Pursuing an MSW/MPH dual degree at Columbia University, with Tieisha Walters

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In this episode, Sujani sits down with Tieisha Walters to discuss her experience with the Master of Public Health / Master of Science in Social Work program from Columbia University. They chat about what the dual degree is like and what doors it has opened for Tieisha.

What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • How Tieishia found her way into the public health field
  • What motivated Tieisha to pursue the dual MSSW/MPH 
  • Tieisha’s experience with the MSSW/MPH program and what she would have done differently
  • What Colombia’s dual MSSW/MPH program is like including:
    • How courses are structured 
    • What practicum opportunities may be available
    • How social work and public health learning was integrated throughout the program
    • Main advantages of doing a dual degree 
  • Advice from Tieisha for others who might be considering an MPH/MSW degree
  • Tieisha’s experiences working around the world and how her knowledge in both social work and public health has benefited her
  • Tips from Tieisha on searching for jobs with a dual degree

Today’s Guest:

Tieisha Walters received a Master of Public Health and a Master of Science in Social Work from Columbia University in 2017. After graduating from Columbia, Ms. Walters served one year as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer in Zambia. During her time in Zambia, Ms. Walters focused on reducing the prevalence of maternal and neonatal deaths. Upon returning to the U.S., Ms. Walters worked as a Resource Coordinator teaching sexuality education to high school students. However, when covid-19 was declared a pandemic, Ms. Walters decided to utilize both her MPH and MSW skills to assist her city (NYC) in combating this virus. Ms. Walters worked as both a Contact Tracer for NYC Health + Hospital and as a Public Health Analyst contractor for CDC. Presently, Ms. Walters is working as a Licensed Social Worker/ Community Partnership Manager for the Economic Opportunity Commission of Nassau County. Ms. Walters believes that her purpose on earth is to be in public service and to help improve the lives of others, one individual at a time.

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Episode Transcript

Tieisha 0:00
I think we tend to be really hard on ourselves, right? I think we need to remind ourselves that we’re doing our best to and to be gentle with ourselves. I know I was really hard on myself a lot while I was going through the program and even after the program, but I’m not used to that, like you need to still be proud of yourself, you know.

Sujani 0:24
Welcome to PH SPOTlight, a community for you to build your public health career with. Join Us Weekly right here. And I’ll be here too, your host Sujani Siva, from PH SPOT.

Hi Tieisha, and welcome to the PH SPOT podcast. So great to have you here. And thank you for joining me.

Tieisha 0:46
Thank you for having me.

Sujani 0:47
Yeah. So I actually don’t know how I came across your profile, but it popped up on my LinkedIn possibly because somebody liked a post or I think you had a video that Columbia had of your degree experience. And so I must have discovered you that way. And I remember thinking the combo degree that you have of an MSW and mph was something that I hadn’t seen before. Like I know the field of social work and public health, there’s quite a bit of intersection. But to discover someone with an MSW and an MPH together, I knew I had to have you on the podcast and to really like chat with you about your experience and how you discovered public health. So I am going to jump right in and ask you how was your discovery of the field of public health? Was that something accidental? Or did you know since you were young that you wanted to be a public health practitioner?

