glasses, and fitting contact lenses – so through this exposure, I gradually developed an interest in public health.
How did you decide on UNE?
I initially came across UNE Online through social media and then did some additional online searching. The online format was attractive to me, so I looked further into the details of the program. I browsed the course catalog and course descriptions and found that I liked how the program was structured. I also saw pictures of the campus, which I can’t wait to tour when I come to Maine for graduation.
How do you feel about the flexibility of the program?
UNE Online has been such a great find for me. The online setup has been amazing. It allows me to have the freedom to be able to work full-time, and also to be able to take classes, attend lectures, and participate in the program.
The fact that it’s all online has also been perfect because I’m a brand new father. We welcomed our first child last year, and bought a new house, so with all these changes going on in my life, I thought that online would be the ideal setup for me. UNE offered that, and it has been great. So far I’ve really enjoyed the courses that I have taken.
I’ve had nothing but positive interactions with UNE Online so far. In fact, I know someone here that’s graduating from UC Davis who is looking into getting her Master’s through UNE Online because I’ve spoken so highly about it!
Have you found the online atmosphere conducive to feeling that you’re in a community?
Yes, I have. The American Public Health Association – Student Assembly (APHA-SA) is a great organization for MPH students to get involved with at UNE. I became a member last year, and I enjoyed attending the fireside chats, which I found to be really helpful. I reached out to see if I could be a part of that board, which led to my recently being elected to president!
With the APHA-SA you get that extra background knowledge of seeing what is going on in public health from the perspective of students. I also got to know a few of the Board members, so it was nice to have interactions with them in a couple of classes that we happened to be in together.
So even though it’s an online setup, I’m regularly in touch with many of my classmates. I don’t really feel like it’s too difficult, given the technology that we have available to us now.
How are you planning to incorporate your MPH into your career?
Given that I speak several languages, I want to be able to use that within the field of public health in the future. My goal is to transition to working for a health administration either at the local or national level, where I can effect positive change for my community by examining policy. My capstone and field experience, which will be coming up shortly, is through the Yolo County Department of Public Health.
Can you tell me a little more about your practicum?
For my practicum, I got in contact with the epidemiologist at the Community Health Branch here at the Yolo County Health and Human Service Agency, and the plan is to get my field hours working with them, and then making sure I can use that to work on my capstone paper.
The Student Health Center works closely with the Yolo County Health and Human Service Agency to provide monthly newsletters for students to keep an eye on what’s happening in the community in terms of public health.
Any words of wisdom for incoming students?
Make sure you have a good grasp on time management. You’re working full-time, and you’re taking full-time classes, so make sure you schedule yourself enough time to get all of your assignments done on time. Classes are only eight weeks long, so making sure that you have enough time scheduled every week to complete your work will help you stay on top.
I would also recommend using the Student Academic Success Center (SASC) for online students. I used their tutoring services quite heavily in the beginning, especially for my Biostatistics class. I found them to be very helpful with the statistical software that we had to use.
My final piece of advice for incoming students is to get involved. There is the APHA-SA and also SAPH, but you can also take advantage of other opportunities to get connected. This is how you begin to build your community and your network. Your Student Support Specialist checks in with you every so often which is helpful, but staying involved and reaching out for help are the keys to making sure that you are a successful student.
If you are interested in more information about the Graduate Programs in Public Health please reach out to an Enrollment Counselor at 1(855) 325-0895 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or, if you’re ready to apply, fill out your online application at online.une.edu/gateway-portal-page.
More Public Health program information: go.une.edu/public-health/mph