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Focusing on Public Health Learning From Afar Support Systems for Students

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U.S. Higher Education

Enduring in a Values Changing Landscape


U.S. Higher Education

Endures By ROGER BRINDLEY

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n these times of uncertainty, many universitybound students and their parents are looking for evidence of trustworthy and established institutions around the world. Many students are wondering what the future holds for their broader higher education plans, and for their dreams to study for an undergraduate or graduate degree abroad. Let me take this opportunity to both inform and reassure you that not only will the strength of U.S. higher education persevere, but that the top U.S. universities have quickly adjusted and can now provide an increased access to a world-class education anywhere on the globe. “World-class” is a woefully overused expression, but when it comes to U.S. higher education, it is an accurate statement. Consider the current profile of U.S. universities in the world’s top three rankings:

Š The QS rankings, one of the three major ranking systems in the world, includes 27 U.S. universities in the top 100 universities in the world. That’s impressive. Š The Times Higher Education rankings include 40 U.S. universities in the top 100 universities in the world. Š Even that is eclipsed by the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), where the United States holds 45 of the top 100, 31 of the top 50, 16 of the top 20, and 8 of the top 10 universities. If you extend this out to the top 200, 300 or 500 universities, the same pattern prevails. It is no exaggeration to state that many of the top 250 U.S. universities are among the most profound institutions of further learning in the world today. Simply put, in these extraordinary times, a deep and abiding commitment to teach TZIDO/iStock/Getty Images

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In these unprecedented times, a deep and abiding commitment to teach the next generation of global leaders at U.S. universities will endure.


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V O LU M E L X I N U M B E R 4

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CONTENTS Courtesy UT Austin

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July/August 2020

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U.S. Higher Education Endures

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Focusing on Public Health

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Admissions in a New Landscape

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Studying to Prevent Diseases

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Support Systems for Students

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Health-y Communication

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Learning From Afar

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Studying Clinical Research

Quest for Security and Empowerment Fighting Coronavirus

Courtesy St. Cloud State University

Maximizing the Online Learning Experience

24 Editor in Chief Michael L. Cavey

Art Director/ Production Chief Hemant Bhatnagar

Editor Deepanjali Kakati Associate Editor Suparna Mukherji Hindi Editor Giriraj Agarwal Urdu Editor Syed Sulaiman Akhtar Copy Editors Akshay Kapoor, Shah Md. Tahsin Usmani

Deputy Art Directors / Production Assistants Qasim Raza, Shah Faisal Khan

Careers in Medical Laboratory Science Research Collaborations Selecting a College for Your Child Making the Most of Your Holiday Breaks

41 Front cover: Collage by Shah Faisal Khan and Hemant Bhatnagar. Photographs Š Getty Images.

* Articles with a star may be reprinted with permission. Those without a star are copyrighted and may not be reprinted. Contact SPAN at 011-23472135 or span.website@gmail.com

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Above left: Roger Brindley, vice provost for Global Programs at the Pennsylvania State University. Far left: The Pattee Library and mall at the Pennsylvania State University. Left: U.S. universities can provide an increased access to a world-class education anywhere on the globe.

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Printed and published by David H. Kennedy on behalf of the Government of the United States of America and printed at Thomson Press India Ltd., 18/35 Delhi Mathura Road, Faridabad, Haryana 121007 and published at the Public Affairs Section, American Embassy, American Center, 24 K.G. Marg, New Delhi 110001. Opinions expressed in this 44-page magazine do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Government.


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Almost every U.S. university has an active Career Services office, dedicated to helping students prepare for life after graduation. Universities connect students and recent graduates with business and industry—and U.S. institutions take alumni networking very seriously. My institution, Pennsylvania State University, for example, has the largest duespaying alumni network in the world, with a commitment to lifelong support and networking of graduates. In the United States, students do not come to university simply to study; they come to form lifelong bonds, to involve themselves in the community outside of the classroom through campus-life experiences such as student organizations and athletics, and to grow personally as a productive member of society. As a former colleague once told me, “The purpose of an undergraduate education is to turn an 18-year-old into a 22year-old!” I am sure parents will appreciate that notion. Helping graduate students develop the skills for a vibrant, successful and satisfying career is equally important. This is what the U.S. higher education system offers. The

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the next generation of global leaders at U.S. universities will endure. You may ask—what makes the U.S. higher education system so strong? There are some distinctive and noteworthy aspects to university life in the United States. The first is our tradition of liberal arts. This means that students don’t just gain knowledge in their chosen field, but they also learn to broadly comprehend their world. These students don’t just learn theory, but they also learn to apply that knowledge in real-world situations through projects, inquiry and research. Why is this so important? It is essential that a computer scientist working with artificial intelligence, a business owner using predictive analytics, or a biomedical engineer analyzing the human genome all have a clear and responsible understanding of humanity. Similarly, a social scientist must have a practical understanding of how rapid changes in medicine and technology fundamentally affect communities and society, locally and globally. A liberal arts tradition brings this emphasis and philosophy to academic enterprise. Further, experiential learning and career readiness are two areas where U.S. higher education has an exemplary tradition. Many U.S. institutions have a stated strategic plan to prepare globally engaged students and to ensure their success in our connected world. Students have opportunities to complete research, internships, hands-on projects and practicums as a requirement of their academic plan. The U.S. curriculum values the concept of challenging students to show that they can apply their new understandings in relevant, critical and innovative ways.

Pennsylvania State University

Above left: The sundial at the Pennsylvania State University campus. Below and below right: At U.S. universities, students don’t just learn theory. They also learn to apply that knowledge in real-world situations through projects, inquiry and research.


that at many U.S. institutions, this is indicative of our innovative values and represents our dedication to preparing students for the future. I would like to close by discussing one more very important issue in contemporary American society. There has, quite rightly, been much coverage in the Indian media about the current protests in the United States, and the coverage makes this movement seem disruptive. To that, I say: they are partially correct. It is disruptive—in fact, disruption is the point and, in the context of U.S. history, this self-reflection is long overdue! History has shown the power of protest, all around the world, from the United States to India and beyond. The United States will be a better country for addressing issues of equity in society and confirming what our forefathers believed—that we are all created equally. As a father of a daughter who studied in Asia for three years, I understand the concern of sending a child to a country halfway around the world, but life continues unabated in the United States, and there are more positive changes in our society to come. All the while, Indian students are warmly welcome. We live in uncertain times. But one thing I am certain of: a degree from a U.S. institution opens a world of possibilities for any graduate. I hope you will consider granting this opportunity to yourself or your student. Roger Brindley is the vice provost for Global Programs at the Pennsylvania State University.

The U.S. curriculum values the concept of challenging students to show that they can apply their new understandings in relevant, critical and innovative ways. ND3000/iStock/Getty Images

United States has long benefited by welcoming Indian students, who have enriched our society and, in many cases, returned home to enrich their communities. We allow all students the opportunity to pursue their lifetime goals as competent, confident and highly skilled individuals, ready to become impactful leaders in their communities. Looking forward, each U.S. university will make its own determination regarding the return to campus. Many are currently building their plans for the upcoming fall semester around one, two or three models of instruction: a classic residential experience, a fully online experience and a hybrid experience. The benefits of a residential experience are undeniable given the U.S. system is uniquely qualified to offer academic and cocurricular excellence to students from around the world. However, many of our institutions also have world-class, highly interactive, student-centered remote delivery of exemplary education. In India, I know that online programs have not always been widely regarded and, perhaps for some students, the experience may have been underwhelming. However, remote digital delivery of coursework in the United States has been steadily improving for the past two decades. Our online courses are highly interactive, and feature asynchronous and synchronous experiences, with faculty using sophisticated digital teaching resources such as crystal boards and blue screens. Please be assured


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Admissions in a New

Landscape By MICHAEL GALLANT

Photographs courtesy UT Austin

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International students will have to navigate new territory in a world defined by public health concerns, social distancing and disruptions.

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he coronavirus pandemic has changed everything, including the world of college admissions. For students in India who aspire to study at world-class American institutions, what will the future look like? Admissions officers at U.S. universities know how dramatically the pandemic is reshaping prospective students’ lives. So, in their work, the teams evaluate applicants not just in context of their schools, their communities and the overall applicant pool, but also in terms of society-shaking, worldwide events. “COVID-19 adds additional layers of context to consider,” says Kathleen Abels, senior associate director of admission and director of international admission for Haverford College in Pennsylvania. “We know the vast majority of students across the globe have had their schooling interrupted as a result of COVID-19. We will use the information that students and JULY/AUGUST 2020 7


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MICHAEL BRANSCOM /Haverford College ALEXANDRA IGLESIA/Haverford College

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We will use the information that students and their schools provide to better understand the local impacts of COVID-19 in specific schools and communities.


