U1-Research 2F Microscope Lab-Grad-hero

Planning Your Project

An integral aspect of the MPH curriculum is the Field Placement or Field Experience. The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) states, “all professional degree students must develop skills in basic public health concepts and demonstrate the application of these concepts through a practice experience that is relevant to the students’ areas of specialization.”

The purpose of a planned, supervised and evaluated Field Placement is to provide students with the opportunity to synthesize, integrate and apply practical skills and knowledge learned through courses, gain professional experience in a public health work environment, and work on public health projects that are of interest to the student and benefit to the agency.

Presentation: Introduction to Field Placement Preparation (PDF)

  • Introduces the field placement coordinator and guest lecturer and provides an overview of the field placement requirements, including the different team members. Explains the purpose and objectives of the field placement preparation course as well as the course schedule and expectations.

Specific learning objectives include:

  • Demonstrate awareness of the functions and operations of an organization that contributes to the health of a community.
  • Apply appropriate public health theory, skills and knowledge to a public health or community health issue.
  • Complete an Action Learning Project in an area of public health practice for the participating Field Placement site.
  • Develop or enhance skills and knowledge in multiple areas of public health competency.
Credit Hours
The credit hours for the Field Placement are variable. All students must complete a minimum of two credit hours (80 hours of fieldwork at or for the placement site). In special circumstances, which must be approved by the MPH Program Director, students may elect to take more credits. Typically, the Field Placement occurs during one semester, but it may be spread over two consecutive semesters if warranted. Once project work has started, students must complete the Field Placement in one calendar year.
Relationship to Capstone Project
The Field Placement and final Capstone Project are two distinct MPH curriculum requirements. However, the Field Placement could lead to a topic that can be further explored within the development of the Capstone Project, but combining the Field Placement and Capstone Project is neither required nor expected.
Prerequisites - Coursework and CITI Certification

Students must have completed, at a minimum, the core courses and, preferably, all other coursework aside from the Capstone Project. However, due to the uniqueness of the Field Placement and opportunities that may arise, exceptions may be made. Students must submit the Early Field Placement Request Form to the Program Director in these instances, and this form is available on the Field Placement Forms page.

Students engaging in a traditional Field Placement (not a Group Field Placement through the Wisconsin Center for Public Health Education and Training or another unique opportunity) should enroll in 18279 MPH Field Placement Preparation the semester before beginning project work. The Field Placement Preparation course will facilitate the students’ planning process and will incorporate all of the students’ responsibilities through the development of a proposal. A Field Placement Proposal that has been approved by the student’s Faculty Advisor and Site Preceptor is the final product of the Field Placement Preparation course.

Students are required to maintain CITI (Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative) certification in the Protection of Human Research Subjects throughout the Field Placement. The course may be accessed at the CITI website, and students must register for one of the following groups.

  • Group 1 – Biomedical Investigators, Co-Investigators, and Study Coordinators
  • Group 3 – Appropriate for all IRB, DSMB, DSMC, and GCRC members and everyone involved in Both Biomedical & Social/Behavioral Research
  • Group 4 – Social/Behavioral Research PI’s, Co-PI’s, Study Coordinators

A copy of the Human Research Curriculum Completion Report should be submitted to the Program Coordinator via email at mph@mcw.edu or by fax to (414) 955-6529.

  • Presentation: IRB Review Processes for MPH Students (PDF) - Provides general information about IRBs and the IRB consultant review of your field placement proposals. Describes how to determine whether your project will need to go through a formal IRB review process, and explains general IRB review processes at MCW and elsewhere.
Developing an Action Learning Project

The Action Learning Project the student completes during the Field Placement is developed in collaboration with the placement site, the MPH Program and the student, and it should be in alignment with the student’s desired learning objectives and competencies. The project may entail working individually or with an interdisciplinary agency team on a public health problem or initiative. Examples of projects may include:

