Family and Community Health

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Why Study Family and Community Health at MSU?

The Family and Community Health program offers a skills-based graduate degree that integrates theory and critical thinking to assess and act on the needs of individuals, families, and communities. Students learn to plan, implement, and evaluate programming designed to promote health, human development, and well-being with families and communities.

As a student, you will:

  • Design a course of study with your faculty mentor that is aligned with your interests and goals. Students often combine required coursework with courses from other areas of campus including the College of Nursing, Department of Education, Department of Native American Studies, Department of Psychology, and Department of Political Science.
  • Gain hands-on research experience working directly with faculty in projects that utilize innovative approaches such as community-based participatory research and emerging qualitative and quantitative methods.
  • Work closely and receive directed mentoring with recognized faculty in family and community health. We purposively keep our program small so that each student develops a close professional relationship with his or her faculty mentor.
  • Develop skills and techniques necessary for conducting health research with individuals, families, and communities as well as learning program planning and evaluation, grant writing, and policy analysis.
  • Expand your skills in working in partnership with rural or Native American communities developing, implementing, and evaluating targeted and appropriate health interventions for unique health challenges.
  • Prepare for the future pursuit of a doctoral degree in a family and community health-related field.

All in a beautiful environment.

The program provides students with the skills and training necessary to assume leadership positions in the following settings:

  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Education
  • Federal, state, and local government
  • Health insurance agencies
  • Cooperative Extension
  • Governmental public health agencies at the local, state, and national levels
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Domestic and international voluntary organizations
  • Health maintenance organizations
  • Corporate wellness programs
  • Foundations
  • Schools
  • Other health and human services organizations
  • Academia

There is no better place to study health than in Bozeman--a thriving mountain town, with limitless opportunity for outdoor activities, cultural activities, and a work hard-play hard mindset. In addition to providing access to an extraordinary ecosystem for teaching and research programs, Bozeman is renowned for year-round recreational and cultural opportunities including access to world-class ski areas, multiple blue ribbon trout streams and the Gallatin National Forest. The Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport is served by several major airlines and is the busiest airport in the state.

MSU is located in Bozeman, Montana, an extended community of about 70,000 nestled in the Rocky Mountains in Southwest Montana. Named an All-American City, Bozeman boasts high-quality medical facilities, a very low crime rate, many fine restaurants, acclaimed public and private schools, a symphony orchestra and choir, an annual opera, and nationally known events such as the Sweet Pea Festival of the Arts held in early August of each year. Bozeman is listed as one of National Geographic’s “World’s 25 Best Ski Towns.” Bizjournals.com ranked Bozeman #2 on the list of American Dreamtowns–small towns that offer the best quality of life without metropolitan hassles. The K-12 educational system,  reputation of Montana State University, and pristine natural environment of the area combine to make Bozeman one of America’s most desirable university towns. Bozeman is located in the beautiful Gallatin Valley, 90 miles north of Yellowstone National Park.

The Department of Health and Human Development has 25-30 tenure-track faculty members and 50 incoming graduate students per year. Thus, MSU is the perfect place for students who prefer a more intimate learning environment with frequent interaction between the students and the faculty.

Admissions

Admissions decisions are based on:

  1. Undergraduate preparation (GPA and strength of prerequisite course work)
  2. GRE equal to or greater than 300 for both verbal and quantitative preferred
  3. Goodness of fit and how consistent interests and goals of student align with research and outreach goals of faculty (to be addressed in personal essay)
  4. Relevant professional experience
  5. Strength of letters of recommendation

Prerequisites

Prerequisites include an undergraduate degree in family science, community health, health promotion, or related social science degree and/or course work that typically includes introductory psychology and sociology, anatomy and physiology, statistics, and lifespan human development.

Faculty

Suzanne Held Christopher

Suzanne Held Christopher, PhD, received her doctorate in Health Education and Health Behavior from the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She has worked since 1996 as a non-Indigenous partner with community members from Montana’s tribal nations on projects that use community-based participatory research approaches. This includes a partnership with the Apsáalooke (Crow) Nation, Messengers for Health, which has received funding to work in the areas of women’s health, cultural competency for health care providers, and chronic illness management. She has received funding from a variety of sources including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Cancer Society and the National Institutes of Health National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities and National Institute of General Medical Sciences. Her research interests are to work in partnership with communities to establish trust, share power, foster co-learning, and examine and address community-identified needs and health issues using strengths-based approaches.

Elizabeth Rink

Elizabeth Rink, PhD, MSW, received her doctorate in Public Health from Oregon State University and holds a master's degree in Social Work from the University of Washington. Dr. Rink's research examines the individual, psychological, social, cultural, and environmental determinants of sexual and reproductive health among indigenous populations in Montana and the Arctic. Dr. Rink's areas of expertise include community-based participatory research as well as qualitative and quantitative research methodologies. Her research has been funded by the US Office of Population Affairs, the National Institute of Health, and the National Science Foundation.

Vanessa Simonds

Vanessa Simonds, ScD, completed her graduate studies at the Harvard School of Public Health earning a Master of Science from the Department of Epidemiology, and a Doctor of Science from the Department of Society, Human Development & Health.  In 2011, Dr. Simonds finished a postdoctoral fellowship with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-Center for Health Policy at the University of New Mexico, where she was mentored by Dr. Nina Wallerstein. After her postdoctoral training, she joined the faculty at the University of Iowa College of Public Health as an assistant professor. While at Iowa, she was selected for the 2012-14 Native Investigator Development Program funded by the National Institute of Aging. Dr. Simonds uses community-based participatory research approaches to address health and health literacy issues ranging from chronic disease to environmental health among Native Americans. She is especially committed to designing and evaluating strength-based, community-centered outreach strategies designed in partnership with Native American communities.  She is currently funded through MSU’s Center for Health Equity Research to work in partnership with Crow community members to develop an environmental health literacy program for Crow youth and their families.

Dawn Tarabochia

Dawn Tarabochia, PhD, received her doctorate in Health Promotion and Education from the University of Utah and also has a graduate certificate in Gerontology.

J. Mitchell Vaterlaus

Dr. J. Mitchell Vaterlaus instructs courses related to interpersonal relationships and family systems, family law and public policy, and human and family diversity issues (e.g., race, class, gender, and culture). His research program includes two major focuses. First, Dr. Vaterlaus’ experiences as a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and community educator inform his research interest in applied family science. Some examples of his work in this area include: identifying best practices in providing relationship education for minority populations, qualitative program evaluation, evaluating community partnerships when implementing Family Life Education, and identifying strengths in African American marriages. Second, Dr. Vaterlaus studies the role of new media and technology on family and human development. Some research projects in this area include: discovering how parents monitor adolescent and young adult technology use, motivations for text messaging in young adulthood, and understanding the connection between health and social media use in young adulthood.

 

Curriculum