Navigating uncertainty

ALEXANDRA IGLESIA/Haverford College

Given the chaos caused by the pandemic, students applying to colleges and universities in the United States should begin their research

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Photographs by PATRICK MONTERO/Haverford College

For institutions like Haverford College, the goals remain the same— connecting with intellectually curious, community-minded young people and giving them the opportunity to consider a place like Haverford.

their schools provide to better understand the local impacts of COVID-19 in specific schools and communities.” To gain better understanding of that vital context, Abels specifically recommends that students focus their applications not just on what they’ve accomplished, but also on the why of it. “We know many students’ summer plans like jobs, internships, summer courses and travel have been canceled or postponed due to COVID-19,” she says. “I would urge students to think about why those experiences were how they wanted to spend their time. Students are not admitted to Haverford because of a specific experience, but because of their reflections on experiences, their place in the world. Making space for self-reflection is such an important piece of this process.” Throughout the pandemic—and looking to the future—admissions teams at U.S. universities will continue to look for creative ways to get to know prospective students and select those who will be offered admission. “While I may not be able to visit India this coming August—as I have had the sincere pleasure of doing in the previous four years,” says Abels, “our goals remain the same— connecting with intellectually curious, community-minded young people and giving them the opportunity to consider a place like Haverford.”


Photographs courtesy UT Austin

extra early and keep close track of requirements, deadlines and unexpected changes due to new rules or laws, policies, virus flare-ups, lockdowns and other unpredictable changes in the country. “Schedule standardized tests, with plenty of time to reschedule or retake the exam for a higher score prior to the application deadline,” advises Miguel Wasielewski, executive director of admissions at The University of Texas at Austin. “Obtain your official academic transcripts and records early, and be sure to have several copies on hand, just in case. Make sure to read through the admissions information and procedures of each institution you are applying to, as requirements vary.” Even with the most thorough planning, the application process can still get affected by global events. “We are working directly with our applicants to make accommodations when they are struggling to complete a requirement as a result of COVID-19,” says Wasielewski. “Things are constantly changing and we are regularly having to address and reassess the hardships our international applicants are facing— and look for alternative options for applicants to meet the necessary requirements for admission.” Many questions remain related to travel and immigration in today’s coronavirus-shaped reality. Wasielewski says that robust and regular communication between schools and applicants is “critical in these uncertain times.” Admissions officers will closely watch current events and adapt “to ensure our international applicants have the same opportunities to study in the U.S. as before,” he continues.

A hopeful future

Higher education is typically a multiyear experience. So, there will be many opportunities for students to be fully immersed in traditional college experiences, like the ones above at The University of Texas at Austin.

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Even though the process of applying to college may seem overwhelming during a pandemic, Wasielewski reminds students that hope is powerful and help plentiful. “There is a lot of uncertainty ahead, but we are here to guide applicants and students through the process,” he says. “Many colleges and universities are planning to be open for fall 2020. There is much planning going into providing online classes for international students to begin or continue their studies. While this coming fall will be different than previous semesters, it is important to remember that higher education is typically a four-year experience. So, there will be many opportunities for students to be fully immersed in the traditional college experience.” “We want our international students on campus as much as they want to be on campus,” he continues, “and we are doing everything we can to make that happen. Please don’t give up on your plans to study in the U.S.!” Michael Gallant is the founder and chief executive officer of Gallant Music. He lives in New York City.


Support Systems for Students

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he coronavirus pandemic, which has affected most facets of life, has also had an enormous impact on higher education institutions in the United States. Universities across the country had to shut down campuses in March 2020, with little time to prepare for the weeks ahead. For institutions like Brown University in Rhode Island, the College of Idaho and the University of Nevada, this meant meeting the challenges of transitioning to online classes as well as ensuring that students and staff were safe. The situation was especially difficult for international students, who

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By PAROMITA PAIN

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From health advice and counseling to groceries and meal plans, U.S. universities stepped up to support their international students during the coronavirus pandemic.

Above: Manning Hall at Brown University’s campus in Providence, Rhode Island.

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Brown University The College of Idaho

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University of Nevada, Reno www.unr.edu

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could not return home due to international travel restrictions or financial hardships. For Asabe Poloma, assistant provost for global education and director of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows Program at Brown University, this was a time to ensure “really intentional student advising and support.” “This was no longer about what classes students can take, but more about logistical issues,” she says. And thinking about “how we could redefine concepts of education and define our core priorities, because we cannot do everything online.” Andrew Heald, program director for the Global Brown Center for International Students, adds, “We immediately reached out to students and reassured them that we were there to help.” Shreeyash Gotmare, Aryan Srivastava and Sobhit Singh Arora, undergraduate students who stayed back on campus at Brown University, were moved to different dorms to ensure proper distancing. “Even students without meal plans were allowed to use the dining facilities,” says Gotmare. “We were getting emails about how to stay safe and did not have to pay summer fees to use health services on campus.” Clear communication and a desire to ensure

the safety and well-being of students were priorities for The College of Idaho, too. Sonali Thombare, a student of business administration, had just been approved for optional practical training when the campus closed. “We were allowed to stay on in our dorms and our meal plans were upgraded to cover three meals a day,” she says. Lindo Gama, who graduated this spring, says, “The college was under no obligation to take care of me, but they allowed me to stay on since I could not go home.” Students were also given gift cards from Walmart and other grocery stores to buy essentials. “We realized that those who stayed back on campus were students who simply could not leave, so ensuring that no student was potentially food insecure was very important,” says Paul Bennion, vice president for student affairs and dean of students at The College of Idaho. The college also prioritized mental health services and quickly brought in a telehealth approach that made robust access possible for any student who needed help. Tutoring services as well as learning support Institutions like Brown University (below) and University of Nevada, Reno (below right) provided a range of support services to students who couldn’t return home during the pandemic.


Paromita Pain is an assistant professor of Global Media Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Our leadership understands the unique needs of international students and they are an important priority. Blue Planet Studio/iStock/Getty Images

questions about immigration and visas. Counseling services transitioned online and remained accessible. Since classes transitioned online, students working as teaching assistants were able to keep their jobs. “For one chemistry course, we were able to offer 24-hour teaching support because we had several domestic and international teaching assistants across many time zones,” says Poloma. “This is just one example of the enormous value that our international students bring to our campus. We must recognize and leverage that value.”

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and disability services were made available online. Shifting classes online also brought up complex issues around visa validity for many international students. “International students are not allowed more than three credit hours online,” says Maritza Machado-Williams, executive director, Office of International Students and Scholars at the University of Nevada, Reno. The office worked round the clock to answer students’ queries regarding visas and optional practical training opportunities. It also reached out to international students at the university through phone calls, emails, webinars and Zoom meetings. “The phone calls gave us a chance to assess their mental health and provide for immediate needs,” says Machado-Williams. At Brown University, the Global Brown Center for International Students was an access point for students to get answers and aid resources. “Our leadership understands the unique needs of international students and they are an important priority,” says Poloma. Much of the center’s work was restructured to meet health regulations. It organized virtual events like coffee hours on Zoom and got the international office to answer students’

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Quest for

Security and

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By HILLARY HOPPOCK

Stanford King Center on Global Development's

Photographs courtesy David Lobell

David Lobell and Soledad Artiz Prillaman focus their research on improving food security in India and on understanding the inequities around Indian women's political participation.

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he Stanford King Center on Global Development, located in the Stanford University campus in California, advances a wide range of data-driven research in India by Stanford faculty and students, which provides insights into key issues affecting India’s public and private sectors. Significant contributions to this effort have been made by two Stanford professors. In the quest for food security, Professor of Earth Systems Science David Lobell’s investigation of environmental and technological changes affecting Indian agricultural productivity translates into real-world guidance for farm management decision-making. The research of Assistant Professor of Political Science Soledad Artiz Prillaman, on the other hand, explores the link between Indian women’s social mobilization and civic engagement to affirm the government’s current efforts to improve the lives of millions of the country’s women.

Studying food security Lobell credits his graduate school investigation of crop yields, as well as his firsthand experience with food insecurity during his travels, for his focus on agricultural productivity and global food security. His early studies of wheat systems involved looking at the crop’s water needs and management of sowing. “During my first trip to India in 2006,” says Lobell, “I was struck by how many issues like

climate change, groundwater decline, soil degradation and late sowing were affecting agriculture. Yet, how little was known about what to do about this.” Lobell became convinced that satellite data analysis, used in tandem with on-ground observations, could help measure how agricultural systems are changing. “It became clear that satellite technology is well matched with agriculture and does a much better job of helping us understand plant growth and finding ways to improve agricultural systems,” he says. The practice of using color (or greenness) of reflected sunlight to show plant cover on Earth was pioneered by NASA in 1972. While helpful for mapping, the satellite data had limitations when used for measuring plant growth. But recent advances in satellite imagery data have led to near real-time measurement of a plant’s tiny flow of residual energy after photosynthesis, manifested as fluorescence or “the glow.” “I think of it like crumbs falling to the ground as people are eating. It’s a very small trail,” says Lobell. “This glow that plants have seems to be very proportional to how fast they’re growing. So, the more they’re growing, the more photosynthesis they’re doing and the brighter they’re fluorescing.” According to Lobell, this opens up a whole new set of questions about what the focus for the next generation of crops should be. “For


Photographs courtesy Soledad Artiz Prillaman

Empowerment example, we can compare historical data with the continuous satellite data now available to measure changes in plant growth related to surface soil water, aquifer depletion, sow timing, reduction in soil tillage and other elements that influence crop yield,” he says. “Using fluorescence to monitor global food production drives the science forward, improving agriculture and people’s lives.”

