Perseverance Pays Off When Seeking a Practicum Site

Chukwuemeka Obi

How do you land a practicum at a competitive field site such as the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH)?  MPH alumnus and PhD in Public Health student, Chukwuemeka Obi, sums up his success in one word:  Perseverance.  Chukwuemeka’s diligent practicum search helped him maximize his Walden program, gain valuable public health experience in obesity prevention, and earn a promotion.

What steps did Chukwuemeka take to land his practicum site?

Knocking on Many Doors
Prior to applying at the DPH, Chukwuemeka researched five community centers in the Los Angeles area.  He contacted these centers and requested to speak with their field officers to learn more about the work their clinics were doing in the Los Angeles area.  He landed several informational interviews where he shared his knowledge of public health, his passion for social change, and the research he conducted at Walden.  These initial contacts helped him gain a deeper understanding of public health issues in the Los Angeles area.  When he applied to the DPH, he brought in-depth knowledge that helped him stand out from other applicants.

Not Taking “No” for an Answer
When Chukwuemeka submitted his application and practicum requirements to the DPH, he was initially told that Walden was not on the list of local area colleges/universities.  How was Chukwuemeka able to educate the DPH on the quality of his Walden program and land a selective practicum over other highly- qualified candidates?  Chukwuemeka proved that he was the best candidate by sharing examples of his academic work including a presentation he created for one of his classes on infectious disease prevention, research on early childhood obesity, writing samples, and copies of online discussions. He also emphasized Walden’s commitment to social change in the field of public health.  The DPH’s field coordinator was impressed by Chukwuemeka’s level of knowledge and education.  After two months, Chukwuemeka’s persistence paid off; the DPH contacted Chukwuemeka and arranged a practicum for him in collaboration with the Affordable Care 411 Network.  As a part of his practicum experience, he was posted at the Martin Luther King Center for Public Health in Compton, California, where he delivered health-related presentations to community members.

Bridging Experience and Education
The hands-on public health experience Chukwuemeka acquired through his practicum helped him complete his Master of Public Health degree and advance into a Program Director position at Hopeful Steps Foundation Incorporated, a Los Angeles- based nonprofit organization.  Chukwuemeka continues to evolve as a nonprofit leader and has started the next chapter in his academic career by pursuing his PhD in Public Health.

What advice does Chukwuemeka have for Walden students?  He recommends starting the practicum search early, researching multiple locations, and proactively networking with field officers.  He states, “There are many places where you are needed.  Consider how the knowledge you’ve gained in your classes can be applied in the field and always ask to speak with decision makers.”

Wondering how to best market yourself and your Walden program to potential field sites?  Watch webinar recordings on our Field Experience page.

Want to learn more about nonprofit leadership?  Listen to Chukwuemeka’s story and visit the Nonprofit page.

 Written by Dina Bergren, Associate Director of Career Services

Dina Bergren