Frequently Asked Questions

Core courses and electives
Field experience requirement
Starting and declaring the certificate
Completing the certificate
Choosing a major related to global health (or not)
Questions asked by pre-health students (and sometimes others)
Why study global/public health?

Core courses and electives Back to top

What graduation requirements can I meet by taking classes for the Certificate?

Depending on what remaining requirements you still need to fill, the Certificate’s three core courses could help (see the Certificate Requirements page for details on the properties of these courses). Most Certificate electives also meet one or more requirements (see the same page for a link to our electives list).

Do I need to take the core courses, electives, and field experience in any particular order?

No — you can complete all of our requirements in any order.  However, both the electives and the field experience will probably be of greater value to you in terms of making connections between disciplines in global health if you can complete at least one of our core courses first.  Your chances of getting into some of our preapproved field courses are also greater if you have completed one or more core courses (some instructors prefer you to have that background, though none have yet required it).  And, finally, you do have to have completed at least one core course in order to formally declare the certificate, though you can get advising before you are eligible to declare.

The certificate’s core courses are full.  I need to take them.  What do I do?

See the question “I want to take one of the core classes for the certificate next semester, but I can’t get in.  What should I do?” in the section “Starting and Declaring the Certificate.”

Field experience requirement Back to top

I am applying for one of your field courses — what are the odds that I will get in?

You do not have to be involved with the Certificate in Global Health to apply to our field courses, but most people who get into our field courses in any given year will have taken at least one of the Certificate’s core courses and will have declared or be planning to do so (our applications ask you to indicate courses you have taken and whether or not you have declared).  We also prioritize admission for people who will be graduating within a year of their intended participation in a field course.  If you are pursuing the Certificate and are graduating soon, that does not guarantee that you will get into your first-choice course, but we should hopefully be able to offer you a space in a course.

What if I apply for one of the certificate’s preapproved fields course and I don’t get in?

There are several possible answers to this depending on your situation.  If you are not too picky about which course you take (and/or must complete a field experience in the coming year), you should let a certificate advisor know and he or she will explore getting you into a course that still has open spaces.  If you are pickier and can wait until the following year, we’d encourage you to do that.  If you must do a course in the coming year but cannot afford any course that still has open spaces or have some other conflict, a certificate advisor can work with you to try to figure out some alternative route to complete the field experience requirement.  Some other possible routes are discussed  in this section of our web site.

I’m a freshman who plans to complete the certificate in global health.  When should I plan to do my field experience?

We expect that most people will fulfill this requirement during either their junior or senior years or the summer between those two years.  Whenever you do it is fine, though you are more likely to get more out of the experience if you have done much or all of the other coursework the certificate requires before you complete your field experience.  Talk to a certificate advisor if you have questions about the field experience requirement (ideally, you would do this far in advance of the time when you are thinking to do a field course).

I’m a senior and I have met (or will meet) all of the Certificate’s requirements by my planned graduation date except for the field experience.  What options do I have left for a field experience?

You have some options, but not necessarily a lot.  While there are some with fall, winter break, and/or spring timings, most of what we call our “preapproved” field experiences take place during the summer.  If you will be graduating in May, you could still do one of the summer courses — see the question below this one for how you would do that.  If you are asking this question during the fall semester and there are field courses in the upcoming spring semester, you may also be able to apply to and complete one of those.  If our preapproved courses don’t work for you (because you are busy during the summer, for example), then your options become very limited indeed.  If you go here and read both the web segment and the pdf document linked to it, you can learn about the Inter-L&S Internship, which you could potentially do with a nonprofit, government agency, or corporation in or near Madison during the fall or spring semester.  Those documents also discuss ways to meet our requirement through a capstone, thesis, independent study, or other structured internship (all of which you would need to set up yourself and get approved by our program as meeting our requirement).

It’s worth mentioning in this context that while you might really want to complete the certificate and we would be happy to have you do so, we are also happy to have you take related coursework without actually finishing all of our requirements.  If you’re thinking you might like to go to graduate school in public health (or a health-related field that is not public health), you should know that most programs want you to have one or two years of experience, not the few weeks you would get in one of our preapproved courses.  In a nutshell, this means that you shouldn’t feel your field experience for the certificate will magically open doors, and if you are able to tell an admissions committee or potential employer that you completed all of the coursework for a certificate in global health except for a short field experience, we hope that will still help you.  Put differently, rearranging big chunks of your life to complete a field experience and finish the certificate is perhaps not necessary.

I need to do my global health field experience during the summer, but I’m graduating in May.  Is there a way to do that?