Researching gender gap

Hillary Hoppock is a freelance writer, former newspaper publisher and reporter based in Orinda, California.

Above: Soledad Artiz Prillaman, assistant professor of political science at Stanford University. Above left: Prillaman (far left) explores the link between Indian women’s social mobilization and civic engagement to affirm the government’s efforts to improve the lives of millions of the country’s women. Below far left: David Lobell, professor of Earth systems science at Stanford University. Below left: Lobell’s (center) investigation of environmental and technological changes affecting Indian agricultural productivity translates into real-world guidance for farm management decision-making.

Stanford King Center on Global Development https://kingcenter. stanford.edu

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Prillaman’s career was influenced by her political scientist grandfather’s work in India in the 1950’s and 1960’s. She traces her resolve to understand the inequities around Indian women’s participation in politics to her study of microfinance in India at Texas A&M University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in political science and economics in 2011. Her Harvard University research study of gender issues in India, as she earned a Ph.D. in government in 2017, strengthened her passion to engage and empower women politically in South Asia. Prillaman began her Book Project to better understand why women in India are particularly disengaged from politics and to identify the mechanisms through which the prevailing gender gap in political participation can be reduced. “Women’s unequal bargaining power in a household is exacerbated by social norms in many communities where women are expected to defer political authority to men,” she says. “My data suggests women participate in politics at one-fourth to one-third the rate of men under these circumstances.” The Book Project details an extensive research project of rural women’s engagement in politics, using a data sample stretching across 375 villages in five districts of Madhya Pradesh. Research findings yielded a range of women’s participation rates of 20 percent to 25 percent in some villages; almost twice or 45 percent participation in villages where women were active in self-help groups; and an uptick to 70 percent of women participating in politics—the same rate as men— in villages where self-help groups had received a pilot gender empowerment intervention.

“The surprisingly high participation rates are driven by outside interventions intended principally to improve women’s economic livelihoods,” says Prillaman. “I studied how the NGO PRADAN [Professional Assistance for Development Action], with a 25-year presence in the area, specifically the Kesla block, had mobilized women into self-help groups with the aim of financial inclusion and improved livelihoods and had, in turn, contributed to substantial gains to women’s political engagement.” According to Prillaman, these effects go further with the incorporation of a gendered civics education program. “Recognizing that social networks build solidarity when women realize they have a shared struggle, the NGOs went into existing groups to talk about gender and politics,” she says. “As a comparison, areas in the Ghoda Dongri block, with no NGO presence, serve as evidence of the status quo with a much lower political participation rate amongst women.” The Indian government rolled out the National Rural Livelihood Mission, establishing self-help groups across the country with, at present, around 69 million rural women participating. Prillaman’s research shows that these groups, designed to create financial inclusion for women, are having a big impact on women’s political participation. “The expansion of these programs is likely to have important consequences for women’s political lives,” she says. In locations where the gender gap has decreased a bit, Prillaman found that women’s self-help groups provided structures for women to combat backlash and social pressure, empowering them to make demands from their government. “A civic education is not just providing information about how to vote,” she says. “It’s equally important that it’s happening in the group setting; turning what were economic groups into spaces for political dialogue.”


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An international collaboration between virologists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and vaccine companies FluGen and Bharat Biotech has started the testing of CoroFlu, a potential vaccine against COVID-19.

n international research and biotech collaboration has begun the development and testing of CoroFlu, a potential vaccine against coronavirus. The project is an international partnership between the virologists at the University of Wisconsin (UW)-Madison and the vaccine companies FluGen and Bharat Biotech. FluGen is based in Wisconsin, Bharat Biotech is based in Hyderabad. CoroFlu will build on the blueprint of FluGen’s successful flu vaccine, M2SR. Invented by the university virologists and FluGen co-founders Yoshihiro Kawaoka and Gabriele Neumann, M2SR is a self-limiting version of the influenza virus that induces an immune response against the flu. Kawaoka’s lab plans to insert gene sequences from COVID-19 into M2SR, creating a new vaccine that would aim to induce immunity against the coronavirus. The M2SR vaccine works through multiple immune systems and convinces the body it has been infected, triggering a robust immune

response while not displaying flu symptoms. “We are going to modify M2SR by adding part of the coding region for the coronavirus spike protein that the virus uses to latch onto cells and begin infection,” says Neumann. “CoroFlu will also express the influenza virus hemagglutinin protein, so we should get immune responses to both coronavirus and influenza.” “Single replication means the virus can enter the cell, but can’t leave,” adds Paul Radspinner, FluGen co-founder, president and chief executive officer. “So, in essence, it tricks the body into thinking it’s infected with flu, which triggers a full immune response. But since it can’t replicate further, you don’t get sick.” Research on the CoroFlu vaccine concept and testing on laboratory animal subjects at UW-Madison is expected to take about three to six months. Project partner Bharat Biotech will begin production scale-up for testing in human subjects. Within this current timeline,

Fighting Coronavirus By JASON CHIANG

16 JULY/AUGUST 2020


Bottom far right: Yoshihiro Kawaoka (left), co-founder of FluGen. Below right, below center right, below far right and bottom right: Virologists at the University of WisconsinMadison and the vaccine companies FluGen and Bharat Biotech are developing CoroFlu, a potential vaccine against coronavirus, as part of a research and biotech collaboration.

CoroFlu could potentially be in human clinical trials by the fall of 2020. “Our core mission is to apply innovative technologies to address the health care concerns of the developing world and to provide them with affordable, high quality vaccines and therapeutics,” says Raches Ella, Bharat Biotech’s head of business development. “We will fervently work toward the successful development of an efficacious COVID-19 vaccine.” CoroFlu, like M2SR, will be delivered via intranasal administration. Taking the vaccine through the nasal passages mimics the natural route of infection by coronavirus and activates the human immune system’s response in a similar manner. The team’s previous research found intranasal delivery to be more effective in inducing multiple types of immune responses than the intramuscular shots that deliver most common flu vaccines. FluGen’s M2SR vaccine includes the technology developed through the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), which

Jason Chiang is a freelance writer based in Silver Lake, Los Angeles.

FluGen

Bharat Biotech

http://flugen.com

www.bharatbiotech.com

Photographs by JEFF MILLER/UW-M Madison

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University of Wisconsin-Madison

manages patents for UW-Madison. “To confront a global challenge, this is collaborative discovery at its best,” says Erik Iverson, chief executive officer of WARF. “The partners in this endeavor are moving forward with a sense of urgency and integrity incumbent upon us as scientists and world citizens.” FluGen will share its existing manufacturing processes with Bharat Biotech, enabling the company to increase production and produce the vaccine for clinical trials. Bharat Biotech has more than 100 global patents, a portfolio of 16 products, registrations in more than 70 countries and WHO pre-qualifications, including a previous vaccine developed against the H1N1 virus that caused the 2009 swine flu pandemic. Bharat Biotech plans to manufacture the vaccine, conduct clinical trials and prepare to produce the vaccine for global distribution. The aim is to provide almost 300 million doses per year.

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2020 17


Maximizing the

Online Learning Experience

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By BHAVVNA JOLLY

require live participation and others take place “on demand” for the student. As students adopt online learning as the primary medium of instruction and academic engagement, it is important to think about ways to mitigate concerns and maximize the experience of e-learning. Here are some suggestions that may help students who are planning to take online classes in the near future.

ver the years, online learning has emerged as a practical medium of education for students around the world. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, a constituent program of the U.S. Department of Education, 6.9 million students were enrolled in distance education courses at a U.S. university or college in fall 2018. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, online education has assumed a renewed stature and meaning for students globally. Most U.S. universities already have cutting-edge technology-enabled instructional systems, which empowered them to respond to the pandemic swiftly and move students to online modes of instruction. Universities offer online courses in a synchronous format, with all students in the course participating in live sessions at the same time, or in an asynchronous format, which gives students the flexibility to access the course per their convenience. Universities may even create a hybrid program in which some aspects of the course ELIJAH O’DONNELL/Pexels

Tips on ways to navigate online coursework and get the most out of them.

Familiarize yourself with the environment Coursework at U.S. universities, whether inperson or online, is often facilitated through a learning management system (LMS)—a virtual platform that provides access to course-related documents, videos, syllabus and other content uploaded by faculty members. It also allows students to engage with peers on group projects, have discussions, make paper submissions and take assessments. Some of the most widely-used platforms include Blackboard, Canvas, Brightspace and Moodle. Over the years, these platforms have become intuitive, with easy interfaces and design, and can be accessed through computers or mobile apps. It is always a good idea to explore the LMS once you receive a login and password, and go through the tutorials and videos that offer tips on maximizing platform usage. Students should also check if their institutions offer orientation programs to help acclimatize them to the platforms.