Tieisha 1:41
I tell this story all the time. And I laugh, because I knew nothing about public health until going into my senior year of undergrad, my chemistry and physics teacher, Miss Morris, who’s still very much a part of my life 14-15 years later, she was very upset that I didn’t fit into STEM fields for undergrad. And I remember I was getting ready, like I was going into my senior year. And she was like, Tieisha, what do you plan on doing after you graduate? Because my bachelor’s degree is in rhetoric and communications, I intentionally stayed away from chemistry and physics and biology. Tieisha, why didn’t you? And I’m like, no. So one day, I’m in my room. It was my first semester of my senior year. And I was having a conversation with her because I normally talk to her every semester while I’m in college, even in grad school, even now. And I was planning on getting my MSW and my Masters of Public Administration. So she’s like, why not public health? And I was like, no, Miss Morris, you always want to push me into science field. I don’t want to do it. And she’s like, Tieisha, I need you to listen to me. There’s plenty of jobs and opportunities in public health. And like, as much I don’t know nothing about public health. I’m getting ready to graduate. How can I go and get a master’s in this thing? I don’t know anything about it. So she been her typical Miss Morris self decided to give me a long spiel hour long, mind you on why I should look into public health. Why I should consider public health. And I’m like, oh, my gosh, okay, Miss Morris, I will look into public health if I can get you off the phone. So she’s like, all right, you will look into it. I’ll shut up now. So I’m like, okay, but they didn’t have any intro to public health courses for the spring semester at you, Albany where I went for undergrad. So I started looking into like internships and fellowship opportunities that would give me opportunity, basically, to learn about public health, while also getting more fuel experience. And so that year was the first year that CDC had started this public health initiative to have more minorities enter into the field of public health, dentistry, medicine, and all that jazz. I know that the programs were at Morehouse, I believe there was one in California. And I saw one with Columbia. And I liked Columbia’s program, because we were taking actual public health courses, we’re gonna do EPI, and we’re also going to be out in the field. And I was like, I think this would really let me know if I really like public health. And so I applied and I got accepted. At first I was like, I don’t like this, this is too much, stressed me out. I was like, I don’t think this is for me. But then towards the middle to the end of it. I was like, I really like this. I’m gonna get my MPH and MSW. So that’s how I ended up in public health.

Sujani 4:26
Okay, so first of all, thank you, Miss Morris, for making this episode happen. And I just have to say it. It’s wonderful to have mentors like that in your life, right? Who are really looking out for you and essentially, like helping you and guiding you with your career path. So thank you, Miss Morris.

Tieisha 4:45
Yeah.

Sujani 4:45
Okay. So yeah, I think that’s what I hear quite a bit that it’s kind of this accidental discovery, whether somebody takes a course in undergrad or somebody tells them about public health. That’s been the general consensus of the field of public health and how individuals are discovering that as their career so interesting to hear that’s been your experience as well. And so Columbia is that, you know, one of the few universities that have this combo degree of an MSW and mph or have you seen that elsewhere?

Tieisha 5:14
It’s one of the few that I’ve seen with that combo. UAlbany also had it as well. I actually only applied to both Columbia or UAlbany I guess, because UAlbany was like the school I went to for undergrad, so I was comfortable. So as far as other schools that have it, I haven’t seen a lot like I’ve looked at other schools, they have other combo, but not the MSW and mph.

Sujani 5:37
Okay. And so what would you say, you know, Miss Morris was the individual who kind of ignited that search.

Tieisha 5:44
Definitely, I invited her to my graduation. She’s still very much a part of my life. My mother loved her. And I’m like, yes, Miss Morris, my kids and my grandkids will know about you.

Sujani 5:53
Oh, yeah. How about the MSW portion? Why was that an interest for you? And why? Why were you interested, I guess even prior to discovering mph, you were already thinking about an MSW. And you wanted to combine that with you said a Master’s in Public Administration, right? So that MSW has stuck with you. And why was that?

Tieisha 6:15
Another mentor that I had, who was also a supervisor, she was a social worker, and undergrad, and I’m like, I’m a people person, I like to work with people. And that was when I was also learning that social work is more than just foster care, right? And case management where a lot of people tend to, like just isolated to that. And it’s more than that. And so I knew that I wanted to work with people. But I also wanted to do work internationally. And so I was just like, this is something that I’m passionate about, I’m passionate about helping people. So social work was always at the forefront and public administration came about because I’m like, I also want to work in government. At that point in time, I was very much passionate about human trafficking and female genital mutilation, like I wanted to do work in those areas. And I felt as though public administration would have been the better route at the time until Miss Morris told me otherwise. And I looked into it, I was like, okay, I can deal with public health as well.

Sujani 7:11
And I think you know, for those individuals who may be interested in an MPH slash MSW combo degree, whether it’s at Columbia or other universities, could you tell them a bit about how that experience as a student that’s completing a combo degree looks like and maybe like the balance between the courses and how you’re getting to understand the fundamentals of both of those areas.

