Bachelor of Science in Community Health Education
Director of Health Equity
When Nicolette Warren entered Kent State University as a freshman, she was dead set on becoming a doctor. But midway through her studies, Warren switched to her focus to health education, and says she hasn’t regretted it since. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Community Health Education in 1999 from Kent State University, and then she went on to complete a Master of Science in Health Promotion and Human Sciences from North Carolina University in 2003. Since completing her bachelor’s degree, Warren has worked as a jack of all trades. Her first job was at a local health department in North Carolina, where she oversaw employee wellness programs, and planned and coordinated health promotion activities within the local community. The wide range of experience she’s had in working in health education has led her to being the Director of Health Equity for the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE), an international organization that promotes healthy communities through its members and local chapters.
Why did you choose your major?
When I first started [my undergraduate studies], I thought I wanted to be a doctor because I like to help people. It wasn’t until my sophomore year when I had a tough time with calculus and I said, “Hey, I don’t like that genetics teacher,” that I thought maybe I needed to find something more interesting to do. I ran across someone who was a major in health education and she suggested I try it. After my first semester of taking health education classes, I knew this is what I wanted to do. For me, it was an easy transition because I could still help people, but it wouldn’t kill me.
What did you like about the experience? What could have been better?
You had the option of taking independent study where you could get hands-on experience, and I think oftentimes students overlook that experience because they’re unpaid. For me, doing the independent studies and the internship was really enjoyable, and taking what I learned in class and applying it toward my internship, that was the exciting part. My Methods of Health Education class was one my favorite classes because we had to really take what we learned and apply it. Not everyone can do that; that’s a level of critical thinking and consideration of variables that I found fascinating. I don’t know what could have been better about my experience at Kent State. I’ll admit I was an overachiever, so I sought out all the opportunities that were available to me and that made a big difference.
How has it impacted your career?
I couldn’t have worked at Duke University without having a master’s degree. It kind of worked out. I’m a firm believer in education. In fact, I’m thinking about going back to school to get my Ph.D. in health education, so I’m all for it. Just having that basic undergraduate experience has enabled me to do so many things, like human sciences, and not losing sight of that when you think about public health education overall.
What skills from your degree do you still use?
I couldn’t do all of the things I do now without them. Everything that I do is related to using the skills that I learned as an undergraduate. Planning is critical, and I think oftentimes people bypass the planning and go straight to what needs to happen or what they think needs to happen, instead of strategizing and planning what’s important. That’s something that’s always overlooked, but itís a critical part of being a health educator.
What advice would you give prospective students?
I probably would say if I was talking to students (and I talk to students all the time), I’d tell them to talk to people currently working in the field and to the professors at the university you’re at, and to get out and get experience in volunteering. Also, I think it helps to do good in your (academic) program, but it’s not just your education. It’s having the ability to take that education and apply it to real life situations. Look for opportunities, explore opportunities, and go outside of your comfort zone because you never know if you try something you might like it. And always continue to learn new things. That’s critical.