Try an online course There are several free and subscription-based online courses that students can explore to not only learn a new subject or skill, but also understand their learning patterns. A few popular platforms include Coursera, Udemy and Udacity. The number of disciplines and topics covered on these platforms is astonishing and a testament to how far online learning has come.

Create a support network With just your computer or phone as companions, online learning can sometimes feel 18 JULY/AUGUST 2020


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www.usief.org.in/ Study-in-the-US.aspx

Maintain a calendar

Bhavvna Jolly is a senior program officer for EducationUSA at the United States-India Educational Foundation.

As you begin an online course, you will be

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Ergonomics

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like a lonely business. However, you can build a network to support you in this journey. a. Professors and teaching assistants: Remember to interact regularly with your professors about the course, how you are coping and aspects that you may need help with. Professors at U.S. universities are always willing to help students, and provide guidance and mentorship. If the course has teaching assistants working with the professor, seek their help too. Teaching assistants are students who have successfully completed the course or a similar program and will be able to support you with your learning needs. b. Peers and classmates: Engage with other students and interact with them about the course and their online learning experience. Peers can often be a source of shared experiences and, therefore, a strong support system in your online learning experience. This will even help you later when you arrive on campus, as you will already have a group of people you know through the online classes. c. Library and resource center: U.S. universities are known for their expansive library infrastructure and resources, most of which are easily accessible online through student logins. Support staff provide orientation and training to help students navigate the resources and search for e-books, journal articles and much more. Make sure you attend the library orientation and ask for extra help from the library support staff, if you need it. d. Reading and writing center: If your U.S. university has a reading and writing center, access its services and office hours to get help with academic writing and coursework. You will find yourself churning out a lot of reports, essays, research papers and other written work for your classes. The staff at the center can review your work, and give feedback and tips on how you can improve your papers. Several reading and writing centers also have student tutors who can guide you through the course, if you need extra help. e. University IT support: Do not hesitate to reach out to university IT support if you experience any technical issues with your LMS, the course, your email account or other platforms used to facilitate online classes.

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given a syllabus and important milestones. You can add these to your virtual calendar to keep track of important deadlines. This will be especially useful for asynchronous courses, which do not have regularly scheduled classes, but do have specific timelines for assessment and submission of papers.

While teaching-learning may take place online, it is essential to think about the physical spaces you will use for online courses. Find a quiet corner of the house with good Internet connectivity, where you can sit comfortably for a prolonged period of time. Working and studying from home can adversely affect the body if you maintain poor posture and use furniture that do not support your back. Invest in basic equipment like a desktop or laptop with webcam and headphones with mic for improved audiovisual interaction. Online courses allow students to become selfaware learners and contribute to long-term retention of concepts, as students are compelled to apply themselves differently than they would in a regular classroom setting. Individual contributions and achievements are very clearly visible in the virtual space because effort is quantifiable through deliverables and active participation. In addition, students will find that the life skills they develop through this process will hold them in good stead, whether they take a face-to-face class in 2021 and beyond or prepare to join the workforce.

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https://pe.gatech.edu/

Oregon State University Ecampus https://ecampus. oregonstate.edu/

Using virtual education, Indian students can update skills and even earn degrees from American institutions.

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Georgia Tech Professional Education

Learning From Afar By MICHAEL GALLANT

I

n a world shaken by disease and disruption, many students in India are pursuing their education at U.S. institutions in a new way: via computers, tablets and smartphones. Online degree programs, in topics ranging from fine arts to hard sciences, are becoming increasingly popular among international students everywhere. To see if digital learning is right for you or get a head start on your virtual education journey, here are insights from experts at Oregon State University (OSU) and the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech)—renowned U.S. institutions that offer extensive online

20 JULY/AUGUST 2020

degree opportunities, ranging from humanities and business to engineering and computer science.

Rich and varied experience It’s easy to imagine online learning as just watching a bunch of boring lecture videos. But for institutions like OSU and Georgia Tech, that’s far from reality. OSU’s online programs are built on diverse forms of content as well as constant collaborations with instructors and other students. “Common tools in online courses include discussion forums, quizzes and exams, assignments, video content,


Photographs courtesy Georgia Institute of Technology

Oregon State University (far left) and Georgia Institute of Technology (below far left) offer extensive online degree opportunities, ranging from humanities and business to engineering and computer science.

readings, projects and group projects,” says Shannon Riggs, executive director of academic programs and learning innovation at OSU Ecampus. “In addition to video content, many Ecampus courses feature robust multimedia elements, such as animations, simulations and interactive tutorials.” At Georgia Tech, pre-recorded course content is typically produced in cutting-edge production studios after months of research, design and planning, says Nisha Botchwey, associate dean of academic programs for Georgia Tech Professional Education. Programs also include real-time teaching assistant sessions scheduled to accommodate as many time zones

Graduates of our online master’s degrees receive the same diplomas as graduates of our traditional on-campus master’s degrees. To share articles go to https://span.state.gov JULY/AUGUST 2020 21


Courtesy Oregon State University

Powerful learning Some may think of online degree programs as shadows of the in-person experience. In reality, OSU Ecampus students and alumni report that online courses are often more engaging than their traditional classroom counterparts, says Glick. Yakut Gazi, associate dean of learning systems at Georgia Tech Professional Education, describes online learning as “the most student-centric approach to education. It puts student learning objectives and experience at the center, and everything else is built around these. When done right, online learning produces equal, if not higher, learning outcomes. There have been several large meta-analyses studies that show this.” The word “online” refers to the mode of 22 JULY/AUGUST 2020

delivery, and does not appear on graduates’ documents or transcripts, says Botchwey. “Graduates of our online master’s degrees receive the same diplomas as graduates of our traditional on-campus master’s degrees,” she says. “The online master’s degrees have the same content and rigor as the on-campus degree counterparts, and are taught by the same esteemed faculty experts.”

When done right, online learning produces equal, if not higher, learning outcomes.

Engage for success “As with U.S. universities in general, the more you put in, engage and get involved, the more you get out of the online experience,” says Glick. “Engagement means communicating with your professors. Take advantage of virtual office hours and get to know the programs or the research they are working on.” Botchwey adds that course videos need to be actively studied, not just watched like television. “You need to take notes just as you would in an in-person class,” she says. “Take advantage of tools, such as pause and rewind, to make sure you understand the material covered.” Another key to attaining success while pursuing an online degree is asking for help, especially if faculty or students use colloquial language or references to campus or traditions that international students don’t understand. This will “provide a good learning opportunity for everyone involved,” says Botchwey. And even though students won’t have the benefit of hanging out with classmates in person, engaging with them is still vital. “Take advantage of message boards and other interactive tools to communicate with other students in the program,” advises Botchwey. “You are part of a worldwide cohort of motivated professionals, so take this

Photographs courtesy Georgia Institute of Technology

as possible, vibrant discussion forums, augmented reality and more. Though online learning may seem like a new phenomenon, institutions like OSU have been developing and delivering richly varied online courses since the 1990s, says Casey Glick, director of international marketing and recruitment for INTO OSU, which helps create specialist programs designed specifically for international students. “Each professor is brought into our Ecampus studios and works with our team of instructional designers and multimedia developers to develop an engaging, interactive and technologically enhanced course experience,” he says. “We have online laboratory classes, classes where students conduct research, experiential learning opportunities that can take place in their communities, and the ability to bring in high-level professionals from our industry connections into structured seminars.”


Photographs courtesy Georgia Institute of Technology THERESA HOGUE

Above far left: An Ecampus student of Oregon State University (above right). The university’s online programs are built on diverse forms of content as well as constant collaborations with instructors and other students. Above left: At Georgia Institute of Technology (above), the online master’s degrees have the same content and rigor as the oncampus degree counterparts, and are taught by the same faculty experts. Below and below right: At Georgia Institute of Technology, pre-recorded course content is produced in cutting-edge production studios after months of research, design and planning.

opportunity to make professional connections.”

Flexibility and diligence “Online education is a great option because it meets students where they are in their life,” says Glick. But that flexibility cannot be treated lightly. Botchwey says that students should expect a high-paced, busy schedule for the duration of the online program. Good organization, meticulous preparation and planning ahead— with project deadlines and exams clearly marked on students’ calendars—are key to online learning success. “It’s hard for students to catch up once they fall behind,” she adds. Bethany Ulman, OSU Ecampus student success coach, elaborates. “Time is usually the biggest challenge for students who learn online,” she says. “Online students typically have competing demands for their time from family, work, community obligations and school. Finding a balance and feeling

comfortable prioritizing different aspects are usually where students struggle.” Experts agree that studying online does not mean being alone. “Our students create robust and vibrant communities, where they help and support each other,” says Gazi. “These communities are diverse and increase the sense of belonging.” Online students also become valued members of the overall university communities. “Ecampus students are Oregon State students,” says Glick, “and it is a growing population. We have graduates doing amazing things all across India and the world. And, being a graduate of OSU can open a lot of doors. They are part of a global network of classmates, who interact through online discussion forums, video conferencing software and in virtual communities.” Michael Gallant is the founder and chief executive officer of Gallant Music. He lives in New York City.