Tieisha 7:36
The first thing is that the program is three years. So you do one year of social work, then you go to public health, and you do another year of social work, my experience was a little bit unique and different in the sense that my last year of social because, of course, we have to fulfill our field placement requirements, certain amount of hours in the fields. And so Columbia School of Social Work did something a pilot program where I was able to go overseas, and that’s an expense I really wanted. They haven’t done it again, since. So my experience might be a little bit different than a few of my peers. But my first year of social work, I was a generalist, right, so my thing is, I wanted to do program development, program management and all of that jazz. And so they placed me in a foster care placement. I did my first year social work, then I went to public health. My first semester of public health during the core at mailmen was ridiculously intense. I remember going to the director of the program, I think midway during the semester, and I was like, I think you guys are trying to kill me. I’m like, why is it so much like I was crying almost every day because I was like, this workload is a lot like, one thing that I appreciate is they want us to be a well versed and well, I would say very marketable public health practitioner in a sense, where we take 16 mini courses in all the departments of public health, right? So you were taking health policy, global health program development, EPI, you’re taking all these various courses, whether that’s a concentration or not, because they want you to have knowledge of every little aspect of public health, right? And during the beginning, I was like, this is crazy, because I remember, I think one week, I had like, five quizzes, three homework assignments, two exams, and I was just like, no, no, this is not working out for me.

Sujani 9:29
Was this all in the first year? 16 courses?

Tieisha 9:31
This is the- this is the first semester.

Sujani 9:33
Oh, wow. Okay.

Tieisha 9:34
And so I wasn’t doing so great during the first semester, like I think maybe week seven or eight and I was not doing very great in FP I was having a really hard time in grasping the teaching style of my professor. So I started watching the teaching style of another professor and I was grasping it more. And I went to her office one day, Dr. March and I said to her, I said, I don’t really understand what’s going on. Like I’m really lost. And so she’s like, okay, so what don’t you understand? Everything, like from the very beginning. And I started her office for over two hours. And she went to everything from the very beginning until where we were in that semester. And I really appreciated academic services, because they also reached out to me because they saw that I was not passing. And they’re like, we want all of our students to pass. So we want to set you up with the support that you need to make sure you can pass this semester. You don’t want no one to fail, because I swore I was not going to pass. Because I was like, no. And even two weeks before the semester was over, I went to the direction I was like, I think I’m going to just go back to social work, because this is a lot. I’m, I’m overwhelmed. I’m stressed. I’m sleeping only two to three hours a day, and my friends look like walking zombies. But when I finished that semester, I was like, wow. I learned a lot.

Sujani 10:50
Yeah.

Tieisha 10:52
I gained a lot. I was like, I can do this. But man, I wouldn’t do the core again. But I appreciate the experience.

Sujani 11:01
Okay, now that you’ve successfully scared every single person listening from really transparent, what would you say? You know, if you were to do that semester again, would you do it any differently so that probably you’re not as stressed as you were?

Tieisha 11:17
What I would do differently? I would try to see if I could pair up more with like, I did pair up with like a few friends here and there. But not as often as I guess I could have or should have to really try to understand some of the concepts what else I would have done differently. I don’t do all nighters, my friends are all doing all nighters. But they were all MDS and nurses. I was like, No, I’m not doing that. That was the one thing that I would have done differently, in addition to seeing if I could, could have gotten switched to another professor. Like I went to Professor March a lot. And she helped me through that semester. But my friend, but she wasn’t my direct professor, right? But I had access to watch her videos and all the other professor videos to really try to absorb information. And I got a lot of support from also Jane Bogart, she was part of academic support as well. And I went to her she helped me map out my time helped me to like practice some breathing technique, talk to the things that were really stressing me. So I think if I also had her from the very beginning as well, to help me through everything, that it probably wouldn’t have been so stressful and overwhelming, but from the director of pop fam, to the support that I got from Academic Services, and my friends, that’s really what got me shoot, like, my big takeaway is not to try to do it alone. Like, if I’m to give any students going to mailmen public health program, don’t try to do it alone, because burnout can be rewriting is overwhelming. Seek out the support because it’s there.

