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How Boise State Online’s public health program forever changed the life of one rural Idahoan

Meghan Howk is pictured in front of a ladder.
Meghan Howk, Bachelor of Arts in Public Health 2020 graduate. Photo provided by Meghan Howk.

✅ Graduate from college
✅ Support her family
✅ Find a purposeful job
✅ Live in a beautiful place

Meghan Howk accomplished many important life goals since her first interview with Boise State Online in 2019. One of those milestone achievements: graduating from the online Bachelor of Arts in Public Health program at Boise State. Howk attributes much of her success to her Boise State education. “College has had such a tremendous impact on me that I can hardly put it into words,” she said. 

“I had a tough childhood and did not get a good start into my adult years. I always knew I had to go to school. It took me eight years out of high school to finish my degree. College gave me a level of stability that I’ve never had,” Howk explained. “My degree and career are going to be what put my husband through college. He is a first-generation immigrant and will be the first person in his family to go to school. It also means that I’ve likely created a path for our son to go to college.”

“College gave me a level of stability that I’ve never had. My degree and career are going to be what put my husband through college. It also means that I’ve likely created a path for our son to go to college.”

Howk shared how meaningful a degree can be for rural Idahoans like herself. “My degree will impact the rest of my life through my earning potential. I live in a tiny town in Idaho, and it is challenging to find meaningful work here, but because of the degree that I got, I found it.” 

Meghan Howk earned a degree and her dream job — all in her small Idaho hometown

Howk now works to improve the health and wellbeing of vulnerable people in her Idaho community. She serves as a risk safety manager at a federally qualified health center. 

“Our health center provides high quality, affordable care to disadvantaged populations,” Howk said. “In a rural community, you have people that are in poverty and can’t access care. It’s also a patient-centered medical home so patients can get medical and dental care, behavioral health care and help with referrals to other organizations or resources. There’s room for improvement and it’s not a perfect system, but I like the direction it’s going. I love it so far and I like working in healthcare.”

Meghan Howk, her husband, and son stand together with a mountainous view behind them.
Meghan Howk and her family on Schweitzer Mountain in Sandpoint, Idaho. Photo provided by Meghan Howk.

In addition to raising her young son and supporting her husband as he goes through college, her professional goals include earning more certifications on top of the Certified Health Education Specialist credential she already achieved while in the public health program at Boise State. 

Online public health degree program prepared Meghan for the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) exam

The Boise State Online Bachelor of Arts in Public Health prepares students for careers advancing their communities’ health. Students learn how to develop and mobilize community partnerships and take action to address complex public health challenges. Like Howk, students can also pursue the Certified Health Education Specialist credential while in the program, which Howk highly recommends.

“I think it’s 100 percent worth it, even if you’re not looking at health education specialist jobs. It helps your employer have faith in you and it helps you feel confident in your abilities,” Howk said. What’s more, Howk explained that she felt well-prepared to tackle the certification exam. “Several public health professors put together study sessions for students over Zoom. I went to all of them. I felt confident going into the exam, and when I did take the exam, I recognized all of the questions and material.”

Academic success tips for online students

Howk worked hard to succeed in the public health program and has a few tips for online students. “Treat assignments like you are doing it for a job or like you are going to show it to a prospective employer because some aspects of your projects could show up in a future job,” Howk said. “Another thing that I think was really important, especially if you are like me and from a rural place like North Idaho and none of your friends and family are going to college, is to find ways to develop and engage with your student identity. Have a dedicated work area where you can enter a student headspace. Communicate with your program faculty and peers, too. Once I joined an online degree program, my communication with my professors greatly improved. I felt so connected.”

Meghan Howk and her son pose in the center of a red, oval-shaped sculpture.
Meghan Howk and her son. Photo provided by Meghan Howk.

Infinite ways to create positive change in public health

Howk discovered new passions while in college. She and her husband have future plans to be involved in the green building movement — as the impacts of climate change on health is yet another facet of public health. “My desire to stay in public health grew as I learned more about what it was and all of the multifaceted issues and areas that it delves into,” Howk said. “A degree and access to education is a determinant of health. A degree can lead to a better job with a healthcare plan. It’s all so interwoven.”

“Public health bleeds into everything, from the environment to issues of equity. There are infinite ways to get into the system and create change.”

Howk recognizes the importance of public health and why it speaks to students who want to impact the world positively. “Public health bleeds into everything, from the environment to issues of equity. There are infinite ways to get into the system and create change.”

Learn more about Boise State Online’s public health program

Boise State Online is now accepting applications for the fully online public health degree and certificate programs. Connect with a student success coach, who can walk you through every step of the financial aid and admissions processes. 

Connect to a Student Success Coach

Story by Pamela Craig, Boise State Extended Studies