JULY/AUGUST 2020 23


Studying Clinical Research

XYLEM22/Courtesy Wikipedia

By JASON CHIANG

24 JULY/AUGUST 2020


iStock/Getty Images

Clinical researchers work on the prevention

and treatment of infectious diseases

and bring the latest scientific breakthroughs from the lab to the real world.

C

Courtesy Boston University

linical research has become more important than ever, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Clinical researchers help determine the best way for the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases and bring the latest scientific breakthroughs from the lab to the real world. Demand for clinical research professionals is high and increasing, driven by the growing health care industry, new product development and rising demands for medical evidence by patients and practitioners. Graduate students interested in the clinical research field go on to work at public and private medical device companies, contract research organizations, hospital systems and more. St. Cloud State University (SCSU) in Minnesota and Boston University in Massachusetts are two universities in the

United States that offer full-time as well as online graduate certificate programs in clinical research.

St. Cloud State University St. Cloud State University offers a Master of Science degree in applied clinical research. This program calls itself the only clinical research program in the United States that is focused on medical devices. Moreover, the university’s annual MedTech networking and job fair is one of the largest of its kind, featuring 15 to 20 health technology companies. The program’s students receive the necessary knowledge and skills to design, conduct and evaluate human clinical trials of medical devices. This includes learning how medical devices affect the human body, how Far left: St. Cloud State University in Minnesota and Boston University in Massachusetts (left) offer full-time as well as online graduate certificate programs in clinical research.

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Courtesy St. Cloud State University

new products are developed and brought to market, and how to design and conduct ethical and scientific medical research. “SCSU takes a practical approach to graduate study courses, supporting STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] careers in demand, helping students develop competencies and skills in the areas of clinical research and regulatory affairs,” says Cathy Krier, director of MedTech Graduate Degree Programs, College of Science and Engineering, St. Cloud State University. “Unparalleled industry engagement is infused throughout these programs.” All courses of the program are taught by industry experts, who share their leadership experiences by using real-world examples and projects. More than 75 percent of the instructors are executives or senior management-level industry leaders; the others are seasoned managers and technical experts with 15 to 30 years of experience. Classes are held on weeknight evenings and Saturdays, with participation available either in-person or online. The program offers full-time, part-time and certificate options. Applicants must have an undergraduate degree in engineering, 26 JULY/AUGUST 2020

science, biochemistry, biostatistics, public health, nursing or another relevant field. Each St. Cloud State University program is designed so that individuals can earn a master’s degree in two years. A master’s in applied clinical research curriculum ranges from 34 to 46 credits, and the tuition fee is about $830 per credit. Details about scholarships are available on the university’s website.

Boston University Boston University offers a Master of Science degree in clinical research (MSCR). Started in 2001, the program teaches students the scientific fundamentals of human research and addresses the needs of health care professionals interested in patientoriented research. This flexible degree program is designed for a variety of medical professionals, including physicians who will plan and oversee research and medical trials; research nurses; study coordinators; managers in clinical research and site management organizations; and professionals in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device industries. “An understanding of how to perform clinical research has never been more

An understanding of how to perform clinical research has never been more important to the health of the entire world.


Courtesy St. Cloud State University Courtesy Boston University

Courtesy Boston University

Far left and left: St. Cloud State University’s Master of Science in applied clinical research is focused on medical devices. The program’s students receive the necessary knowledge and skills to design, conduct and evaluate human clinical trials of medical devices. Below left and below: Boston University’s Master of Science degree in clinical research teaches students the scientific fundamentals of human research and addresses the needs of health care professionals interested in patientoriented research.

www.stcloudstate.edu/graduate/ applied-cclinical-rresearch/default.aspx

Boston University www.bumc.bu.edu/gms/mscr

IPOPBA/iStock/Getty Images

Jason Chiang is a freelance writer based in Silver Lake, Los Angeles.

St. Cloud State University

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important to the health of the entire world,” says Program Director Janice Weinberg. “The students in the MSCR program come from all areas of the world and a vast array of professional backgrounds. Our student diversity is a significant strength of the program.” The program can be completed on either a part-time or a full-time basis, and requires completing a minimum of 32 graduate credits. Most courses take place in the late afternoon or early evening, to accommodate working professionals. Full-time students can complete the required coursework in one year, and part-time students must register for at least 4 and maximum 11 credits each semester, until all course requirements are completed. These courses provide an in-depth look at key elements in clinical investigation, including trial design, trial management, biostatistics, ethical issues and clinical research regulations. There are several scholarship opportunities available for international students, which can be accessed on the Boston University website.

JULY/AUGUST 2020 27


A U.S. universities are witnessing a growing interest in public

health

degrees, which prepare students for diverse professional and research careers.

s the general interest in public health increases, in the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, so does the interest in the study of the discipline. “Many schools of public health that extended their application deadlines because of COVID19 have, across the board, seen a 17 percent increase in applications this year compared to last year,” says Michelle Azurin, associate director of admissions and recruitment at University of California (UC) Berkeley School of Public Health. She expects this trend to continue for the upcoming cycle. “I anticipate that we will see more students in the coming years seeking public health degrees,” says Chloe Bennion, student affairs and academic operations director at the Colorado School of Public Health (ColoradoSPH). “Epidemiology is certainly one area that may see growth, but I think we can also expect growth in other areas of public health: environmental and occupational health, health policy, biostatistics, mental health, global health, and community and behavioral health.” Public health is a broad field and entails a combination of subjects. At UC Berkeley, for example, these disciplines include health policy and management, infectious diseases, public health nutrition, epidemiology and biostatistics, health and social behavior, and environmental health sciences. The requirements to join a public health

program at an undergraduate or graduate level vary from university to university and depend on the field of concentration. While some universities, like UC Berkeley, offer both undergraduate and graduate degrees in public health, others like the University of Colorado focus only on graduate degrees. At UC Berkeley, successful applicants for the public health undergraduate major will have completed prerequisite courses in biological science, mathematics and social sciences. Graduate programs at the university vary in their requirements. While the “health policy and management MPH [Master of Public Health] program requires at least two years of post-grad work experience, other programs, like our epidemiology or biostatistics MPH, may accept students straight out of undergrad,” says Azurin. Applicants to Colorado School of Public Health’s Master of Public Health program come from varied fields and experiences. “Some common fields that precede a public health degree may be in biological sciences, social sciences, communication, or math and statistics,” says Bennion. “Many of our students also come to public health from health professions (i.e. nurses, doctors, physician assistants) seeking a broader view of population health.” The admission requirements vary by program. “However, all of our programs require at least a

Focusing on

Public Health By NATASA MILAS

28 JULY/AUGUST 2020


Photographs courtesy UC Berkeley

Above: The UC Berkeley School of Public Health (far and below right) trains students to work on complex public health problems through research and communityengaged action. Above right: Newlyadmitted graduate students are introduced to faculty, staff and resources in the School of Public Health during the annual student orientation.

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UC Berkeley School of Public Health https://publichealth. berkeley.edu

Colorado School of Public Health https://coloradosph. cuanschutz.edu 30 JULY/AUGUST 2020

bachelor’s degree,” says Bennion, “and international students need transcripts evaluated by WES [World Education Services], and should have TOEFL [Test of English as a Foreign Language] scores of 75 or above.” The Colorado School of Public Health is a unique place to study as it consists of three schools that collaborate closely with each other: University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colorado State University in Fort Collins and the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. “This collaboration gives our students access to a much wider range of faculty expertise and opportunities, and allows them to tailor their program to their educational needs and interests,” says Bennion. “Colorado State University is highly multidisciplinary, and in addition to ColoradoSPH courses, students at that campus have access to a huge range of public health-relevant courses taught by instructors with backgrounds in social work, psychology, ecology, anthropology, veterinary science, agricultural science and more.” The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus houses the majority of Colorado School of Public Health students and faculty. “Because this is a medical campus, there are myriad opportunities to engage in faculty research to supplement classroom learning,” says Bennion. “This research ranges from lab-based toxicology research to analysis of real health datasets to community-based participatory research with communities spanning the state.” In contrast, the programs at University of Northern Colorado are “very engaged in the local rural communities,” she adds, “so this is a great place for students seeking mentorship in community-engaged practice.” At UC Berkeley, students enrolled in the Master of Public Health program gain practical experience during their studies. “Students are required to do a full-time summer internship in between their first and second year,” says Azurin. Students also get hands-on experience in the classroom. “I did the MPH program at Berkeley,” she says, “and I took project-based classes where we worked with external clients, using the information we learned in the

