Moving Ahead in Public Health

Jessica Baggett

Jessica Baggett

Planning and Performance Coordinator, Office of Environmental Health and Safety, Washington State Department of Health

Jessica Baggett had been working in public health for several years, and she wanted to grow her career. A master’s degree was the next logical step, but she didn’t want to give up her full-time job.

The answer was the Online Executive Master of Public Health, which allowed her to earn an advanced degree while continuing to work. The program exposed her to different aspects of public health and enabled her to learn from high-quality instructors and classmates with valuable insights and perspectives.

“I wanted to learn from other professionals in public health who had experiences to share and stories to tell,” Jessica said. “My favorite part of the program was the caliber of the people.”

In her second year of the Online Executive MPH program, Jessica was offered a career advancement opportunity with the Washington State Department of Health’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety. “The fact that I was in a master’s degree program at the UW definitely helped me get this new position,” she noted.

In this interview, Jessica talks about how earning a master’s degree from the UW has helped take her public health career in a new direction.

Congratulations on your new job. Can you explain what you’re doing?

I work for the state Department of Health in quality improvement and performance management. In my current position, I advise our office leadership team in areas such as strategic planning, performance management and policy work.

So what motivated you to go back to school?

I was at a point where I was looking for something new, but I wasn't entirely sure which direction I wanted to go. I knew without a doubt that I wanted to stay in the field of public health. Since I had some public health background, I wanted a general degree — one that's pretty versatile and would allow me to explore various aspects of the field, which is what the Executive MPH program offers.

What did the instructors bring to the program?

The Executive MPH program is different from a traditional in-residence program because the students are required to have professional experience. They’ve actually worked in a variety of fields and bring a variety of different perspectives. On one hand you have practitioners with an individual, patient-level perspective. On the other, there are people who have worked in population health or outside of the public health and health care fields. That was very valuable.

What was the online experience like?

Since the program was primarily online, you were able to work at your own pace. I had a full-time job, and I was able to do a lot of my work in the evenings. You could also use videos and other technology to enhance your learning. So instead of just typing in a response to a discussion post, you can record yourself talking.

Since it’s a hybrid program, there are also classroom sessions. What were those like?

The on-site sessions were extremely valuable. It was an opportunity to connect with the faculty and my fellow cohort members. The instructors were very experienced and facilitated some great discussions. We were able to really dive deep into the material during the time we spent together in Seattle.

What was the most valuable aspect of the program for you?

I would say my cohort was the best part. The opportunity to network with professionals added a lot of value. We were able to form study groups and get to know each other on a personal level. 

What would you tell people who are considering this program?

The ability to continue working full-time and earn my master’s degree simultaneously was very convenient. If you are interested in either changing your career or exploring something new in public health, this program is a really good choice.