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Frequently Asked Questions about the AP Experience

People often refer to the IPHS 650 requirement as a field experience, practicum, applied practice experience and/or an internship. Which is the correct term?

All MPH students are required to register for a course IPHS 650 which is your applied practice experience requirement.  Some people will refer to it in different ways (practicum or internship), but UIC SPH refers to this requirement as your “applied practice experience” or “AP experience”.   This experience includes setting learning activities and creating deliverables that connect to specific public health competencies. If you are exploring internship opportunities or projects to meet your AP experience requirement make sure you consult your AP Experience Advisor and Global Health Advisor (if needed) to ensure it meets all the criteria for an AP experience.

Is there a difference between my Academic Advisor and my AP Experience Advisor?

Yes. When you begin the program you will be assigned an Academic Advisor by your division that will help you design your curriculum for your MPH degree (program proposal) with the exception of your AP experience.  For the AP experience, each division has an assigned AP Experience Advisor, a faculty member who meets with all the students in that division regarding this requirement.  The AP Advisor is your instructor for the IPHS 650 course. Their role is to help you through the process, approve (sign) your registration form/learning agreement, and provide academic oversight of the AP experience.

Is my AP experience (IPHS 650) requirement different from the Integrative Learning Experience (ILE) (IPHS 698) requirement?

Yes, the AP experience requirement and the ILE requirement are two different requirements.

Does my AP experience have to connect to my ILE?

No, your ILE doesn’t have to connect to your AP experience.  There are students who will connect their ILE to their AP experience but it is not required. If you plan to base your ILE on your AP experience consult your Academic Advisor and they can help you through this process.

When should I start the AP experience process?

As soon as possible! It takes time to go through the process:

  • Getting clarity on what type of experience you want to do
  • Identifying an organization/project that is in line with your strengths and interests
  • Inquiring if the organization has any opportunities
  • Meeting with your AP Experience Advisor to brainstorm ideas, discuss potential deliverables and get approval
  • Completing the necessary paperwork to register for the course

Ideally, since this is seen as part of someone’s overall career goals, you should be thinking about what you would like to do your first semester and by January or February of your second semester have an organization or project identified if you plan to complete your AP experience in the summer between your first and second year.

Does UIC SPH staff and faculty “place” students at the organizations or sites?

No. This process is like a job search.  You have to identify what your strengths/interests are and go through the process of seeking out organizations and projects you would like to work on.  There are several ways you might identify a project you would like to work on to meet your AP experience requirement.

  • Some students come across opportunities in their classes or while working on other projects. For example, during a class a faculty member might mention a colleague working on childhood obesity at a local nonprofit who needs help with a research project. You could approach the faculty member after class and tell them you are interested in helping. This could lead to a project that might meet the AP experience requirement.
  • A student could identify an organization they would like to work with and reach out to UIC faculty/staff to see if they have a contact at the organization. If faculty/staff have a contact at the organization, they will connect the student to that person.  In fact, UIC SPH has several alumni that have and are willing to serve as preceptors to students during their AP experience so we are able to connect students to these alumni.
  • A student could identify an organization they would like to work with but neither the student nor UIC SPH staff/faculty have a contact there. In those cases, students are encouraged to reach out to the organizations and inquire if they have opportunities. This is a good opportunity to practice your informational interviewing skills!  Also, find some cold emailing tips in the AP Experience Resource Guide.
  • Some students pursue formal internship programs that have an application process (i.e. GSEP, UNICEF)

There are so many choices. How do I decide where to do my AP experience?

It is helpful to view the AP experience as an opportunity to gain experience, build skills, and develop relationships that will help in future job searches. The choice of an AP experience should depend on student interests and skills as well as personal professional goals and previous experience.  Key factors to consider are the student’s own post-MPH career goals, as well as AP site characteristics such as locus of change (e.g. policy, specific population, community); setting type (e.g. school, policy institute, private or public auspices) and specific issues typically addressed (e.g. HIV, active transportation).

I’d like to conduct my AP experience at a site that serves Medically Underserved Areas/Populations (MUA/P). How can I find a site that meets this requirement?

The document How to Find an APE in Medically Underserved Areas/Populations in Illinois can provide guidance on how to identify these geographic areas and populations. You may also want to consult with your AP experience Advisor.

I am interested in doing an international placement. Is there anything I need to do before selecting a site?

Yes. Students who are interested in doing an applied practice experience out of the county need to inform the Global Health Program Team of their intentions to travel internationally. It is recommended that students inform the Global Health Team of their travel plans at least 3 months prior to leaving to ensure that all necessary paperwork and documentation is complete. In addition, students need to inform their AP Experience Advisor of their travel plans as early as possible to verify that the selected program/opportunity meets divisional AP requirements.

I am an international student. Is there anything I need to do before registering for the AP Experience?