If you need to do a field course during the summer, then you need to graduate officially in August — there’s really no way around that. See here for instructions and a demo re: how to apply for graduation.  If you will be an August grad but would like to attend the commencement ceremony in May (which is, despite its official appearance, a completely non-official event), as part of the process of applying for graduation you can indicate your planned attendance at the May commencement.  There is no August commencement ceremony.

I can’t afford to go abroad to meet the field experience requirement.  What other options do I have?

You don’t necessarily have to go abroad to meet this requirement — for better and for worse, there are plenty of global health issues that need addressing right here in the US.  We have some preapproved field courses in the US that cost less than our international courses.  If those don’t work for you for whatever reason, you should go here and read both the web segment and the pdf document linked to it.  There, you can learn about the Inter-L&S Internship, which you could potentially do with a nonprofit, government agency, or corporation in or near Madison during the fall or spring semester.  Those documents also discuss ways to meet our requirement through a capstone, thesis, independent study, or other structured internship (all of which you would need to set up yourself and get approved by our program as meeting our requirement).

I have already done or am planning to do something that’s global health-related but not an official Certificate field experience.  Is there a way I can have it count toward the Certificate?

Possibly, at least if it included or will include some sort of work in public health or a related field.  Some experiences are definitely not o.k. (see, for example, the next question in this section).  For a detailed answer to this question, please see our field experiences page.

I want to go on a trip with VIDA.  Can I count that as my field experience?

We are not able to accept a VIDA trip as a field experience.   If you go to this part of our site, you’ll see a list of what we call “common problems with nonstandard field experiences.”  Students going on VIDA trips often report having excellent experiences, but from our perspective many of their trips suffer from the first three problems listed there (most importantly, VIDA  often allows or encourages you to “play doctor” in ways that are wholly inappropriate for undergraduate students).  If you are pre-med, you should be aware that medical schools also don’t want you to be participating in this kind of activity.   Sorry if this is disappointing.  Please let a Certificate advisor know if you want to talk about other options for meeting this requirement.

I received a scholarship from the Certificate in Global Health, but it was credited to my account with the UW Bursar’s Office.  Is there a way I can get the money as a check?

In most cases, no — we typically give people money toward a particular semester’s tuition and fee costs, and the money goes automatically toward paying those costs.  If by chance we give you money in a semester for which you have already paid in full (or in which you have officially graduated), then you should fairly quickly get a refund as long as you have no outstanding fees to pay.  See this page from the Bursar’s office for more details.

I need money to cover the costs of my field experience.  Is there some help available? 

Partly because of the cost, planning for your field experience early in your time at UW is important.  There are scholarships available, but finding and applying for them takes real work.  For some starting pointers on that, please see this section of our field experiences page.

If you need a small amount of money to cover costs during your field course, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) does offer short term loans (the College of Letters and Science has a similar program, as does the Dean of Students).  If you were a CALS student, you would come to room 116 of Ag Hall and talk to the Dean on Call (hours are 11-2). The form is simple, but they have to check on any outstanding loans you have before they can give one out, so it takes at least an hour. The money comes quickly. The loan is for 6 months and you must demonstrate that you have a method of paying it back (a part-time job, a one-time payment from someone). This loan is meant to tide you over until you get money from somewhere else, and should not be treated as income.

I completed my field work abroad through International Academic Programs (IAP, also known as study abroad) and IAP is asking me tell them what I want the course(s) to be called at UW.  What do I tell them?

For starters, as far as we (the Cert in Global Health) are concerned, we don’t care what the course(s) end(s) up being called on your transcript — we care about the content rather than the name and number.

Having said that, your coursework does need to end up with some UW name(s) and number(s), but the process calls “determining equivalency” is not always straightforward.   For programs run through International Academic Programs, courses that students have taken before  have typically had some quivalency assigned to them that you can look up in IAP’s equivalency database.  If the topic/course/program you will be on is not listed, then it’s probably the case that no one has studied that topic/course/program in that place before, and you need to work with IAP to determine equivalency for the work you will do.

Re: figuring out what UW course(s) is/are the best match for what you will do abroad, the process can be fairly simple for work you will do that is classroom-based and fairly complicated for work you do that is not.   We (the cert in global health) have our own course number, Nutritional Sciences 421 (“Global Health Field Experience”), that we are only allowed to use for UW-run field experiences on which we send a group of UW students to the same place with UW faculty and staff leading them.  In some cases (esp. field courses that involve internships) students can use a particular department-specific internship course (for example, Gender and Women’s Studies 661, “Global Internship in GWS”) or special topics course with a focus on study abroad (for example, Community and Environmental Sociology 400, “Study Abroad in Comm. and Envtl. Soc.”) .