  • Program Design and Implementation. Students work to develop and implement an agency program in areas such as health promotion or community intervention.
  • Program Evaluation. Students conduct an evaluation of an agency program to determine effectiveness and outcomes.
  • Community Assessment. Students assist in conducting a community health needs assessment.
  • Community Health Planning. Students assist in various aspects of developing a community health improvement plan.
  • Grant Proposals. Students contribute to the research, drafting and submission of a funding proposal.
  • Public Health Policy. Students research and analyze a public policy or develop an advocacy statement related to a public health issue.
  • Applied Research. Students conduct research on a topic of mutual interest with the Field Placement site.
  • Presentation: Developing a Project (PDF). Explains how to develop an action learning project with your site. Describes appropriate projects and collaborative development, and provides examples of previous students’ projects. Outlines the preparatory responsibilities of each team member as well as the logistics of the first team meeting.


Preliminary Planning

Field Placement arrangements are ultimately the responsibility of the student and subject to approval by the MPH Program Director. Upon matriculation into the MPH Program, students will develop a plan of study. Students should immediately begin to consider Field Placement sites and the semester in which they plan to enroll in this program. During the annual evaluation conducted by the Program Director, plans regarding the Field Placement will be reviewed.

A Student Interest Form, current resume or CV, and completed Competency Self Assessment should be submitted to the Program Coordinator during the Field Placement Preparation course, approximately four months prior to beginning the Field Placement. These documents are available on the Field Placement Forms page, and students should contact the Program Coordinator to further discuss the Field Placement.

  • Presentation: Field Placement and Public Health Career Opportunities (PDF): Describes how to utilize your field placement to enhance your career. Focuses on identifying your interests and opportunities for further development, and provides tips on writing resumes and CVs as well as samples.
Proposal Development

After identifying the site and Preceptor, students will develop a Field Placement Proposal in conjunction with the Preceptor and with advice from the Faculty Advisor. The Field Placement Proposal form is available on the Field Placement Forms page, and students should refer to their Competency Self Assessment as a basis for determining specific competencies to be attained. The final proposal must be submitted to the Program Coordinator during the Field Placement Preparation course, at least six weeks prior to the beginning of the student’s project.

Students may not enroll in Field Placement until this proposal has been approved by the Preceptor, Faculty Advisor, IRB Consultant and Program Coordinator. The MPH Program will determine which Action Learning Projects will need to undergo a formal Medical College of Wisconsin IRB review. Additional site IRB requirements are the responsibility of the student and Preceptor.

  • Presentation: Developing your Proposal - Part 1 (PDF): Describes how and when to submit your proposal, and explains the first three sections of the proposal form: contact information, timeframe and logistics, and project description.
  • Presentation: Developing your Proposal - Part 2 (PDF): Explains the last three sections of the proposal form: chart of competencies and learning objectives, responsibilities, and agreement and approval. Describes the organization of the chart as well as how to write learning objectives, identify competencies, and determine evidence.

Contacting Field Placement Sites

Contacting Potential Sites

Site selection is made in collaboration with the student, the Program Coordinator and the organization. However, the student is expected to initiate the identification of a Field Placement site and may consider personal and/or professional contacts, faculty recommendations or opportunities suggested by the Program Coordinator.

  • Presentation: Contacting Field Placement Sites (PDF): Advises you regarding appropriate organizations at which to conduct a field placement, and provides examples from previous students. Also, recommends methods of communicating with potential sites.
    A letter of introduction from the Program Director and Coordinator is available. Addressed to a potential Site Preceptor, this letter describes the course, and students could utilize it when recruiting a site.

  • Letter to Potential Site Preceptor from Program Manager (PDF)
Financial Compensation
Some agencies may offer a stipend. The possibility of monetary compensation is to be negotiated directly between the student and agency. The MPH Program is not involved in these negotiations.
Selection Criteria for Sites
  • Program Director approval. The MPH Program must have a completed Field Placement Application form on file.
  • Availability of a qualified Preceptor. The site must have someone with substantial experience in public health (or related discipline) who is willing and able to spend time with the student and provide constructive feedback and guidance.
  • Appropriateness and relevance of experiences offered to students. Students should have the opportunity to engage in substantive tasks that enable them to further develop and apply specific skills and competencies related to public and community health.
  • Availability of resources. Students should be provided with resources (i.e. desk, phone, computer, etc.) necessary to complete assigned tasks.
  • Student and agency match. It is essential that the student needs and agency needs match. Students are encouraged to select a site other than their regular place of employment. If that is not a feasible option, the Field Placement may be completed at the place of employment provided the activities and proposed Action Learning Project extend beyond regular job responsibilities and allow application of the knowledge and skills being learned. In addition, the Preceptor must be someone other than the student’s current supervisor.