Photographs courtesy Colorado School of Public Health

Right: Colorado School of Public Health students visited Keranga in Odisha to study the impact of avian flu in the village, in 2017. Above far right: Presentations by Colorado School of Public Health’s Master of Public Health students, as the culminating experience before they receive their degrees. Far right: Students and faculty of the Colorado School of Public Health traveled to India in 2018 to conduct a rapid needs assessment. They conducted interviews, analyzed data and made presentations to stakeholders. Below: The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Bottom: Berkeley Way West, home of UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education, School of Public Health and Department of Psychology.

classroom and practicing our new skills and knowledge on real public health projects.” The public health programs of both universities offer a combination of academic excellence and hands-on experiences, which provides graduates a variety of opportunities for job placement. “Students get placed with public health organizations all over the world; some work at local public health departments or nonprofit organizations, while others travel internationally to do research,” says Azurin. According to Bennion, many graduates of the Colorado School of Public Health have found work in nonprofit organizations, NGOs and the public sector. Other alumni work in hospitals and health care organizations, in sectors like pharmaceuticals, biotech, education and the military, and as consultants. The high employment rate among graduates of public health programs and the current global health crisis have influenced a bigger applicant pool for public health degrees. “I think that the current crisis has not only made people more aware of the importance of having a strong and well-prepared public health workforce, but also its disproportionate impact on some communities has been a forceful reminder of existing and long-standing health inequities in our country and around the world,” says Bennion. She also predicts a higher demand for public health professionals in the private sector, as “many companies are having to re-think, or think for the first time about, their health standards and health promotion strategies for both their consumers and their employees.” Natasa Milas is a freelance writer based in New York City.


Studying to

Prevent Diseases

A degree programs prepare students for careers pursuing vital research in diverse fields ranging from public health to artificial intelligence programs.

scientists showed how infectious diseases like cholera were spread by polluted drinking water sources and other illnesses through the unwashed hands of the doctors. More recently, epidemiologists have been able to prove the link between environmental factors and deadly Below left: Epidemiology study programs, primarily at the graduate level, are offered by a number of universities in the United States, including Tulane University (below) in Louisiana. Courtesy Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine

Epidemiology

s scientists around the world labor to understand more about COVID-19, their work has highlighted the importance of epidemiology—the branch of medical science that deals with the incidence, distribution and control of disease in a population. The modern science of epidemiology began in the mid-19th century, as doctors struggled to grasp how deadly diseases spread. Through observation and painstaking collection of data, YACOBCHUK/iStock/Getty Images

THINKHUBSTUDIO/iStock/Getty Images

By BURTON BOLLAG

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Photographs courtesy Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Above: The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, home to the university’s Department of Epidemiology. Top right and above right: Harvard University’s Department of Epidemiology offers around 70 courses, ranging from introductory and advanced ones in epidemiologic methods to seminar series and courses related to a number of substantive areas.

32 JULY/AUGUST 2020

non-communicable diseases. This work has allowed public health authorities to eliminate or regulate factors harmful to human health. In a world grappling with a pandemic like COVID-19, it becomes even more important to focus on the study of epidemiology. Epidemiology study programs, primarily at the graduate level, are offered by a number of universities in the United States. For instance, Harvard University in Massachusetts and Tulane University in Louisiana offer several master’s-level programs of one or two years, some full-time and others part-time, for working professionals. Harvard University’s Department of Epidemiology has around 200 students, about 40 percent of whom are from outside the United States. Tulane University’s epidemiology department enrolls about 100 students, of which about a quarter are from overseas. “We have molded our program over the years to match what is needed research-wise and career-wise by our students. The biggest

thing our school has focused on in recent years is population health—nutrition, environmental factors, reproductive issues— rather than specific diseases,” says Eric DiGiovanni, assistant director of graduate studies at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, which is home to the university’s epidemiology department. “We try to train our students to be specialized and have a wider breadth to their education.” He adds that India is among the top four countries sending students to the department. “Our staff is very happy to connect people interested in our programs with people studying now or our graduates,” says DiGiovanni. At both institutions, admission requirements are almost the same for U.S. as well as international students: good grades in their undergraduate studies, a good Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score, a personal letter outlining the applicant’s public health career goals and interests, and letters of recommendation from previous instructors or employers. In addition, international students


Harvard University www.hsph.harvard.edu/ epidemiology

governmental organizations and pharmaceutical companies. New jobs in this domain are also opening with technology companies. For instance, those working on public health apps and artificial intelligence programs to help analyze trends. “A quarter of our M.A. students go on to Ph.D. programs. Many go on to work for government agencies and NGOs,” says DiGiovanni. “I’ve seen more students take biostatistics and computational courses, and we’ve created more big data mining activities.” Hassig says that in the past, graduates went more often into public agencies. Recently, new directions, based on new technologies, have come up. “Epidemiology can be relevant in a whole host of roles,” she says. “It is really based on asking questions and figuring out solutions that offer answers.” Burton Bollag is a freelance journalist living in Washington, D.C.

Below left, below and bottom: Tulane University offers field experience to its master’s students and opportunities to interact with faculty extensively inside and outside the classroom.

Photographs courtesy Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine

must demonstrate English-language proficiency through a TOEFL or IELTS exam. Tulane University offers field experience to its master’s students, in the form of cooperation and internships with public health agencies, health providers or community health organizations. “Part of what makes Tulane’s study program unique is being embedded in a population with a wide range of health issues,” says Susan Hassig, director of Tulane University’s Master of Public Health program in epidemiology. Tulane students interact with faculty extensively inside and outside the classroom. “We are relatively small, which gives the option for extensive advising and mentorship, so students can get the most out of the program and look at all their options,” she says. Both institutions share that almost all their graduates find work in their field within months of graduation. There is a wide range of career opportunities in epidemiology, with entities like public health agencies, non-

https://sph.tulane.edu/ epid/programs

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Tulane University

Epidemiology can be relevant in a whole host of roles. It is really based on asking questions and figuring out solutions that offer answers.

JULY/AUGUST 2020 33


Health-y

Communication

I

A degree in

health communication

RADACHYNSKYI/iStock/Getty Images

prepares students for careers in diverse sectors, helps them drive positive social change and counter misinformation.

34 JULY/AUGUST 2020

By CANDICE YACONO

n the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, public health and health communication experts have stepped up to educate people about the virus and help prevent its further spread, while also addressing misinformation. Clear communication has become a vital element of public health, which seeks to prevent disease and improve the quality of life for everyone. In this scenario, health communication is essential for everything, from disease prevention and treatment to how physicians, nurses, office staff and insurance agencies communicate with patients. Effective communication about topics like immunization, hygiene and other elements of preventive care can make the difference between a spreading epidemic and a flattened curve. Those who choose to pursue careers in

health communication will find a vast number of opportunities, from working in government agencies to careers in private or nonprofit companies, the education sector and public health journalism. Many universities in the United States, thus, offer undergraduate and graduate programs in this field. This includes Northwestern University in Illinois and the University of Evansville in Indiana. At Northwestern University, the one-year professional master of science in health communication program was created in 2013 by Professor Bruce L. Lambert after more than two decades of teaching, working and studying real-world problems with medical practitioners. He is also the director of the university’s Center for Communication and Health. Lambert’s experience lends itself to an innovative and practical program that


Courtesy University of Evansville

Courtesy University of Evansville

Photographs courtesy Northwestern University

Courtesy University of Evansville

focuses on quality improvement and interaction design. “If you think of the traditional approach to health communication, it’s mostly looking at communication issues in the context of health,” says Lambert. “I come at it from the opposite direction. I’m mostly concerned about health—patient safety, health care quality and stuff like that. So, I look at those problems first and then use communication theory to solve them.” He sees improving health care as the “primary societal goal of the program,” and communication theory, communication sciences and communication arts as “tools that we can use to achieve these larger societal objectives.” The theoretical orientation of Northwestern University’s program is centered around interaction design, which improves communication between doctors,

Above right, top right and top far right: At the University of Evansville, the major in health communication is an interdisciplinary program, combining coursework from communication, public health and health services administration. Right: At Northwestern University, students delve into different topics including communication theory, humancomputer interaction, patient engagement, interpersonal communication and misinformation.

We’re giving students tools that they really need to solve the actual problems that health care systems are confronting. To share articles go to https://span.state.gov JULY/AUGUST 2020 35


AMERIQUE/Courtesy Wikipedia

Above: Northwestern University in Illinois. Left: University of Evansville in Indiana.

https://healthcomm.north western.edu

University of Evansville https://www.evansville.edu/ majors/communication/ healthcommunication.cfm

Never before has the world been so helpful in showing how important health communication is.