Sujani 12:45
Yeah, no, I’m glad you mentioned that, because I don’t think students you know, that’s not the first thing they think of when they enter any program to intentionally set up your support network of friends, academic services, professors, like you have to reach out if you are going to protect your mental health and protect yourself from burnout. So I’m really, really glad you mentioned all of those resources. But primarily, I think academic services like I know, I’ve never used them. And I have been hearing quite a bit from people that they are such a great advantage in kind of just making sure your experience in any program is wonderful.

Tieisha 13:22
And the advantage that I had with being both dual mph and MSW is even though I was at mailmen. During my second year, I still had access to social work resources. So Milman doesn’t have like a writing center or writing lab or people will help you with your writing. But social work does. So I will go right to social work. Okay, so we need to go over this paper. That really helped me as well. So yeah.

Sujani 13:50
Okay, so it sounds like you do the first year you complete the MSW requirements, and then you go on to do the MPH requirements.

Tieisha 13:58
Yes. Then I go back to social work again.

Sujani 14:00
Okay. So is there any point where you’re integrating courses like together between social work and public health? Or is it the full three years is supposed to give you the courses that you need, but there aren’t courses that kind of overlap and the two concepts.

Tieisha 14:14
Basically, you’re kind of separated winter in social worker at social work when you have public health or public health. But there were some courses that overlap as far as some stuff that I learned in social work for my first year. I also learned it at public health as far as like into personalities, talking with people talking with patients working through difficult conversations. I learned some of that in social work. And it was reiterated again in public health. So that really placed an emphasis on certain concepts, which I really appreciated.

Sujani 14:45
And so you know, the program you mentioned a little bit, there’s quizzes, there’s practicum lectures. Are there any other kind of components of the program that’s worth mentioning that may be unique to the MSW program or the MPH program that really stood out to you?

Tieisha 15:01
The exams practicum. Yeah, you mentioned it big projects. What I liked that Columbia while public health did as well, we had a slipping me as far as what it’s called. But we had like small groups like say it’s just like a group, you and your parents that you’re with them for the entire year and you work on like different case studies. And then at the end of it, we can’t, we wrote a credo, basically, to talk about our overall experience. And we were able to present that just like reflect back. But I liked the fact that they allowed us that was the one class that you stayed with the same group of people from first semester to second semester to really try to develop that rapport with each other in that support network and just to work through different cases, and how would you look at it from the lens of being a public health practitioner, right? And outside of just looking at cases, we also had different difficult conversations as well about race about, you know, discrimination, and just a lot of different things. So it was really great to have that. So I would say that was something to look forward to. And you talk a lot about that as well in social work.

Sujani 16:03
And what was your practicum experience like? I guess first off, like, where did you do your practicum? How long was it? And then yeah, what was the experience like that there?

Tieisha 16:11
So my practicum was over this summer, it was with to NYCHA housing, with a partnership with Columbia. So I focused on I don’t know if he’s ever saw like seeing like playgrounds, you’d see some of the I don’t want to call them equipment, but more so there’ll be like things on the playground that people use to work out with. So we call them like adult playgrounds.

Sujani 16:32
Yeah.

Tieisha 16:32
And so I was really curious about this, because I’m like, I learned about it when I started working outside with my personal trainer. And I was just like, I would have never thought to use this as a workout. And I was curious as far as ready to stem from and the benefits of it, which is pretty convenient. You could go to the park and workout on equipment instead of necessarily going to the gym, and you have the fresh air and all of that. So that’s really what I focused on as far as seeing how we could implement that in different locations like low income neighborhoods, what’s the process with NYCHA housing? How many of those do they have? And how has it maintained and all of that? So that’s really what I focused on over the summer.

Sujani 17:10
Okay, I guess, similar to other programs, a practicum. length was the duration of the summer.

