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Vassar College and Columbia University Forge Partnership For Master’s Degree in Public Health

Vassar College has forged a partnership with Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health that will enable Vassar students to earn a master’s degree in public health a year after they graduate from Vassar.

From left to right, Dr. Julie Kornfeld, Vice Dean, and Dr. Linda Fried, Dean, of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health; and Dr. Elizabeth Bradley, President, and Dr. David J. Esteban, Associate Professor, of Vassar College, display tee shirts from one another’s schools in recognition of a Vassar/Columbia Mailman dual-degree program announced at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY on September 13, 2019.

Starting this fall, juniors at Vassar may begin the application process and take courses that will help lead to acceptance into the Columbia Mailman-Vassar partnership. Those accepted into the program (about five students in the first year) will spend the summer participating in a hands-on internship approved by Vassar and Columbia, and they will take classes at Columbia Mailman School in the first semester of their senior year.

After they graduate from Vassar, the students will spend the following year at Columbia Mailman completing course requirements for their master’s degree in public health. They will receive their degrees upon completion of their master’s thesis.

The groundwork for the partnership was laid in the spring of 2018 when Vassar President Elizabeth Bradley and Linda P. Fried, MD, Dean of Columbia Mailman, were having coffee at the Yale Club in New York City. Fried mentioned that Columbia Mailman had such a partnership with Yale and was planning to start one with Barnard College, Bradley said. “We were chatting about public health and the liberal arts, and we hatched the idea of a BA-MPH program,” she said. 

Bradley, who earned her PhD in health economics and public health from Yale University and formerly served as a hospital administrator at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, called the program “a perfect fit” for both institutions. “This marks the first time in Vassar’s history that we have had a partnership that leads to a graduate degree for our students,” she said. “It is an important time for public health, and we at Vassar are thrilled to be forming this relationship with one of the top public health programs in the country.”

Dean Fried, who also serves as senior vice president of Columbia University Medical Center, said she was looking forward to launching the partnership. “Public health presents a world of opportunities to research and advance new knowledge and develop solutions to today’s most complex health challenges—climate change, drug policy, gun violence prevention, urbanization, aging populations, and increasing inequity and health disparities,” she said. “We are responsible for raising the floor and the ceiling of health for everyone. We are passionate about our role in educating the next generation of public health leaders, and we are very excited by the chance to welcome Vassar’s talented students to our classrooms.”

To kick off the partnership, Vassar and Columbia Mailman today hosted a symposium on the Vassar campus. The event featured students, faculty, and administrators from the two institutions, as well as members of the local public health community.

From left to right, Dr. Alicia Atwood, Melissa Reynolds, Clare Norton, Dr. William Hoynes, Dr. Marianthi-Anna Kioumourtzoglou, Dr. Julie Kornfeld, Dr. Allan Clifton, Dr. Linda Fried, Dr. David J. Esteban, Dr. Elizabeth Bradley, Dr. Patrick Wilson, Dr. Kathleen Sikkema, Jared Augenstein, Dr. Leroy Cooper, Dr. Yuna Lee.

Associate Professor of Biology and the Pauline Newman Director of Science, Technology, and Society David J. Esteban, a coordinator of the new partnership, said the symposium offered Vassar students the opportunity to learn about Columbia Mailman’s curriculum and programs.

“An event such as this builds the relationships that will serve as the foundation for the new program, generate excitement, and provide information for potential student applicants,” Esteban said. “The event is certain to draw attention to the multidisciplinary nature of research in public health and the value of a liberal arts education as preparation for work in public health.”