Undergraduate Program Updates
Student Awards and Recognitions
Alumni Recognition for Student Excellence Award
- Stephanie Gonsiewski
Spring 2023 Biobehavioral Health Program Marshal
Spring 2023 Health and Human Development College Marshal
Dr. Frank Ahern Student Award
- Natalie Meriwether
Erickson Discovery Grant
- De’Jah Coates
Mullarkey Family Scholarship Award
- Yani Hawthorne
Victoria Price Award
- Emma Rouston
New Kensington campus
Three Biobehavioral Health students—Clayton Groves, Michel Nafash, and Elizabeth Schachte— presented their research at national conferences this past spring. Clayton is presented his work on a forensic virtual crime lab at the American Criminal Justice Society meetings. Michel and Elizabeth attended the Society for Applied Anthropology. Michel’s work is on co-occurring opioid use disorder and intimate partner violence in pregnant and post-partum women. Elizabeth's work is an analysis of weapon type used in intimate partner homicide using data from the National Violent Death Reporting System.
Emily Yourish completed her masters in counseling at Chatham University. Carly Duncan completed her masters in public health from the University of Pittsburgh and has returned as an adjunct instructor this semester.
In July 2022, the Harrisburg campus hired a third faculty member in the Biobehavioral Health program, Dr. Nirmal Ahuja. He completed his doctorate in public health at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and his areas of research include cancer prevention and control, tuberculosis, treatment and medication adherence, social determinants, social and behavioral health, and health disparities in both India and the United States. Dr. Nirmal also completed a certificate in global health at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
At the end of fall 2022, the Harrisburg campus received approval to offer the IUG BBH/MPH option and already have three students interested in pursuing the option this semester.
In addition to in-person offerings across the campuses, Penn State also offers a bachelor of science degree in Biobehavioral Health as a fully remote, asynchronous delivery through Penn State's World Campus. Students in the World Campus program are offered the same classes and content as resident students, but in a more flexible setting. The World Campus program appeals to a broad array of students, both traditional and non-traditional, with a large group of adult learners that includes working professionals, military members and their families, parents, and more. To give a better picture of this diverse group of exceptional students, below are some of their stories.
Emma is from Nashville, Tennessee. She earned an associates degree in biology and then decided to transfer to World Campus because of the COVID-19 pandemic. She chose the biobehavioral health program because it combined her interests in biology and psychology. She is part of the virtual behavioral neuroscience lab and is participating in research on asthma and anxiety. She has been a UGTI since her second semester and has become involved in the World Campus THON Committee. Her favorite classes so far have been BBH 451 and BBH 411. She plans to go to medical school after gathering more experience through earning a master’s degree.
Rob is originally from Ligonier, Pennsylvania and has been attending World Campus as a biobehavioral health major since fall of 2020. He is a medic in the military, ,so the flexibility of asynchronous classes has allowed him to continue his education while fulfilling his service obligations. Rob said he really enjoys biobehavioral health because everything he's learned has had a clinical relevance, and he has had the opportunity to see concepts from class in real patients everyday. "I've had opportunities through World Campus that I never would have thought possible, including being a teaching assistant and being involved in research."
Maite is 39 years old and was born and raised in Argentina—5,861 miles from State College. Her passions are technological innovations, everything related to health, and the search for knowledge, including learning new languages and skills, exercise, travel, and volunteering in her free time. She has two associate degrees, one in science and one in psychology, which she was able to transfer to the biobehavioral health program to complete the remaining two years of her bachelor's degree. "I chose the bachelor's degree in BBH because of the prestige of Penn State, and because it is an innovative online program that is not available at other universities. I thought that, at my age, going back to school could become a problem, but I was able to do it without any problem." Her favorite class has BBH 301W: Values and Ethics in Biobehavioral Health Research and Practice. The different experiences as a volunteer led her to want to continue studying online and apply for the Master of Public Health program at Penn State in the fall of 2023. Her future goals are to work in the area of public health, research, biomedicine, and bioethics.
Global Health Minor
The Global Health Minor, like all initiatives across the department and college, has had a busy year.
Students in BBH 305: Introduction to Global Health and BBH 390A participated in several field trips across the semesters aimed at exposing them to the larger space of global governance and themes in global health. In October, they visited the United Nations, the first time any of the students in the class had visited the organization and for many, the first time they had been in New York City. In addition to visiting the General Assembly Hall, the Security Council Chamber, and learning more about the Sustainable Development Goals, the group met with a UN senior economist, who offered a view of the year ahead. In November, students learned about biopsychosocial care in oncology through a visit to Life with Cancer at Inova Schar Cancer Institute in Fairfax, Virginia, a comprehensive cancer education and support program for persons with cancer and their families. Students are also gaining insights to dimensions in domestic health and public issues through volunteering and visits to a rural health care pop-up clinic and the amazing celebrations of regional American Indian groups at the Penn State Powwow. In March, students volunteered at Remote Area Medical (RAM), a non-profit provider of free health care through pop-up clinics for under-resourced populations, and in late April, they observed the powerfully symbolic dances and music of many regional Native groups who have come to the area for their “honoring” powwow, held here at Penn State.
Thanks to our great Experiential Education Committee, 25 students were selected into the 2023 spring Global Health cohort, bringing the number of students currently in the minor to 50. Our class of graduating seniors—soon to be alumni—are making a variety of plans to start their gap years or master’s programs. These will find our (former!) students studying at Columbia University, working in Spain, starting social work programs, working in research on concussions in Pittsburgh, working with refugees in Philadelphia, and participating in graduate programs in occupational therapy and public health, among other areas. Many of last year’s graduates continue to stay in touch including Chloe, Claire, and Siddhi who moved on to Fulbright Awards in England, the Netherlands, and India, respectfully, and now are moving onto the NIH, Colombia and Rwanda, and the medical school in Michigan.
And, of course, it’s a busy summer ahead. Under the instruction and supervision of Joshua Rosenberger, Joseph Gyekis, and Dana Naughton, 10 students will complete their global health field placements in Quito and Oltavalo, Mexico in May and June. In July, as part of the Reciprocity Matters: Promoting Equity in Global Health Study Abroad Education initiative, three students from our South African partner, the University of Limpopo in South Africa, will be sponsored to participate in Penn State’s College of Medicine’s three-week Global Exchange Program (GHEP) in July, where they’ll join university students from across the globe in this intensive global health issues, systems, and policy training program.
- View testimonials from recent Global Health Minor alumni to learn more about how the program supports personal, academic, and professional development for BBH undergraduates.