Tieisha 17:17
Yeah, I was- I was a little bit jealous, because I wanted to do the Global Health one, which would have been six months overseas, but because I was a dual degree student, I wasn’t allowed to do that.

Sujani 17:27
Okay, you did mention that there was some international component to your experience, right?

Tieisha 17:33
Yeah, I was able to do that with social work. But the funny thing is, although I went overseas to do social work, I ended up doing a lot of public health.

Sujani 17:40
Okay, and I love that.

Tieisha 17:42
Okay, so I was placed in Zambia, my last semester of social work, where I interned with the International Organization for Migration in their migrant health division, where I focused on condom negotiation for sex workers, and sexual reproductive health for adolescents and giving them more access to like condoms, contraceptive and just being able to have candid open conversations with them. So that was something that was very eye opening and transformative for me, because even when speaking with other sex workers who were as young as 12-13, they mentioned, you know, a lot of the guys, the clients that they have, they would prefer to pay them more money to have unprotected sex than not, and then sometimes they have a difficulty of negotiating the usage of condoms, and also negotiating the use of paying them ahead of time, because it’s a business transaction, right? So paying them before sex, sometimes is a difficult task, because if they wait until afterwards, some of them have said to me, the guy’s like, no, you enjoyed it, too. I’m not paying you. And if they tried to collect their money, they would either beat the women or do really bad things to them. So that was part of their hurdle that they were experiencing, and many of these young ladies were orphans, and are orphans. So that was another very eye opening thing for me to try to figure out. Okay, what’s the best way to help you guys do this? And so a lot of them said, you know, we wish that we knew how to negotiate uses of condoms and know how to negotiate the use of saying, okay, you have to pay me first. And so I taught the implementing partners who are on the ground who worked directly with the sex workers to say, Okay, let’s try this method. And let’s roleplay out some potential scenarios to see how this will play out. And so they were very receptive to information. So they will also try to implement it with the sex workers. Unfortunately, I was only in Zambia for three months. And so I wasn’t able to follow up and do like evaluations and stuff like that. But that set the precedents for me as far as what I want to do ultimately, with my long term career goal because I did Peace Corps after I graduated too, so.

Sujani 19:50
Okay, that’s a great segue into what I was going to ask you about next, you know, you completed these two degrees or dual degree And then you eventually graduated, I think it was in the year of 2017. And you just mentioned that you went into the Peace Corps, is that was that like kind of your, your direct next step? Or did you-

Tieisha 20:11
That was my direct next step, but I knew that I didn’t want to do necessarily Peace Corps in the village, which is normally the regular Peace Corps route, which is two years, they had just changed it to do for Peace Corps Response, because normally to do Peace Corps Response, which is one year, and you’ll be placed in an urban area, you would have needed to be a former Peace Corps volunteer, I have like 10 years work experience. So they just changed it, where I could go in to do the work that I wanted to do with a graduate degree. And so I went back to Zambia, focusing on maternal and child health. And that’s like, when I think about that experience in itself, it brings tears to my eyes, because that experience impacted me in ways that still resonates to this day where so I was placed in a community or population of 200,000, roughly, to help reduce the prevalence of maternal and neonatal deaths, right? And so it was something of the sort of say from January to June of 2018, while I was still there, actually, they had over 200, neonatal deaths, they had over 45, mothers just in that specific region, die from things like delay to access to care or lack of transportation, or if they reached out the facility, the facility didn’t have the resources. And so I would attend their maternal death review meetings that they would have on a weekly basis when I first got there. And many of the nurses talked about the fact that they don’t have oxygen in their facilities, they don’t have this. So I was like, hold on, this is 2017. And I remember watching a documentary, while going through my MPH in Chad, early 2000s, where he talked about women dying, because there’s no oxygen in their facilities, the woman having to bring all of these medical supplies before they can even deliver, or they they just won’t be able to assist them. And so I was triggered by it. I was like, no, this is 2017. And so you guys have no oxygen, and it has never had oxygen in your facilities. And this is one of the reasons why women are dying. And so I was like, okay, Peace Corps has grant money, we’re gonna see how we can try to work this through. And so I contacted the grant manager to find out if it’s possible if it’s allowed to write a grant to get some oxygen cylinders and other medical equipments into six of the high traffic, maternal facilities. And so they said, yes, it’s possible. So I did that I worked with the district to procure those and then to teach the nurses how to maintain the equipment, how to refill it, because it was refillable oxygen tanks, and then working with the district and the provincial health office. So procure like an ultrasound, because they had only one ultrasound machine to facilitate 200,000 people, and it was outdated. So trying to get that and other equipments for them, because they’re like, we just don’t have the resources. And we don’t have the help to really help our women. And if they really want adequate care, the woman would have to travel two and a half to three hours to Lusaka, if she has the finances to do that to go to one of their bigger hospitals. And I’m like, this is not right. This is not okay. You know, I focused on that, mostly while I was there. And I was going to focus on another project until the director of the program and my contract, my one year was up, and I had to come back which I was really, really, I was devastated about. Oh, yeah.