36 JULY/AUGUST 2020

AVONTBONE/Courtesy Wikipedia

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Northwestern University

patients and other stakeholders. Students get to learn about the health care system as a whole before delving into topics like communication theory, human-computer interaction, conducting difficult conversations, persuasion and patient engagement, as well as electives like interpersonal communication and health, and misinformation. “We’re giving students tools that they really need to solve the actual problems that health care systems are confronting,” says Lambert. His students range from those who have just graduated with an undergraduate degree to vice presidents of companies, with decades of experience. Lambert adds the Northwestern University program welcomes international applications. “If they have a meritorious application, they are probably going to be offered admission and they might be offered some merit-based aid or some need-based aid,” he says. At the University of Evansville, the major in health communication is an interdisciplinary program, combining coursework from communication, public health and health services administration. This helps students develop skills in advertising, public relations, journalism and multimedia production, besides developing

an understanding of public health and health services. Students learn about different types of communication, including provider-patient and health care organization communication, risk and crisis communication, strategic health communication campaigns and new technologies, along with a wide range of public health and science courses. Payal Patel-Dovlatabadi, associate professor of public health and director of the university’s undergraduate and graduate programs in public health, says that public health classes allow students to study both relevant issues and the policies related to those issues. Both the university representatives agree that the pandemic illustrates a great need for educational and persuasive communication about public health. Lambert says that issues of racial justice, as evidenced by worldwide protests, also have become more present in the curriculum. “Obviously, our students are very interested in COVID-19, which cuts both ways,” says Lambert. “On the one hand, never before has the world been so helpful in showing how important health communication is. But, a lot of the problems we’ve had have been because of bad health communication.” “The pandemic also illustrated many gaps and areas of improvement,” adds PatelDovlatabadi. “In the future, I am certain that many more public health professionals will be sought, so that the countries can be ready to respond to any type of outbreak.” Candice Yacono is a magazine and newspaper writer based in southern California.


BEAR CIERI/university of Vermont College of Nursing and Health Sciences

Careers in

Medical Laboratory Science comes from the work of the clinical laboratory,” says Heather Eggleston, manager of academic services at the University of Washington’s Department of Laboratory Medicine. Applicants to MLS programs at U.S. universities generally need to have completed prerequisite courses in biology, chemistry, human physiology and statistics. Some programs may have additional requirements, including a personal statement, recommendation form and an interview. Many MLS programs offer scholarships. For instance, at the University of Washington, students can apply for several scholarships after Below left, below right and bottom right: Medical laboratory science students at University of Vermont work closely with faculty members and engage in hands-on learning in the classroom, laboratory and clinical environment.

If you have interest in medicine and science, and have a penchant for analysis, a degree in

medical laboratory science

might be a good fit for you.

JANET FRANZ/university of Vermont College of Nursing and Health Sciences

SALLY MCKAY/university of Vermont College of Nursing and Health Sciences

edical laboratory science (MLS), an integral part of the health care system, is the profession that analyzes blood, tissues and other bodily specimens for the diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of diseases. “In today’s era of rapidly evolving medical research and technology, one can hardly imagine a health care system without the contributions of medical laboratory scientists,” says Eyal Amiel, assistant professor of medical laboratory science at the University of Vermont (UVM). The scope of work covered by medical laboratory scientists is vast, ranging from detecting cancer cells and screening for diabetes to determining blood types and performing genetic testing. “It is estimated that approximately 70 percent of information that doctors use to diagnose and treat patients

ANDY DUBACK/university of Vermont College of Nursing and Health Sciences

M

By NATASA MILAS

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University of Vermont

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Left and below left: At University of Washington, medical laboratory science students have to complete clinical rotations in all the disciplines of laboratory medicine.

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University of Washington

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Many students will have job offers secured before they graduate and start their jobs immediately after graduation. 38 JULY/AUGUST 2020

they have been admitted to the major. “These scholarships are provided by generous endowments from former faculty, staff and MLS alumni,” says Eggleston. The University of Vermont offers funding to international students in the form of a merit scholarship based on academic performance. “The international merit scholarship goes up to $20,000 per year. If you are admitted to UVM, then you will be automatically considered for the merit scholarship; there is no separate application,” says Jeff Wakefield, associate director, News and Public Affairs, University of Vermont. MLS programs at U.S. universities offer substantial hands-on experience that prepares graduates for future jobs. “Students in this major work closely with faculty members and engage in hands-on learning in the classroom, laboratory and clinical environment to develop critical thinking and technical skills,” says Amiel. “In UVM’s medical laboratory science program, students receive rigorous clinical training in areas such as clinical chemistry, immunology, hematology and microbiology, throughout the curriculum, in both classroom and laboratory settings.” The program culminates in a semester-long clinical placement where students work full-time in an operating clinical laboratory, getting to put all of their academic training into hands-on practice in the hospital setting. During the first year of the program at the University of Washington, “junior MLS students are required to successfully complete lab courses in an MLS Foundations course, hematology, medical bacteriology, clinical chemistry, mycology, parasitology, clinical microbiology, urinalysis or body fluids, coagulation and transfusion medicine,” says Eggleston. “In addition to these lab courses, students get further hands-on training during the second or final year of the program in their clinical rotation courses” in a variety of hospital laboratories in the Seattle or Puget Sound region. “Each student will complete a clinical rotation in all of the disciplines

in laboratory medicine: chemistry, hematology, microbiology, research and transfusion medicine, and a one-week rotation in molecular diagnostics,” she adds. The university organizes placements and scheduling based on students’ preferences and rotation availability at each affiliate site, where they are “responsible for completing case studies, weekly quizzes and preparing a presentation on a related topic. They take a final exam at the conclusion of each rotation,” says Eggleston. Graduates of MLS programs go on to work at laboratories, children’s hospitals, cancer centers or emergency departments of medical centers. Students can also work on clinical and nonclinical research, “biotechnology, forensics, state crime labs, the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], companies that develop and market testing instrumentation and equipment, teaching, IT positions in laboratory medicine or hospitals and with humanitarian organizations focused on health care,” says Eggleston. “The medical laboratory science field has a consistently high demand for well-trained qualified workers. Whether assessing and addressing emerging public health issues, providing clinical testing and therapeutic treatments for infectious disease or discovering new mechanisms underlying cancer, our students are prepared to apply their knowledge in the world,” says Amiel. “The majority of students graduating from this program opt to pursue immediate careers as medical laboratory scientists in hospital clinical laboratories, and 100 percent of students who pursue this are successful in securing jobs in the clinical laboratory upon graduation.” This is echoed by Eggleston, who says that often 100 percent of the graduates of the University of Washington’s MLS program are employed within three months of graduation or sooner. “Many students will have job offers secured before they graduate and start their jobs immediately after graduation,” she adds. For some students, a degree in MLS is a pathway to associated careers in the field of health care. As Amiel explains, “A number of students pursue the University of Vermont’s MLS program to obtain rigorous academic training in humanoriented biomedical science as preparation for medical school, physician’s assistant programs and graduate school programs including microbiology, virology, genomics and pathogenesis of immunemediated or infectious disease.” Natasa Milas is a freelance writer based in New York City.


Courtesy Christ (Deemed to be University)

Partnership 2020 promotes higher education cooperation between the United States and India through research collaborations and aims to create tangible economic impact.

Research Collaborations

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Top: A cohort of American students, which attended a winter academic program by Miami University at Christ (Deemed to be University), Bengaluru, Department of Psychology. Above right: Anubhooti Arora at a panel discussion at Christ (Deemed to be University). Above right: First Secretary Education and Culture at U.S. Embassy New Delhi Karl Adam (right) interacts with Vice Chancellor of Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, Professor Souvik Bhattacharyya. BITS and IIT Delhi are collaborating with Michigan State University under Partnership 2020.

Courtesy BITS Pilani

Courtesy Christ (Deemed to be University)

By ANUBHOOTI ARORA

artnership 2020 was conceptualized out of the belief that U.S. and Indian universities can create tangible economic development in our two democracies by working together. The goal was to create a program that funded collaborative research in 10 strategic areas, chosen for their impact and mutual benefits. These include public health, water management, renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, artificial intelligence and entrepreneurship. Since its launch in fall 2018, the project has funded 26 U.S. and Indian universities addressing these critical areas. In addition to contributing to the well-being of communities, the program also seeks to create economic opportunities by leveraging private sector

participation. These collaborations could take many forms—from local companies testing prototypes and evaluating a product’s industry-readiness and facilitating women’s economic empowerment through entrepreneurship to developing novel food supplements to mitigate the risk of tuberculosis. Partnership 2020 is funded by the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy New Delhi, implemented in collaboration with the University of Nebraska Omaha, with the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies playing an advisory role. Besides its key focus of supporting U.S.India collaborative research, the project aims to create strong university partnerships and

To share articles go to https://span.state.gov JULY/AUGUST 2020 39


Courtesy UNT Courtesy Christ (Deemed to be University)

Above: A lab in the College of Engineering at University of North Texas (UNT). A team from UNT and Shiv Nadar University is developing improved materials for use in bio-implants, under Partnership 2020. Above right: A winter academic program by Miami University at Christ (Deemed to be University), Bengaluru.

