Arnold School of Public Health Alumna Uses Degree to Address Health Disparities as Director with Special Olympics Florida
by Erin Bluvas
Students of Public Health focuses on research projects and other contributions students are making to advance public health. This series is guest edited by Johanzynn Gatewood, an MPH candidate in Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Florida-Gainesville [Full bio].
STUDENT PROFILES — If someone had told Allison Rapp that she would earn a master’s degree in public health and find a fulfilling job with Special Olympics Florida, she wouldn’t have believed it. “I was never someone that loved school, I did my undergrad kicking and screaming because all I wanted to do was dance,” the Boston area native says of earning a Bachelor of Science in Sports and Fitness from the University of Central Florida. “On my graduation day my mom told me I would go back and get a master’s degree eventually. I told her she was crazy.”
Rapp’s dancing brought her to South Carolina to perform with the Columbia City Ballet and later work as a personal trainer. When she realized she wanted to make a broader impact, she knew she needed to pursue a master’s degree.
“When looking through the different options, I felt like the Master of Public Health in Physical Activity and Public Health (MPH-PAPH) program was the best path for building on my undergraduate education and experience as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor to get me to where I wanted to be helping people be healthy through physical activity and healthy eating,” she says of choosing the University of South Carolina. “I loved my MPH program.”
Rapp also saw practical benefits to returning to school. “I think one of the best things about my MPH program is that before I started, I was applying for all these jobs that I really needed a master’s for and never got interviews,” Rapp says. “Through my program I realized that I really didn’t know all I thought I did and really did need the master’s degree in order to do the jobs I wanted.”
Established in 2000, the MPH-PAPH program (Department of Exercise Science) is the first academic program in the nation designed to prepare professionals to increase physical activity and improve health at the population level. With core courses from across the Arnold School, the program allows students to build interdisciplinary expertise in physical activity and health promotion.
Erin Bluvas is the Public Information Coordinator for the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina. Erin manages communication activities (eg, faculty/staff research and publications, student spotlights) and channels (eg, web stories, social media) for the School’s six departments and promotes associated activities and programs to stakeholders. Erin earned her Bachelor’s (Clemson University) and Master’s (Auburn University) degrees in Communication. She has experience teaching communication courses (both online and in a traditional classroom setting) and managing communication in the manufacturing industry.
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