On the bright side, the fact that IAP has approved your course for UW students to complete means that they will help you figure out some kind of equivalency and get the credit back here — it may just take some hassle and not necessarily be your first choice name/number wise.  The worst-case scenario we occasionally see is that IAP is not able to figure out a UW name and number to match what you will do (or did) abroad, and they end up calling the course Study Abroad ### on your transcript (with the ### replaced by one of several actual numbers depending on the difficulty level they assign to the content).

If you get stuck, do contact IAP and your certificate advisor for help.  Your tuition and program fee money pay for that!

Starting and declaring the certificate  Back to top

How do I start completing the certificate?

To start the certificate, simply take one of our core courses or an approved elective (see the Certificate Requirements page for details).  You can take the core courses and electives in any order.  While electives may be more useful to you if you have been able to take one of our core courses first, we have deliberately chosen electives that have enough global health content to stand alone.  We’d also encourage you to see a certificate advisor as early as you can during your time at UW-Madison.

I’m about to begin my senior year and I have a lot of space in my schedule for the coming year — can I still complete the Certificate in Global Health?

We’re happy to have you try, though (as noted elsewhere on this page) you are also encouraged just to take whichever of our requirements you can without stressing about completing the whole thing.   To determine whether or not completing the certificate is possible, you should first check the coursework you have already completed and registered for against our requirements.  Specifically:

  1. Have you taken any of our core courses yet or could you still plausibly fit them in? (You must take a fall-only class and at least one of two spring-only classes.)
  2. Have you completed at least one credit of approved field experience or do you have a plausible plan for completing it? (The most common routes to fill this requirement happen during the summer such that you may need to consider graduating in August rather than May.)
  3. Have you taken or can you still take enough approved electives to bring your total related credits to 15?

If the answer to all of those questions is “yes,” then you may be able to complete the Certificate.  For more specific help, please  contact an advisor.

I want to take one of the core classes for the certificate next semester, but I can’t get in.  What should I do?

If you are a freshman or sophomore, the best advice we can give you is to try to get into an approved elective instead  (see the Certificate Requirements page for details) and wait for your next chance to enroll.  If you are a senior who is trying to complete the certificate during your last year, please talk with a certificate advisor and we’ll see what we can do.  If you are a junior, then you can ask a certificate advisor but whether we are able to get you into the class depends on the particulars of your situation.  In the long run, we hope that the pent-up excitement that existed among upperclassmen when the certificate was first offered (2011) diminishes just a bit so that more freshmen and sophomores can get into our core classes.

What does it mean to declare and how do I do it?

To formally complete the certificate, you must first declare it even if you have done some or all of the required coursework.  Declaring is a not-too-painful and sometimes informative process described here.  To be eligible to declare, you must first complete one of the certificate’s three core courses (see the Certificate Requirements page for details), though you can get advising help as needed before you are eligible.

I filled out a declaration form/course plan with a certificate advisor a while ago, but I don’t see the certificate in my student center.  When will it show up?

Certificate advising staff collect certificate declarations in batches of 10-2o, review them with the certificate’s director, and (if the director approves them) ask CALS administration to work with the Registrar’s Office to get you formally declared.  There are several bureaucratic delays in the system: 1) If your declaration is among the first of a new batch, it may be 1-2 months before we accumulate enough others to get them reviewed and ask CALS to take action (CALS doesn’t like us to declare just one student at a time), 2) if you complete your declaration form with us in April, May, November, or December, all of UW administration is too busy handling paperwork for graduating seniors for us to pass your declaration to them, and 3) UW administration does not process new declarations during the summer (they’re not lazy, but preoccupied with things like SOAR).  If you layer these three factors on top of each other, you can complete a declaration form with us any time from April through August, but we can’t ask to have you officially declared until September, and the certificate will not show up in your student center until late September or early October.  Do feel free at any time to contact your advisor about what’s happening with your declaration.

Are there prerequisites for the certificate or its classes?

The certificate as a whole has no prerequisites.  Population Health Sciences 370 (one of the core classes) does require that you have taken a college-level science class (any science).  Otherwise, there are no prerequisites for the three core courses.  All three are open to freshmen.  However, many possible electives do have prerequisites.

Completing the certificate Back to top

I am planning to graduate in the current semester — how do I complete the certificate?

Please see the “Completing” section of this page.