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Partnership 2020 https://partnership 2020.org/

40 JULY/AUGUST 2020

share these lessons with a wider academic audience. To that end, the U.S. government and the University of Nebraska Omaha have organized a number of dialogues among relevant stakeholders to discuss how to develop lasting academic partnerships.

Cutting-edge research A team from the University of North Texas and Shiv Nadar University, Uttar Pradesh, is developing new and improved materials for use in bio-implants, which are biosynthetic materials used in medical applications. Bioimplants are susceptible to degradation due to wear and tear, corrosion and other environmental factors. The goal is to create advanced materials that are resilient in the human body and less likely to corrode, compared to the currently available products. This project seeks to enhance the “health span� and longevity of patients who may require bioimplants like stents. This research is vital to better health outcomes for patients and of immense benefit to the medical fraternity. A group of researchers at Boston University and the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay is addressing two critical issues related to solar power. Solar cells lose their efficiency due to environmental stressors like dust deposition. Consequently, large volumes of water are required to clean them, thereby contributing to water shortage and reduced efficiency of the solar apparatus. To address these problems, the team of Indian and American researchers is developing electrodynamic screens for self-cleaning of solar panels, which would increase their power output and contribute to water conservation. Both groups are testing their

technologies in controlled environments of laboratories as well as real-world settings, while comparing notes and sharing best practices and results on an ongoing basis. Another unique program is being implemented by Miami University, Ohio, and Christ (Deemed to be University), Bengaluru, centered on curriculum innovation and capacity building of students and faculty members. The aim is to create postgraduate training in culturally competent and evidenced-based mental health care in both countries. The researchers understand that mental health is critical to the well-being of our societies, and there is a need to train and nurture culturally sensitive and aware mental health professionals. The Miami-Christ (Deemed to be University) partnership is powered through two student and faculty exchange programs. The faculty work through the year to evolve a oneof-its-kind curriculum that focuses on mentoring the next generation of professionals and practitioners. To complement the in-person discussions and debates, the teams are working virtually to communicate regularly and coteach this new and enhanced curriculum. Through research, collaboration and dissemination, Partnership 2020 is on track to promote higher education cooperation between the United States and India as well as expand people-to-people ties. Through funding and tracking these collaborations, the program seeks to provide robust insights for policy makers, scientists, education administrators and the private sector. Anubhooti Arora is a higher education policy specialist at U.S. Embassy New Delhi.


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A look at some key factors parents should consider when helping their children take admission-related decisions.

Selecting a College

for

Your Child

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By RUPALI VERMA

any parents are plagued by anxiety when the time comes to choose a college for their children. Selecting a right-fit institution is certainly a big task and a decision that needs to be made responsibly. At the same time, it is important to remember that while parents can guide their children, the final decision should be taken by the students themselves. After all, it is they who are going to spend the next few years in the chosen college or university. Students are often encouraged by peers and influencers to consider rankings while shortlisting universities. While this can help them come up with a preliminary list, it’s important to look beyond rankings and shortlist institutions based on their academic priorities and allied aspects like type of institution, average class size, location, opportunities for research and practical training, and considerations unique to their situation and aspirations. There is no central body in the United States that ranks universities. Additionally, rankings are complex and need to be evaluated thoroughly before using them as a primary To share articles go to https://span.state.gov JULY/AUGUST 2020 41


EducationUSA

http://educationusa.state.gov

42 JULY/AUGUST 2020

college, delve deep into the majors and minors offered to international students and engage with the university to learn more. EducationUSA advisers can also provide resources and information to aid this research. Explore the college: You may want to take your child college-hopping by exploring different campuses. If that is not possible, explore the campus virtually. Several higher education institutions have curated virtual experiences of their campuses that simulate real life. U.S. universities and EducationUSA centers in India offer students and parents opportunities to engage with current students and alums. So, be sure to ask about these. Extracurricular activities: College life is not complete without extracurricular activities. If your child has a passion or a hobby, choose a college that will nurture it. U.S. higher education institutions offer a vibrant bouquet of extra and cocurricular engagements that allow students to engage with their peer groups and academic community. Finding the right college is not an easy task. Some children may be ready for a big leap, others may be confused. Therefore, your constant support is important. Learn more about your child’s aspirations, concerns and questions. Empower them to find answers rather than doing all the groundwork for them. Place them at the center of the decision-making process. This experience of finding a best-fit institution is a highly educative process in itself and will equip children with essential life skills that will hold them in good stead as they transition from one level of education to the next and one education system to another. Rupali Verma is an EducationUSA adviser at United States-India Educational Foundation, New Delhi. TODD WARNOCK /Photodisc/Getty Images

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Try to tell your child to keep options open, with back-up plans.

decision-making tool. With more than 4,700 accredited higher education institutions in the United States, students have immense opportunities, choices and flexibility. The EducationUSA website provides checklists for undergraduate and graduate studies, which will help students define their priorities. “If your child comes to you with an option of pursuing higher studies in the U.S., feel free to have a candid conversation,” says Pankaj Khurana, whose son has accepted an admission offer from the University of Illinois UrbanaChampaign. “Create a feeling of support and excitement if you agree with the idea of your child studying abroad. Try to tell your child to keep options open, with back-up plans.” Having interacted with numerous students and parents over the years, EducationUSA advisers have put together a list of key factors that parents should consider when supporting their children to take admission-related decisions. Finances and funding: A crucial aspect of the college selection process is tied to who is footing the bill. What is the anticipated total cost that needs to be planned for the entire two or four years, depending on the level of study? If your child’s dream school is beyond your budget, it is necessary to make that clear at the outset. This may help children understand the honest rationale behind parents saying “no” to certain options. Academic offerings: Hundreds of colleges offer seemingly similar degree programs. But that does not mean every academic program is the same. They may differ in pedagogy, modes of instruction, research or applied focus. Therefore, some programs may be better suited to your child’s areas of interest and professional goals. It is very important that, along with your child, you too investigate the website of the


Making the Most of Your

Holiday Breaks By AASTHA VIRK SINGH

building their profiles in order

to become strong candidates to get admission in a U.S. university of their choice.

ost U.S. universities follow a holistic admission process and employ innovative methods to fairly assess candidature and add to the talent and diversity on campus. When it comes to admissions, one often comes across the term “profile-building.” Loosely described, profile-building is an activity that raises public awareness of one’s expertise, skills and achievements to advance one’s career and, in this case, the prospect of admission to a U.S. university. Students go to great lengths to build their profiles to demonstrate that they are strong candidates and that, in addition to academic strength, they also excel in extracurricular and cocurricular activities. However, a lot of students do not deeply consider what motivates them, what drives them and what their goals are. Many of them start their planning based on peer pressure or notions of a formula that one must follow.

Is there a formula? Students and parents often erroneously jump into making lists of things to do, based on what they hear from their friends and family members. But, a well-intentioned adviser will guide them to reflection and introspection–the first steps toward building a strong profile and application. Students can begin by weighing the following factors and asking themselves some questions. Previous experience: Look back on the year or a few years, set goals for the next semester or year and think about, “What do I want to do?”, “What have I not been able to do so far?”, “What else did I do last year besides my studies?”, “Can I do something more or different this year?” and “What do I want to invest my time in?” Make a statement: Make notes while asking yourself, “What is my purpose or intent of that activity?” and “What interests me, what affects

It is important to chart one’s own plan and resist peer pressure. To share articles go to https://span.state.gov JULY/AUGUST 2020 43

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During holiday breaks, students should focus on


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Aastha Virk Singh is a senior adviser, EducationUSA, at United States-India Educational Foundation.

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EducationUSA India

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me or upsets me?” Do some reflection: Gauge if the activity is helping to achieve long-term self-development goals beyond just profile-building. “Is it something that I want to continue doing in or after college?” Resist peer pressure: How an individual spends his or her time is the only thing under that person’s control. It is, therefore, important to chart one’s own plan and resist peer pressure. Be flexible, adaptive, positive: “If I don’t have access to opportunity A, can I look at opportunity B instead?” and “Do I have a plan B?” Set goals: “By when do I want to achieve this goal?”, “What exactly do I intend to do?”, “Am I being realistic in my expectations?” and “Do I have the time to do this?” Set one’s own pace: Some students do better with schedules and some are spontaneous. Repose: Remember that an individual may not feel productive or motivated at all times. So, it is acceptable to have moments of repose. This brings us to the activities that one can participate in to make the most of one’s time during a holiday break and eventually build a strong application. Š Study and prepare for the standardized examinations that you plan to take later in the year. Š Visit colleges to update your list of choices; most universities offer virtual tours. Š Apply for internships and scholarships. Š Revamp your résumé, cover letter, essays and so on. Š Help your community by volunteering. Š Upskill by trying out a new activity or by learning at a new school or online platform. Š Have fun and do not forget to relax.

Profile for SPAN magazine

U.S. Higher Education: Enduring Values in a Changing Landscape  

U.S. Higher Education: Enduring Values in a Changing Landscape  

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