The Community Health Education (CHE) Program in the Department of Health Promotion and Policy at the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences offers an exceptional opportunity for students to work with faculty members doing innovative and diverse social science research to promote population health and wellness and reduce health inequities. The faculty in the program are committed to public health as social justice.

The CHE program supports doctoral students interested in both well-established community health education research methods, and in using innovative methods, such as participatory action research, narrative and humanistic arts-based inquiry, mining “big data” in combination with qualitative research, and critical and interpretive methodologies to better understand and address health and social inequities and promote justice and wellbeing. The faculty expertise includes chronic disease management, global health, Indigenous suicide prevention and wellbeing, public health ethics, reproductive justice for marginalized families, mass incarceration, smoking cessation, substance use and injury, military veteran health, the application of critical race theory, and translational research to improve health services.

Current research. CHE faculty conduct research in Springfield, Holyoke, Boston, across the U.S. (including Alaska), and in several countries.  We are actively recruiting doctoral students interested in joining current faculty research projects focused on community resilience in Arctic Alaska (current opening for a research assistantship), community education and mobilization as suicide prevention, promoting smoking cessation in tobacco use disparity groups, addressing prescription opioid misuse, and preventing postpartum depression among adolescents.

Length of our degree program. We aim to support students in completing their doctoral degree within five to seven years. Doctoral studies in CHE are designed to involve two years of focused coursework, followed by comprehensive exams, which lead to a dissertation proposal in the student’s third or fourth year. Dissertation projects are diverse and have included a narrative ethnography and policy-based analysis of the science of teen pregnancy prevention services, the use of interpretive theory to understand the construct of ‘quality’ as it relates to health care, an evaluation of learning outcomes of community health worker training, and a study focused on how globalization, food, health, and poverty intersect.  

Support for your education. The University of Massachusetts Amherst offers doctoral students many opportunities for assistantships that cover the cost of tuition and fees. Doctoral students typically have priority in teaching positions, and tend to support themselves with these offerings during their first three years. Faculty assist students in applying for federal or foundation funding to support either their own independent research projects, or mentor them in developing supplemental studies for their dissertation studies related to the faculty’s funded research. Currently, all of the doctoral students are funded.

Additionally, the Dean of the SPHHS offers up to five Ph.D. fellowships to new, nationally-competitive graduate student applicants. The intent of this program is to facilitate the recruitment of top-quality doctoral students and not to support students currently in the SPHHS. Several competitive UMass-based doctoral studies and dissertation grants are also available to students, including those funded by the Center for Research on Families, the Institute for Social Science Research, as well as those funded through the School of Public Health and Health Sciences.

Good living. The Pioneer Valley is known as the “Happy Valley.” It is an exceptional and affordable place to live. The small towns of the region offer graduate students a chance to live in a quaint New England homestead with unprecedented opportunities to engage in the diverse cultural activities offered by the university, and surrounding communities. Additionally, metropolitan areas such as New York City, Boston, and Montreal are all within an easy drive of the university.

For additional information, please contact any of our faculty (visit here for a directory).