According to the Office of International Services, international students should login to myOIS and complete a CPT application. Once you complete your portion of the e-form and indicate who your academic advisor is, the system will notify your academic advisor and request they complete their portion of the e-form. Once this form is complete, you can submit your registration form/learning agreement to your AP experience advisor for review.

I have worked in the public health field for several years. Can I waive IPHS 650?

An AP experience is required of all MPH students in the School of Public Health who matriculated in Fall 2018 or later. If you matriculated prior to Fall 2018 and believe your public health experience warrants a waiver of the AP experience, you will need to complete a petition to waive this requirement. A committee will then review your request and inform you of their determination.

I want to get paid for my AP experience. How do I get a paid position?

Unfortunately, paid AP experiences are not very common. Occasionally, opportunities may arise that provide stipends for students completing an applied practice experience. When available, these opportunities and notices are often published on the sphviews listserv. In addition, some students have found paid opportunities on their own.

Can I conduct my AP experience where I currently work?

It depends. The AP experience is a structured and mentored experience with an approved agency that provides opportunities for the student to develop skills, synthesize knowledge and apply theory to public health practice. It may be possible to do your AP experience where you work with the approval of your AP advisor if it meets the following requirements:

  1. You work on a special project that creates deliverables that are different than your current assigned work.
  2. Your assigned preceptor is different from your current supervisor.

What is the role of the preceptor?

The preceptor is the primary supervisor of the student at the AP Experience site. The preceptor:

  • assists the student in completing the Learning Agreement that outlines student learning objectives, tasks, and products.
  • orients the student to the agency by providing, or arranging for, orientation regarding agency mission, policies, programs, procedures, and personnel.
  • ensures the student has the resources to be successful in the placement setting, including access to a desk, telephone, and computer as well as other resources necessary for the completion of assigned tasks.
  • provides the student with the opportunity to gain a broad perspective on the public health work of the agency as well as exposure to and more in-depth involvement with a specific project.
  • meets with the student on a regular basis to provide feedback and supervision. (Responsibility for specific task supervision may be delegated to another professional staff member as long as the preceptor maintains oversight and continues to meet with the student regularly.)
  • communicates with the AP Experience Advisor or Assistant Director of Internship Programs, particularly if problems or issues arise with student performance or if the agency is unable to meet the needs of the student.
  • completes “Preceptor’s Evaluation of Student Performance.”
  • meets with the student to review “Preceptor’s Evaluation of Student Performance” at the conclusion of the AP Experience.

I am a joint MPH/MSW student. Can I do my AP experience in a clinical setting?

It is important to make the distinction between a clinical setting and clinical work. Students are permitted to have an MPH placement in a clinical setting (or a “clinical placement”) but clinical work cannot be counted towards their 192 hours of MPH applied practice experience.

Can I do my applied practice experience in a university setting?

It depends. The applied practice experience is designed to expose the student to public health beyond the walls of academia. According to the CEPH 2016 accreditation criteria, “To be appropriate for applied practice experience activities, university-affiliated settings must be primarily focused on community engagement, typically with external partners. University health promotion or wellness centers may also be appropriate.”

How long will it take to find an APE?

Searching for and securing an applied practice experience is similar to finding a job. Some students are able to find an APE rather quickly while others may take several months to secure a placement.

I’ve applied to several sites and haven’t received any responses. What do I do?

Finding an APE can be highly competitive- especially for positions that are paid and/or publicly advertised. If you haven’t heard back from a site, send a follow-up email expressing your interest in the position and inquiring if it’s still available. This gentle email nudge may prompt someone to respond to you. In addition, keep searching for APE opportunities online and use your LinkedIn network to reach out to alumni that are currently working at sites that are of interest to you.

How many contact hours do I need to do on site for my AP experience?

The AP experience may be taken in a single semester or over several semesters for a total of 3-5 credit hours (between 192 and 320 hours in the field, where 1 credit hour is equal to 64 contact hours.) The number of hours required for degree completion is decided in consultation with the student’s Academic Advisor.

I found my APE site. When can I begin accumulating hours towards my APE?

Students must satisfactorily complete all MPH foundational courses (IPHS 401, IPHS 402- or IPHS 404 & IPHS 405, and IPHS 403), complete any APE divisional requirements, get signed approval of their APE Learning Agreement by their APE Advisor, and register for IPHS 650 for the semester that hours will be completed BEFORE any hours can be counted towards their APE. Students must be registered for IPHS 650 during the semester in which they are completing APE hours in order for those hours to count towards the 192 minimum APE contact hours. If your APE is extending into another semester for more than four weeks, students are required to register for that semester as well.

What do I need to turn in to my AP Advisor to receive credit for the AP experience?

