Public Health Program Director Dr. Gail Tudor: A Faculty Q&A
Dr. Gail Tudor, the program director of Southern New Hampshire University’s (SNHU) online Master of Public Health program, joined SNHU in 2018 to further her career in academia. She holds a PhD in Biostatistics from the University of North Carolina and recently answered questions about her career, the importance of education and more.
Please tell us a bit about your professional background.
I originally started my career working as a statistician for a contract research organization that conducted studies for bioresearch and pharmaceutical companies. That lasted three years and then I moved to higher education, where I have been for the last 30 years working as a faculty member, program coordinator, department chair, director of institutional research, associate dean and currently as a program director.
What first drew you to higher education?
I enjoyed teaching statistics to a live audience. You really had to perform to keep their interest. I also enjoy explaining things until someone gets it.
What aspects of your own education have been particularly influential in shaping your professional life in academia?
I had a fantastic professor and mentor while pursuing my doctorate degree. He was an amazing researcher and so helpful and friendly to his students.
How do you continue to learn and evolve as a leader in higher education?
I completed all my schooling, including my doctorate degree before I ever started my career. What kept me evolving over the last 30 years was changing positions and/or schools and thus learning and adapting to new processes and working on new problems once I had tackled the older ones.
What do you feel is unique about the faculty, students and programs you oversee?
What is unique about the Master of Public Health (MPH) program is the accrediting body, the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), which is one of the most organized and detailed-oriented accrediting bodies I know of.
Our students and faculty have very diverse backgrounds, as the field of public health is very diverse, and this keeps it interesting.
Can you think of a particularly impactful or eye-opening moment as a faculty member?
One time I had to speak with a student’s father about his daughter’s grade. The student had lied to her father about the class and the grades received by other students. Enlightening a father about their child’s behavior is not an easy task but it made me realize, along with other such conversations, that I was good at having tough conversations. But I do not like to have them!
How have you found ways to effectively connect with students?
When I taught in person, it was easy as I would chat with students before and after class, when I saw them in the hallways and during office hours. I even invited one all-female class to my house for a sleepover.
Here at SNHU we hold chat sessions on Microsoft Teams for all our MPH students. I also hold welcome sessions and focus groups and send out surveys. I periodically tutor students or mentor a small group to stay in touch with students. I also have students join our advisor group and one of our department committees so that we regularly hear from them.
What advice do you have for new and current students?
Make sure that you have the time to devote to being an engaged student. Just completing assignments will not fully prepare you for a successful career. You need to learn to communicate your thoughts to others and engage in conversation.
Join professional associations related to your chosen career and learn what is going on in the larger world, now or right after you graduate. The quality of your career (and life) is what you make it. It is your responsibility to put forth the effort and actively participate.
When it comes to the future of education, particularly for programs in public health, what’s on your mind?
It is our time. The world needs people trained in public health now more than ever before. There are big issues to tackle, like homelessness. We need engaged, educated, hardworking people.
Why is education important to you and the world at large?
The complex problems of today need intelligent, data-driven solutions. We need people who can review the data and identify possible solutions and communicate the issues and strategies to others. We cannot work unaware or in denial but must understand the whole world around us and how others affect us, and we affect them.
Beyond work, what’s something you’re passionate about or really enjoy doing?
Watching Premier League football — what Americans call soccer, played by some of the best players in the world.
Joe Cote is a staff writer at Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with him on LinkedIn.
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