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27 – Recruiting Students to a Social-Justice-Oriented Academic Graduate Program: Opportunities & Challenges


  • Ross Milne, Community-Oriented Public Health Practice, School of Public Health, UW Seattle
  • Amy Hagopian, Department of Health Services, School of Public Health, UW Seattle


We describe the unique tools and measures we employ to assess prospective students for admission to a social justice- and community-oriented public health masters program.

The Community-Oriented Public Health Practice (COPHP) program uses a student-centered learning method (problem-based learning) to prepare students to become problem solvers, leaders, and advocates in the field of community health. COPHP faculty and students are committed to ensuring everyone has the opportunity to live healthy, productive lives. The program acknowledges institutions and policies create health inequities by disproportionately allocating health resources based on power and privilege.

COPHP has developed holistic admissions processes and practices consistent with recommendations from the Coalition of Urban-Serving Universities (Artinian et al., 2017), including (1) developing explicit goals for the types of students we seek in the admissions process; (2) requiring admissions committee members to be trained in implicit bias as well as the program’s admissions policy; (3) developing a rubric that includes non-academic as well as academic criteria; and (4) including essay questions and interviews.

COPHP has developed a social justice-oriented and anti-racist mission statement, which guides our curriculum, our faculty hiring, and our admissions process. Our holistic admissions process draws community- and social justice-oriented students. Sometimes our social-justice-oriented processes and communications raise expectations among admitted students that can be difficult to meet.

The admissions process is an important opportunity for an academic program to shape its identity and express its values. From the view of students, the admissions process develops early bonds with the program. Signaling anti-oppression values in the admissions process certainly develops student expectations; however, our program sometimes struggles to meet these expectations within larger institutional structures and limited resources.