A new master’s program at Northern Arizona University will offer a unique take in the field of public health and nutrition.

The Department of Health Sciences public health program, which starts classes in the fall, has two concentrations: nutrition or health promotion, with an optional indigenous health track. Both will prepare students for a variety of careers in public health, including research, health education or outreach, providing health care to underserved groups, epidemiology, environmental health and nutrition.

Dawn Clifford, an associate professor of health sciences and director of the program, said the nutrition track offers a much different experience than this type of degree elsewhere. The program condenses the entire dietetics training route into two years and is paving the way for a new graduate-level training educational system for dietitians. It was recently accepted to serve as a Future Education Model for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

That track will prepare students for careers as a registered dietitian nutritionist in hospital, food service and community settings.

“The field of public health is for individuals who care about the health and well-being of others, especially underserved communities,” Clifford said. “Public health professionals care about the environment, health equity and preventing chronic diseases. They get excited about the challenge of designing, implementing and evaluating new programs that can address the health needs of a community. It is a rewarding career for those who really want to make a difference in their communities and beyond—at the individual level, community level and policy level.”

NAU professors follow a teacher-scholar model of learning, meaning students can expect innovative and engaging classes that will prepare them for the field, Clifford said. Students will be required to complete a graduate project and an applied public health practice experience; there also will be many opportunities for research and internship experiences. Students will develop the necessary skills to support the health and well-being of diverse individuals and underserved communities.

Applications are due Feb. 15 and can be found online through the graduate college admissions page. For more information about the program, visit the program website or contact Clifford at Dawn.Clifford@nau.edu or (928) 523-2566.