Sujani 23:27
Yeah, that’s, that’s a fascinating experience. And you know, because I also have an MPH, I’m kind of able to connect the dots in terms of where your public health degree would have been super helpful in an experience like that, but curious to hear where that social worker degree came into play in that one year Peace Corps experience that you had.

Tieisha 23:48
It came into play in my interactions with the staff and the women, making those connections, those personal one on one connections with these district health officials, government officials, and just the community staff on whole, knowing how to like scale back a bit if the conversation is a little bit too intense, or how to interject and really provide some much needed support around something traumatic and overwhelming, right? So that’s really how the social work came into play as far as the language how to phrase certain things that I like to say would be a little bit more digestible.

Sujani 24:25
Yeah, it sounds like you know, you- you’re taking on these population level or large public health problems. And even though you’re not doing like, you know, the traditional clinical social work, you’re using those concepts in order to kind of like facilitate more ease into your role when you’re when you’re taking these positions. Is that accurate?

Tieisha 24:44
Yes.

Sujani 24:45
Yeah. Okay. When you’re job searching, how are you doing that? Are you looking for roles that say like social worker or public health or how do you go about that? I’m curious to hear.

Tieisha 24:55
I’m also look for roles like that focus on what I’m passionate about, like I have the population that I’m passionate about. I’m really passionate about maternal and child health more so because my grandmother had four miscarriages out of the 14 children she had. So that really is a runs deep for me as far as wanting to continue doing that work and just global health on a whole go to work every day wasn’t like a drag. You know, sometimes you get up in the morning, like, oh, I gotta go to work today. I woke up every morning, like, yes, I’m ready to go. So that’s really what I look for, I look for certain description in a job that will bring out that passion that I have to serve, right, like I do have that passion to serve and to give back because I do believe that we’re placed on this earth to do more than just pay bills and die, right? Like, I do feel like we’re here to for a bigger reason. So yeah.

Sujani 25:51
Oh, I’m so glad you said that. So I run this career program within PH SPOT. And one of the modules or themes of one of the weeks is exactly that kind of like discovering your vision for your career, you know, some people will create their career path based on like their interests or their skill set, or yeah, exactly what it is that you just said, which is, what kind of passion is driving your career? So yeah, you said like, maternal health is the key word, I guess, if you want to, you want to call it that, that you look for? Do you then you know, within maternal health, look for areas or functions that you’re interested in? Like? Is it like social work? Or is it more like evaluation of programs?

Tieisha 26:38
I look for both, although funnily enough, I’m not working in either areas right now.

Sujani 26:44
Yeah.

Tieisha 26:44
But I definitely look for both because I realized when I came back to the States, I was applying for all public health jobs, right? But everyone wanted me because of my MSW. And they’re like, so do you have a license? Do you have a license? I’m applying for public health degree.

Sujani 26:59
Yeah.

Tieisha 26:59
Like, we understand that, but we want you because there were social worker.

Sujani 27:03
So but the description never asked for like a social worker?

