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Column | On Campus

Meera Komarraju: Changing lives, serving others: SIU Carbondale’s College of Health and Human Sciences at its best

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As SIU Carbondale’s largest college, the College of Health and Human Sciences (CHHS) is about changing lives. It is dynamic and forward looking and includes six schools: Automotive, Aviation, Health Sciences, Human Sciences, Justice and Public Safety, as well as Psychological and Behavioral Sciences. These six schools are centered on themes of health (including behavioral health and wellness), safety and transportation. The college’s talented faculty, staff and students are engaged daily in creating transformational knowledge, sharing this knowledge with the greater world and using this knowledge in the service of others, including our community partners and residents in Southern Illinois.

Experiential learning

The college offers a number of impressive and nationally ranked programs. But what makes the educational engagement special for students is experiential learning via community partnerships. In CHHS, students are not merely exposed to course material via textbooks and classroom lectures, but they are also expected to engage the material in practice.

Gaining real-life skills that coincide with course content is the cornerstone of the learning model in CHHS. Many students are required to complete structured internships (e.g., nursing students complete approximately 200 hours of supervised clinical experience) or seek summer externships with potential employers (e.g., automotive students completing summer training with an automotive manufacturer).

Community partnerships

Students gain invaluable real-world experience and our community partners benefit as these placements increase recruitment efforts and bring fresh ideas to the workplace. Regional partners include Carbondale Police Department, Delta Air Lines, Giant City State Park, Jackson County State’s Attorney’s Office, Shawnee Health Services, Southern Illinois Healthcare, Southern Illinois Coalition for the Homeless, Toyota Motor Company, etc. Our students gain from the university’s collaboration and partnerships with community stakeholders.

Applied research

Students have the opportunity to work directly with talented faculty on their research — research intended to make a difference in the world.

For example, CHHS students are working with a research team that includes experts in violence, public health and social work who are collaborating with the city of Carbondale to examine gun violence and propose strategies for reducing violence in the surrounding area. The research team is applying a problem-solving approach by analyzing a variety of data sources such as community experiences and perceptions, police data, emergency medical services data, and prosecutorial data. The team will utilize evidence-based approaches that have been empirically documented to address targeted problems and inform future implementation strategies to be supported by the city.

Students’ involvement in research such as this fosters critical thinking skills and data-driven decision making, while contributing to efforts aimed at improving the lives of others — the cornerstone of the mission in CHHS.

Students’ experience-based learning translates to professional success as approximately 60% of CHHS students graduate with a job already in hand.

Meera Komarraju is provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.



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