Students are encouraged to select a site other than their regular place of employment. If that is not a feasible option, the Field Placement may be completed at the place of employment provided the activities and proposed Action Learning Project extend beyond regular job responsibilities and allow application of the knowledge and skills being learned. In addition, the Preceptor must be someone other than the student’s current supervisor.

Field Placement Products

Action Learning Project Summary Report (Submitted 2-3 Days Before Exit Interview)

Students are expected to prepare and submit an Action Learning Project Summary Report at the end of the Field Placement. The report must be at least 12 pages in length (double-spaced, 12 point font, 1 inch margins), excluding references, tables and appendices. The specific format may vary depending on the type of project.

The report should summarize the project(s), present observations and reflections of the Field Placement experience, and include the following elements:

  • Description of the agency
  • Description of the public health problem
  • Overall project plan, including learning objectives
  • Implementation of the project/methods used
  • Theoretical foundations
  • Application of results/public health significance
  • Competencies addressed
  • Application of MPH coursework
  • Overall quality of the Field Placement experience
Evaluation and Grading
Student performance is based on the Preceptor’s evaluation of the student using a standard form provided by the program as well as the Faculty Advisor’s evaluation of the Field Placement Logs, Midpoint Progress Report, Action Learning Project Summary Report, and PowerPoint presentation. Other work products may be appropriate depending on the nature of the student’s work during the Field Placement.

The final grade is determined by the student’s Faculty Advisor with input from the Preceptor. The student is assigned a grade of Excellent, Good, Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory. A student whose performance is evaluated as Unsatisfactory will need to retake the course. A breakdown of the grading is as follows:

Feedback from Site Preceptor – 35%

Field Placement Log - 20%

Midpoint Progress Report – 5%

Action Learning Project Summary Report - 35%

PowerPoint Presentation - 5%

Students are also required to participate in an Exit Interview with the Preceptor, Faculty Advisor and Program Coordinator.
Midpoint Progress Report (Submitting 2 - 3 Days Before Midpoint Review)
Approximately halfway through the Field Placement, the student, Site Preceptor, and Faculty Advisor are expected to conduct a Midpoint Review. The student will complete an initial draft of the Midpoint Progress Report and send it to the Site Preceptor, Faculty Advisor, and Program Coordinator before the meeting.

During the meeting, the report may be used as a guideline for discussion regarding the student’s progress and accomplishments, any barriers that have been encountered, and plans for completing the project.

After the meeting, the student will revise the Midpoint Progress Report, and the Site Preceptor and Faculty Advisor will approve it.

The form for the Midpoint Progress Report is located on the Field Placement Forms webpage. Further instructions are provided on the form, and samples of previous students' reports are available on the Forms webpage, as well.
Monthly Logs
The log is used to document activities pursued, hours completed, learning objectives fulfilled, competencies achieved and reflections observed during the Field Placement. Field Placement Logs should be submitted at least monthly to the Faculty Advisor and Program Coordinator.

The form for the Field Placement Log is located on the Field Placement Forms webpage. Further instructions are provided on the form, and samples of previous students' logs are available on the Forms webpage.
PowerPoint Presentation (Submitted with Action Learning Project Summary Report)
Students may be asked to present their work to a community board or an agency department or group. Even if students do not formally present their work, they must submit a PowerPoint Presentation to the Program Coordinator. This presentation may be used to share the student’s results and experience and to serve as an example of a Field Placement for future students.

PowerPoint Presentation Guidelines (PPT)