Once registered, the following items need to be submitted to fulfill IPHS 650 requirements:

  • Students submit a journal entry after every 40 hours at their placement.
  • In lieu of a final journal entry, the student submits a summary report of their AP experience mapping their deliverables to the competencies identified on their Registration Form.
  • Students submit the deliverables identified on their registration form. The deliverables must demonstrate attainment in at least five (5) competencies. The minimum number of deliverables students are required to turn in is two. However, two deliverables is a floor rather than a ceiling, as additional deliverables may need to be submitted to show attainment in all five competencies- 3 must be foundational competencies and one from your concentration(s).
  • Student and preceptor complete and submit their Professional Development Evaluation
  • The above summary report, deliverables, and evaluation form can be submitted together in the form of an electronic portfolio to your AP Advisor.

What is the AP experience portfolio?

The portfolio is simply a collection of the student’s work done during the AP experience highlighting learning activities, deliverables, and competency attainment.  It consists of the summary report, deliverables and evaluation form(s). This can be submitted electronically to the AP Advisor at the end of the AP experience.

Can I spread my AP Experience across two semesters or more?

Yes. Juggling school, work and family obligations can be a challenge so the AP experience can be completed over two or more semesters if needed.

When am I required to or when should I register for more than one semester when completing my AP experience?

When your AP experience occurs over 4 weeks in a semester you are required to register for that semester. You may choose a cost saving option by registering for zero semester hours during the summerBut, to qualify for the zero option you must have registered for 650 the previous or following semester for 3-5 semester hours.

Should I take the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) training before my AP experience?

HIPAA is a noncredit training that all MPH students need to take as per degree requirements. This should be done before beginning your AP experience. NOTE: Be careful to complete the CITI Initial Course and not the refresher course.

On the OVCR website, HIPAA is under CITI training.

When is UIC Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval needed?

Student activities involving human subject research must have approval from the Institutional Review Board before beginning data collection or analysis. Human subject research activities include surveys, interviews, analysis of pre-existing human subjects’ data and/or human tissue obtained for non-research purposes.  If you are unsure consult the Academic Policies and Procedures Handbook and your AP Experience Advisor. Please note that obtaining IRB approval form the University can be a lengthy process ultimately postponing the start of the AP Experience in some situations.

Can I reach out to an organization that does not currently have a relationship with UIC to inquire about AP experience opportunities?

Yes. You will want to first discuss the site with your AP advisor to make sure it is an appropriate placement. If your AP advisor and you both agree that it will be a good fit, your AP advisor will provide you with information on next steps in securing a placement. Please be aware that some sites may require additional paperwork or contracts that the legal department must review that may take 2-3 months to complete. Once you and your AP advisor agree to pursue the placement, it is advised that you notify OSA as soon as possible so they can start working with the site to complete required paperwork.

If my AP experience is abroad or out of state can some of my fees be waived?

Students who are living outside of Chicago (100 miles or more) for a good portion of the semester (10 weeks or longer) may be eligible to have some of their fees waived.  Students who are not living in Chicago due to study or research, or in some cases coursework/a curricular component (such as an internship) may be eligible to have their general fee and UPASS waived.  If you have questions or you qualify for a waiver, please contact the Academic Coordinator in your division who can ensure the necessary paperwork will be filed.

What should I do if I’m not comfortable doing a task that is asked of me at my experience?

If you feel that the task assigned is unsafe, inappropriate or in violation of protocols, tell your preceptor you are not comfortable doing the task and/or immediately talk with your AP advisor to discuss the situation and next steps.

Can I change the activities and/or deliverables identified on my approved Learning Agreement?

Yes. Occasionally, students may find that one or more activities identified in the Learning Agreement are no longer possible because of shifting priorities or changes within the organization. Please keep in mind that the Learning Agreement can be modified at any time during your placement. You are not bound by those activities or deliverables first identified in the Learning Agreement. Activities and deliverables can and often change based on organization and community needs. If changes are needed, simply inform your AP Experience Advisor and submit an updated Learning Agreement. Although changing activities may come as a surprise and may be disappointing, it’s important to remember the value of flexibility and teamwork in a job setting. It can be helpful to view these adjustments as opportunities to develop additional skills and understand the responsive nature often required in work settings when new needs are identified.

My preceptor left during the middle of my AP experience. What should I do?

Don’t panic. This has happened before. Simply contact your AP Advisor as soon as possible and they will help you explore options.

Besides the AP Experience, what other opportunities are there to expand my public health and leadership skills?

To help prepare for the job search after graduation, some students engage in other activities to build additional skills that will help them meet their career goals. Students may want to consider attending a professional development workshop offered through SPH, serve in a leadership role with a student organization, volunteer, conduct a micro-internship, seek out a mentor, join work committees, or participate in online learning opportunities through entities such as LinkedIn Learning (free for UIC students).  In addition, SPH offers a spring course on Leadership Essentials as well as an opportunity in fall term to participate in the 12-hour Public Health Leadership Program.