Connecting with Students Is Key to Teaching Public Health

Vivienne Hazzard Teaching

Vivienne Hazzard

PhD Candidate, Nutritional Sciences


If you told me five years ago that I would be standing at the front of a classroom someday, I would have said you were crazy. Not because I wouldn't have wanted to teach, but because I didn't think I was cut out for it.

As an undergraduate student, I could barely muster the courage to raise my hand in discussion section. There was no way I could ever be the one at the front of the classroom!

I also realized that teaching isn't about me—it's about the students and making sure the course is valuable for them.

Well, fast forward a few years, and here I am—a graduate student instructor (GSI) with every intention to continue teaching throughout my career. This shift began with an opportunity to be a GSI for PUBHLTH 200 (Health and Society: Introduction to Public Health), a large course that is open to all undergraduate students.

I entered my first semester as a GSI with trepidation, worrying that I would let my students down. However, I quickly discovered that my students were bright, compassionate individuals with a sincere interest in learning more about the field of public health. I also realized that teaching isn't about me—it's about the students and making sure the course is valuable for them. Instead of trying to achieve perfection in my lessons, I focused on connecting with the students and helping them explore their interests.

This past semester, I had the opportunity to be a GSI for PUBHLTH 383 (Data Driven Solutions in Public Health), a course designed as part of the curriculum for the undergraduate public health degree program. It has been such a joy to get to know the first cohort of undergraduate public health majors at Michigan Public Health. If these students are any indication of future cohorts, I have no doubt that graduates of this program will go on to do amazing things for many years to come.

In addition to working with students in the classroom, I have been fortunate to also have some of these students work on my research with me. I have been beyond impressed by their enthusiasm, intelligence, and work ethic. I feel strongly that integrating the graduate and undergraduate programs of Michigan Public Health will be key to the continued success of the school as a whole.

I am so honored to receive the 2018 Michigan Public Health Outstanding GSI Award, but it's the students who deserve recognition—they are the outstanding ones. I have a lot of room to grow as a teacher, but the students have helped me realize that maybe I can be the one at the front of the classroom.

About the Author

Vivienne HazzardVivienne Hazzard is a PhD candidate in Nutritional Sciences at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. Her research interests center broadly around understanding risk and protective factors for eating and weight-related disorders to inform prevention and early intervention. Hazzard graduated from the University of Michigan School of Public Health with an MPH in Human Nutrition & Dietetics in 2014 and completed her dietetic internship through the University of Michigan School of Public Health in 2015. She is the recipient of the 2018 Michigan Public Health Outstanding GSI Award.

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