Tieisha 27:07
It just asked for a bachelor’s or master’s degree, but it was focused on maternal health, and never specified the degree that they wanted.

Sujani 27:15
Okay. And then you had this asset of a social worker degree. Okay, got it.

Tieisha 27:20
So I went in, I got my social work license. As far as like jobs, I just look for certain key terms, like I wanted program development experience, and evaluation and survey that was to working with people. And that’s what I’m doing right now. But I’m hired as a licensed social worker, but I’m also looking at it from a public health lens. That’s my day job and my nighttime job. I’m a contractor, with loyal source for CDC dealing with COVID since the pandemic occurred. So that one is a lot of data before it was also working with or rather interacting with a lot of passengers who tested positive for COVID in being able to talk to them because before that, I was also doing a contact tracing and knowing how to scale back, like I said before, how to really like provide empathy and that support when a person starts crying, because either they just lost a family member over COVID, or they, they can’t smell or taste, and it’s really traumatic and overwhelming. So my degree has definitely helped me to be able to have these conversations with people while also being marketable and diverse. So a lot of different agencies. I feel like both degrees, they’ve come in handy.

Sujani 28:33
So your current role, okay. It’s interesting. You say, your daytime job and nighttime job. So literally, is that how you, you’re splitting up your day?

Tieisha 28:41
Yeah, I was doing both of them full time before. So basically working 75 hours a week before, but I scaled back a bit student loans. My student loans took a toll on me, I was like, I need to pay you down. So yeah, that was my driving force. And we couldn’t go anywhere. So I’m like, I might as well work.

Sujani 28:58
Yeah. So you’re at we are with the Economic Opportunity Commission of Nassau County. That’s your, you know, the role that you hold as a social worker, and for family and community partnerships manager.

Tieisha 29:11
Yeah, so I’m the licensed social worker, and I’m their family and community partnerships manager in their Headstart division. So this role stemmed from COVID. Actually, it was a new grant that they applied for and got awarded, because they’re the you know, the trauma and the crisis, and just everything that was going on. They wanted to provide their overall staff with more support. So my job entails crisis intervention in management, developing this new division, and doing trauma informed workshops, supporting the children, supporting the parents, supporting the staff and doing some advocacy work around getting more benefits and support for the staff while also partnering with different communities and trying to bring in more social workers to support everyone in general. So yeah, that’s it in a nutshell. shows, but it is ahead. I’m focusing more on Headstart program development.

Sujani 30:04
And so you know, looking back, just thinking about the different experiences that you’ve had both within your degree, but also your practicum. And some of the roles that you held since graduating, do you think you would have done anything differently in terms of like how you’ve paved the path for your career so far?

Tieisha 30:22
I do feel that for public health, I wish I had taken some more like maybe one or two other data course or like program Eva, like, I’m very good with qualitative data, I feel somewhat comfortable with it. But I would have liked more experiences that in addition to quantitative data, I don’t have as much experience with that. So I do tend to shy away from that, or, like, if I see a role that focus a lot on FP or biostats, I freeze, I’m like, Man, I can’t apply for this position, because I don’t feel strong enough to go after that, because I don’t really have the skill set. Right? Granted, I can still learn. I didn’t learn it while in public health school.

Sujani 31:03
I’m curious to hear like these epi and biostats roles that you’re discovering that are of interest to you, are you seeing that the social worker degree could be like an asset for that role? Or is that more you just exploring a public health role and don’t want to do social work, maybe at some point.

Tieisha 31:22
So me exploring a public health role, I’ve seen public health roles that don’t fire that I have seen some rather, that wanted me to have those quantitative skill sets that I didn’t have. And so because I didn’t have it, I didn’t apply for it.

Sujani 31:36
You’ve talked about some of the great things that you’ve done, and some challenges, but I’m gonna really poke you a bit more on the challenges portion of it. Since your professional journey has started. What would you say was one of those biggest challenge, you know, get getting your degree, we heard the first semester of your MPH was too lightly put it, intense. Anything else that you think, you know, just reflecting back, you’d say, Man, this has been such a challenge in my professional journey so far, and, and kind of tie that with some advice for any of our public health students or early career professionals that are listening.

