Katie Seward '08
Community Educator/ Project Coordinator of the Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Prevention Project & Youth Advocate, First Step Family Violence Intervention Services
Certified Health Education Specialist
B.A., Health, University of Mount Union, 2008
M.P.H., Public Health, The Ohio State University, 2010
What have you been doing since you graduated from Mount Union?
After graduating from Mount Union in May of 2008, I began graduate school at The Ohio State University. I completed the two-year program and now have a master’s degree in public health with a specialization in health behavior and health promotion. While completing my master’s degree, I passed the credential examination to become a certified health education specialist (CHES). Additionally, between year one and two of the program at Ohio State, I completed a 120-hour practicum at First Step Family Violence Intervention Services Incorporated in Coshocton, OH. It is a non-profit organization that advocates for victims of domestic violence and their families, and helps individuals prepare protection orders, act as a court advocates and plan and implement programs for a variety of audiences. After I graduated, I was offered a grant-funded position there as a youth advocate. Since that time I have also taken the role of community educator and project coordinator of the sexual assault and domestic violence prevention project which is funded by a grant from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH).
What is public health?
Public health is about prevention. With the rising costs of healthcare and the new infectious threats, public health will be a field that will grow dramatically in the coming years. Public health professionals work hard to improve the health of communities through education, promotion, prevention and research. It is a field that focuses on entire populations rather than individuals and seeks to decrease racial health disparities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have outlined some of the major public health achievements of the 20th century that include control of major infectious diseases through vaccinations, identification of risk factors which have lead to fewer deaths from stroke and heart attacks, longer life expectancies and recognition of tobacco as a health hazard.
Why is it important to study public health?
Public health is an intrinsically rewarding and challenging field. It applies the knowledge of many disciplines including political science, medicine, social work and management. The need for public health professionals is estimated to increase drastically over the next 10 years.
What are your job responsibilities as a youth advocate and community educator/ project coordinator?
As a youth advocate, I work out of all of the schools in the county, one-on-one with students who have been referred to me for a variety of reasons. I work with students who are struggling academically, those who are going through tough times at home, students dealing with depression and anger issues as well as students affected by bullying. I currently work with over 80 students in Coshocton County alone. Unfortunately, I often work cooperatively with children’s services as a mandated reporter of any suspected abuse or neglect. It is my responsibility to know what services Coshocton County has available and become a liaison between the student and the necessary agency. I am not expected to have the solution to all of the problems, but I am expected to be aware of individuals or agencies that may be needed. I also work closely with school administrators, teachers and parents as a voice for the students and to advocate for their needs.
The community educator and project coordinator has many roles. I plan training sessions for community members, health providers and school staff on sexual assault prevention. House bill 19 mandates education about violence in dating relationships for grades 7-12. I have a variety of curriculums that I present to all county schools grades K-12. Dating violence and sexual harassment prevention are the focus for the older students while anti-bullying programs are presented in the younger classrooms. Media campaigns in the forms of radio ads and billboards are done to raise awareness and promote the agency. Finally I am also response for conducting a community needs assessment so that when I re-write the grant proposal this summer I will know which objectives would most benefit the schools and community.
What types of jobs are available to students who major in public health?
It has been said that more than 250,000 additional public health workers will be needed by 2020 to avert a public health crisis. The following career paths include:
• Environmental health specialist
• Food safety specialist
• Health commissioner
• Health educator
• Health services administrator
• International health specialist
• Laboratory technologist
• Occupational health and safety specialist
• Positions in corporate wellness
How did your Mount Union education play a role in your career path?
Had I not attended Mount Union, I am certain I would not be where I am today. Mount Union helped me to become a leader without forgetting the importance of teamwork. The educational foundation that I received has helped me excel in graduate school and my current occupational position. I was unfamiliar with public health until I began taking classes from Dr. Canfield-Simbro but fell in love with the field due to its ability to alter and impact peoples’ lives in a positive way. To me, public health is a passion that was created through my education at Mount Union.
Are there any professors of staff members at Mount Union who made an impact on your career path or life in general? If so, who and how?
Dr. Beth Canfield-Simbro was, without a doubt, the most influential person in my career path. She is the one who first introduced me to the field of public health as she holds a doctoral degree from The Ohio State University College of Public Health. She prepared me very well for graduate school and was there every step of the way while I was applying. She is such an inspiration and a leader in public health. She truly has a passion that she has passed onto me, and I am so grateful to her. After graduating from Mount Union, she made sure to check in every now and again just to say hello. She was very instrumental in my master’s culminating project, which surveyed Mount Union students to see the impact of the media on self-esteem and body image. Since graduating from Ohio State, I was able to return to one of her classes to talk about graduate school and the field of public health. Today, I cannot only call Dr. Canfield- Simbro my former advisor and mentor, but a colleague in the field of public health and my friend.
Dr. Peter Schneller, professor of education, is another professor with whom I remain in contact. He challenged me to be creative and think “outside of the box” in his classroom. Because I am currently in a profession that works very closely with youth, I am so grateful for the time I spent in his classroom. He has taught me to be a caring and empathic individual and an advocate for adolescents and young adults.