College of Public Health Guidebooks

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Work with your Faculty Advisor to decide which courses you need to take

The DrPH program of studies is intended to be an individually designed program that makes it possible for students to develop the course of study that best fulfills their unique needs, with the advice of their Faculty Advisor(s) and doctoral committee. We recognize that the students recruited into the program have experience in the field of public health or similar disciplines and have career directions that may vary tremendously, including policy development and services, senior leadership positions, applied research, and other foci. Students will be expected to graduate with not only excellent methodological skills, but also a wider and deeper understanding of public health and their individual area of focus. 


 Faculty Advisor

The student will be assigned one or more Faculty Advisor(s) during the first year of the program.

Your Faculty Advisor is your main advisor throughout your DrPH experience. Profiles of each faculty member and their research and practice interests can be found on the COPH website. Look under Faculty and Staff on each department's home pageYou can find the areas of specialization, and if you click on individual faculty, you will find more detailed information.

 Practice-Based Mentor

We expect you to develop mentoring relationships throughout your DrPH experience. You will need mentors for your applied practice experiences, and you will need a senior level mentor to participate on your doctoral committee. Here are some ideas for how you can develop a mentoring relationship with leaders in the field of Public Health.

Practice-Based Mentor: The role of the mentor is to assist the DrPH student with developing professional and organizational leadership skills, goal setting, access to resources, and connecting the student with an appropriate local and national network of colleagues and resources. Examples of mentoring activities include the following:

  • Supervising a practice-based experience in your field
  • Participating in meetings and/or conference calls with internal and external collaborators
  • Observing or participating in program activities
  • Exposure to policy-related activities
  • Exploring funding sources
  • Exploring resources that are most useful to the mentor’s agency, population of interest, and/or leadership style
  • Managing teams and projects
  • Discussing the mentor’s own leadership style
  • Providing leadership opportunities within an agency
  • Providing leadership opportunities within the community at local, state, regional, national and/or international levels
  • Providing access and time with individuals in various other levels of leadership

Identifying and Selecting a Mentor

Understanding your mentoring needs: Before approaching a potential mentor, you need to identify what you hope to gain from a mentoring relationship and what type of a mentor is best for helping you meet your objectives. The person that best meets your mentoring needs may or may not be in your area of expertise. That said, the best thing to do is to start by identifying your career goals. Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years? What knowledge, skills, and abilities do you need to get there? What key experiences could a mentor provide that would benefit you most?

Choosing a mentor who is right for you: In addition to being able to meet your developmental needs, the best mentors are people who are excited about learning and who are continuing their own development. You'll want to seek out someone who possesses such traits and who also sets high standards for his or her work and can set an example for you. It may be that you could have different mentors at different stages of your career. Once you identify your mentoring needs, meet with your academic and practice-based advisor to discuss potential mentors that match your mentoring needs.  

Approaching your potential mentor: Initiation of the mentoring relationship is, and should be, done by the mentee. You need to have the self-confidence to approach a potential mentor and effectively present the merits of a mentoring relationship. Once you have found an appropriate individual, approach your potential mentor and share your long-term goals, your accomplishments, and your major developmental needs and objectives. Your potential mentor needs to know if he or she will be able to help you acquire the skills or competencies you want to develop. Please note that your potential mentor may feel that he or she is not an appropriate choice for you, or the individual may not have the time to commit right now. If the person agrees to begin a mentoring relationship, you'll want to have a focused conversation about what you both want to accomplish.

 Doctoral Committee

Doctoral Committee Form: DrPH Doctoral Committee Form

Within the second year of the program, as you approach finishing your coursework, you should establish a doctoral committee. The doctoral committee will consist of a minimum of one Faculty Chair and one Faculty Member (or two Faculty Co-Chairs) from the faculty of the COPH, as well as an external public health professional who is a mentor to the student:

  • Faculty Chair: You need a Faculty Chair (or co-Chairs) to lead your doctoral committee. This role is typically filled by your Faculty Advisor.
  • Faculty Member: You need a second faculty member from the COPH to be on your doctoral committee. This position can also be filled by a Faculty Co-Chair if you have two primary advisors.
  • Mentor: In the DrPH program, we require you to select someone in a senior level position in the field to be your external member. That person does not have to have a doctoral degree, but must be active in the profession and in a mentor role to you.
  • Other members: You are welcome to have other members of the committee if your Faculty Chair recommends it.

To get your doctoral committee approved, you must obtain signatures of approval for the committee and submit the signed form. The directions are on the form, and once you have obtained approvals at all levels, you can submit the signed form to and also upload it to your student documents folder in Box.


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