Tieisha 32:16
One thing that I would say, I wish I did a little bit more of was moreso research, different Fellowship and Scholarship opportunities for grad school, because I work the two jobs because I wanted to pay down my debt, right, because I feel as though that in itself is a burden to like graduate school with, you know, all these high hopes and expectations. And then you get the Nelnet notification, like, well, you know, you have six months until you have to start paying, but not realizing that there were other opportunities out there that I could have ventured into that would have given me more money for grad school and advocating more for myself to get more funding. That’s one thing and just really taken advantage of various quantitative courses. I wish I had gotten a chance to do that. And connecting a little bit more with some of my professors, I did try to reach out to some of my professors after I graduated, but I felt that because my connections probably wasn’t as strong while I was there, it didn’t develop as much as I would have wanted, you know. So I think just really putting yourself out there and really building your network is a very big thing. Also, I think we tend to be really hard on ourselves, right? I think we need to remind ourselves that we’re doing our best too and to be gentle with ourselves. I know, it was really hard on myself a lot while I was going through the program, and even after the program, but um, like you said that like, you need to still be proud of yourself, you know. And so just be gentle with yourself. And like, take advantage of all the resources because like a school like Columbia has a lot of resources, they may not all be laid out to you, you may have to do some research to find these resources. But I would definitely say to definitely put yourself out there and connect connect like one of my friends like she connects and networks like nobody’s business like she was on LinkedIn having like, lunching with people from the UN, having meetups with people from the health department. And I’m like, how are you connect with all of these people, but she was determined to build her network and even connecting a lot with a lot of the professors who then connected her with other people. I’m like, wow, like, wow,

Sujani 34:34
We’re gonna have to get her on the podcast to ask her how she’s doing that.

Tieisha 34:40
Right.

Sujani 34:41
Yeah. Okay, so my last question for you is, are you glad Miss Morris pushed you in this direction?

Tieisha 34:49
Oh, most definitely. Most. Definitely. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Like sometimes I try to imagine okay, if I had just did social work and public administration would my life be this way, like, would I have been able to take advantage of all of the resources and all the opportunities? And I’m like, no, it would have been completely different. Public Health exploded. I thought a lot more because of the pandemic because I was like, struggling to find jobs and secure jobs. But once the pandemic hit, it was just like, you’re thrust into it like, yes, you have an MPA, we want you and I’m like, wow, okay. And I was here struggling nine months ago.

Sujani 35:26
Oh, that’s awesome. Thank you, Tieisha, so much for sharing your journey with us and all of this great advice. I know that people are going to walk away with some, like really good advice from you not only if they’re interested in an MSW, MPH degree, but just in general, as a public health professional, you’ve shared so much valuable advice. So thank you for joining me on the podcast.

Tieisha 35:51
Thank you. You’re most welcome. Thank you for having me.

Sujani 35:59
Hey, there, I hope you enjoyed that episode. And, as always, if you want to get the links and information mentioned in today’s episode, you can head over to pHspot.org/podcast. And we will have everything there for you. And one more thing before you go. Have you been looking for any of these three things? Number one, guidance to establish a clear path towards your dream public health career to mindset and resources to help you continuously progress in your career, and three, complete confidence to take control of your career to ensure long term job satisfaction and employment. If you answered yes, then you have to check out our Career Program, it”s an intensive hands on training program for early public health professionals, including recent graduates and students. We help you take the uncertainty and overwhelm out of building your public health career through this program. And so you can find out more about the program and join the waitlist for the next cohort at pHspot.org/program. And until next time, thank you so much for tuning into this podcast and for the invaluable work that you do for this world.

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About the Show

PH SPOTlight: Public health career stories, inspiration, and guidance from current-day public health heroes

On the show, Sujani sits down with public health heroes of our time to share career stories, inspiration, and guidance for building public health careers. From time to time, she also has conversations with friends of public health – individuals who are not public health professionals, but their advice and guidance are equally important.

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