DANBURY, CONN. — The Health Promotion Studies bachelor’s degree program at Western Connecticut State University has received the prestigious accreditation of the Council on Education for Public Health affirming that the undergraduate curriculum meets the rigorous academic standards required for the CEPH seal of approval.
The council, an independent agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit schools of public health nationwide, recently informed WCSU President Dr. John Clark and Department of Health Promotion and Exercise Sciences (HPX) Chair Dr. Robyn Housemann that the demanding three-year review process by CEPH has concluded successfully with the CEPH Board of Councilors vote on Sept. 7, 2018, to award accreditation to the Bachelor of Science in Health Promotion Studies program at WCSU. CEPH President Dr. Rose Marie Martinez indicated that the decision established an initial accreditation date retroactive to Oct. 24, 2015, and has been granted for a five-year period going forward to Dec. 31, 2023.
The CEPH requested an interim report due by July 2019 to confirm WCSU compliance with accreditation stipulations for adjunct faculty participation in department decision-making and curriculum development and for completion of a program mission statement. Housemann noted that the department has taken action this year to meet these conditions.
The HPX Department’s undergraduate curriculum in Health Promotion Studies offers four options for concentration including community health, wellness management, holistic and integrative health, and allied health professions. Completion of the bachelor’s degree program prepares HPX graduates to sit for the Certified Health Education Specialist examination, the nationally recognized credential for health educators.
Housemann observed that the accreditation application initiated in summer 2015 required the HPX Department to engage in extensive data collection, curriculum review and self-study. She devoted many hours along with HPX Associate Chair Dr. Emily Stevens to prepare and write several report drafts and responses that were required to complete the lengthy CEPH review process. A CEPH team of reviewers from the public health profession and academia visited WCSU this spring for comprehensive interviews with administrators, faculty, students, alumni and community representatives, and the team’s positive evaluation cleared the way for the accreditation approval in September.
Building on HPX efforts over the past decade to emphasize an experiential and service learning approach, the accreditation process helped department faculty to reevaluate the curriculum and introduce further restructuring where needed, Housemann noted.
“There is value in taking a really good look at your courses and your program to determine what the learning outcomes are, and whether we are achieving our goals,” she said. “Our goal is to prepare our students well with the skills they need for the job market. We have been able to view our program from a different perspective and see whether we are providing the greatest benefit to our students.”
Dr. Barry Eckert, interim dean of the WCSU School of Professional Studies, which houses the HPX Department, observed that the Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors describes accreditation as “a mark of distinction for academic programs and institutions, signaling high quality and a commitment to excellence.”
“I am very proud of the work that the Department of Health Promotion and Exercise Sciences has done in developing the program in Health Promotion Studies,” Eckert said. “CEPH has recognized the quality of this program by granting accreditation. Ultimately, our students benefit from this recognition.”
A cornerstone of the Health Promotion Studies curriculum is the service learning project, which challenges students to develop, implement and assess health promotion programs for university and community organizations. This project spans four semesters’ work in five HPS core courses that are designed to teach skills in assessment, theory, program planning and design, and program evaluation. The HPS capstone experience is a semester-long, 450-hour internship where students apply the skills and knowledge they have acquired in a workplace setting in the community.
The accreditation process provided impetus for curriculum adjustments and introduction of new courses in several areas including health communications and marketing, health care policy, mental health, human sexuality and wellness management. A course providing an introduction to health promotion and public health was created for freshman and transfer students to help them in determining whether the Health Promotion Studies major suits their interests.
Curriculum restructuring has proceeded in tandem with measures taken during the accreditation process to establish more rigorous academic standards for HPS enrollment and graduation. Candidates for the B.S. in Health Promotion Studies now must maintain a C-plus average to remain in the program and must attain a GPA of 2.5 or higher to graduate.
Housemann said that the combined impact of curriculum restructuring and tightened academic standards has benefited students and enhanced the attractiveness of pursuing the Health Promotion Studies degree at WCSU. During the past decade, enrollment in the department has increased approximately fourfold to more than 200 students this year — and thanks to the CEPH decision, HPS students can claim the prestige of graduating from an accredited program in their field.
“This accreditation means that any student who has graduated from our program from 2015 onward has graduated not only from an accredited university, but also from an accredited Health Promotion Studies program,” Housemann remarked. “We have done a lot of work, a lot of research and self-study to reach this accomplishment.
“Students will see the benefits of going to an accredited institution when they apply for a job or seek admission to graduate school,” she said. “And it will help our recruitment of new students for the program in state and across the nation. It gives us validation that we are doing what we need to do to prepare our graduates well.”
For more information, contact the Office of University Relations at (203) 837-8486.
Western Connecticut State University changes lives by providing all students with a high-quality education that fosters their growth as individuals, scholars, professionals and leaders in a global society. Our vision: To be widely recognized as a premier public university with outstanding teachers and scholars who prepare students to contribute to the world in a meaningful way.