On Wednesday, Jan. 20, Dean Tomás Guilarte of the Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work announced the appointment of Melissa Howard to the position of interim assistant dean for the Office of Student & Alumni Affairs.
Assistant Dean Howard joined FIU Stempel College in 2009, to fill the position of clinical assistant professor in the Department of Health Promotion & Disease Prevention. She will continue to hold this position along with her new appointment.
We took a moment to sit down with the new assistant dean. Here’s a few things you should know about Melissa Howard…
Why did you decide to pursue a public health career?
From a young age, I knew I wanted to impact individual and community health, especially among youth. I was attracted to Public Health because of its focus on preventive care and early intervention, and it provided me with the tools necessary to positively impact youth who were at risk for future health problems.
Where are you originally from and where did you earn your degrees?
I was born and raised in Miami though I briefly moved away to pursue my education and begin my family with my husband who served with the U.S. Navy. I attended Coral Gables Senior High School, Wellesley College in Massachusetts for my undergraduate degree (B.A. in Neuroscience), and University of Florida for graduate school (M.P.H. in Community Health and Ph.D. in Health Behavior).
What made you decide to join FIU Stempel College? How long have you been here?
I knew I wanted to come back to diverse and bustling South Florida, so after completing graduate school, I joined the College in August 2009.
What positions have you held at the College?
I was originally hired to fill the position of clinical assistant professor in the Department of Health Promotion & Disease Prevention. As a clinical faculty member, my duties have predominantly been to teach and advise M.P.H. students. I additionally served as M.P.H. Practicum Coordinator from 2009-2011. From 2010-2011, I briefly served as the assistant dean of Student & Alumni Affairs during a previous transition period.
What excites you about FIU Stempel College?
I’m honored to work alongside leaders and pre-eminent researchers in the fields of Public Health, Social Work and Dietetics & Nutrition!
I take pride in planning projects for Consuelo Beck-Sague’s Health Resources and Services Administration-funded Maternal and Child Health training program—M & C: F.I.R.S.T.—which is about to launch the College’s multidisciplinary M.P.H. concentration in Maternal and Child Health, and which hosts MCH Grand Rounds.
I also enjoy the College’s spirit of collaboration. Though my faculty appointment is in Health Promotion & Disease Prevention, I am pleased to have the opportunity to work with the staff and students who comprise FIU-BRIDGE, directed by Eric Wagner from the School of Social Work. At FIU-BRIDGE I serve as an investigator on two SAMHSA-funded community-based projects that aim to reduce HIV and substance use among Miami-Dade’s youth and young adults.
I’m excited that my appointment at FIU Stempel College affords me the opportunity to give back to our local community, in which I was born and raised.
What do you hope to accomplish as interim assistant dean for the Office of Student & Alumni Affairs?
It’s my pleasure and privilege to serve our College as interim assistant dean for the Office of Student & Alumni Affairs. I look forward to working closely with faculty, staff, student leaders and alumni to enhance the quality of the FIU Stempel College experience for our students.
I hope to first focus on the advancement of College recruitment efforts, in order to assist our departments in attracting and retaining top-quality students. I also look forward to continuing to support and assimilate our current students and celebrating the successes of our alumni.
What directly related experience do you bring to this position?
I have worked with students in the classroom and in advising for more than 10 years, and I’ve always believed in the holistic development of our students. Most importantly however, I’m intimately familiar with the day-to-day operations of the Office of Student & Alumni Affairs where the coordinators, advisors and support staff are doing great things to support our students and faculty.
I feel confident in my ability to offer leadership to the Office as a result of my experience there about five years ago.
What advice do you have for students pursuing their degree at FIU Stempel College?
First, take advantage of the resources you have in your faculty and support staff. Faculty will not only supply you with the tools necessary for your intellectual development, they can also help you make relevant connections between the classroom and real-world practice settings. The College’s staff, including department administrative assistants, program coordinators and advisors, provide an immense amount of support behind the scenes—so don’t hesitate to ask when you need assistance.
Second, get involved in social and extracurricular groups. FIU Stempel College is home to the student-led Stempel Public Health Association, Student Social Work Association and the Student Dietetic Association. Each of these organizations provide opportunities for leadership, scholarship and service in their respective areas. Students affiliated with these groups are making meaningful contributions to the local and global communities.
Watch this video to learn more about FIU Stempel College.