I just graduated — how soon will the certificate show up on any transcripts I request?

If you met all of our requirements and were told by a certificate advisor that you should be receiving the certificate, it can take anywhere from 4-10 weeks after your graduation date for the certificate to show up on your transcript (the Certificate is part of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, or CALS.  CALS administrators do a final one-by-one review of the DARS audits of graduating students and then ask the Registrar to certify that those students have completed; this takes a while).  Because most students graduate in May, May graduates can expect to wait the longest.

When I’ve completed the Certificate in Global Health, is it possible to get an actual paper certificate, sort of like a diploma?

No, sorry — while we understand that this might be nice, we simply don’t have the time to deal with it.  Keep in mind that even the diploma you get for your bachelor’s degree is not an official document.  In terms of getting into graduate school or proving to an employer that you have a degree (or completed our certificate!), what matters is what’s on your transcript.

DARS Back to top

My DARS audit for the certificate says that I haven’t met a requirement that I think I’ve met. What do I do?

First off, don’t panic!  We’re a fairly new program and our DARS audit doesn’t work very well.  The most common problem we have is that a student completed a field course that ended up with a sort of random or generic name (Social Work 699 or Nutritional Sciences 375, for example) that we never told DARS to accept as a field course.  This problem will never go away entirely, but should occur much less often after spring 2013, when most of our group field courses will use a consistent name (Inter-Ag/Nutritional Sciences 421) that DARS has been told to look for.

Our second most common problem is that our program accepts electives that, for various reasons, we have also not coded into DARS.  This should happen less often after 2013, when we plan to pursue permission to list more courses in our DARS, but it too will never go away completely.

Much less frequently, DARS has an issue with students’ core coursework for the certificate.  This is usually due to a special exception or substitution approved by our executive committee.

To deal with all of these issues in DARS, certificate advisors meet periodically each semester with a CALS administrator to fix DARS audits of students graduating in that semester.  While it would be nice if we could fix your DARS to read properly before your last semester, that’s usually not possible (DARS is complicated, CALS doesn’t let us mess around in it, and we try to bother their administrative staff as little as possible).

The bottom line: if at any time you are in doubt about whether you will be done in time or not, talk to an advisor!

Choosing a major related to global health (or not)  Back to top

What major should I choose to complement a certificate in global health?

Students – especially pre-med students who are trying to position themselves as well as possible to get into medical school – often ask us this question, and there is no single best answer.  Addressing pressing issues in global health will require contributions from engineers, educators, social workers, economists and statisticians, writers and artists of all kinds, farmers and agronomists, and people from almost every other major offered at UW (this is a random example, but one of the most innovative antipoverty initiatives in the world is a set of plays created by an MIT economist and performed in poor rural villages in India by professional Indian actors and musicians).  If there’s a subject you find interesting, pursue it, become really grounded it in, and talk along the way with your professors and with Certificate in Global Health staff about out how your major can connect to global health (and, perhaps, if you’re headed that way, to a career in medicine).    Stanford University has declared its intention to create students with “T-shaped” expertise — students who have extensive background in one area but also enough background in one or two other areas to talk and collaborate productively with experts in those areas.  The base of your T can be whatever major you choose, and global health can be one of the little sticky-outy-bits of expertise you develop on the side.

In case it’s useful, UW’s Cross-College Advising Service has created a guide to undergraduate majors that groups majors into categories like “Helping People,” “Statistically Inclined,” etc.

Questions asked by pre-health students (and sometimes others) Back to top

Is this certificate only for pre-health students?

NO! Global health is about much more than just doctors and medicine, and students from many areas of study can make useful contributions. Non-science majors are encouraged to pursue the Certificate, and we accept students from all schools, colleges, and majors.

Will completing this certificate help me get into the health graduate program of my choice?

We try to track our alumni to see where they go, and even though we only graduated our first students in 2011, we have already had some alums start medical school, MPH degrees, and other related programs.  At present, we don’t know how important our certificate is or was to admissions committees.  In the long-term, we hope to be able to ask that question of admissions committees at UW, if not elsewhere.

How does work in global/public health fit with being pre-med?

There are at least two answers to this question.  One answer assumes that you will prepare for, apply to, and be accepted to medical school.  If that turns out to be the case, then global health training can complement your training as a physician in neat ways.  Most physicians work with individual patients, and some get frustrated at repeatedly seeing people who are sick due to factors (obesity, smoking, exposure to disease vector, etc.) that are more-or-less avoidable.  Often, physicians seeing such patients can only apply band-aids (literally or metaphorically).  If, on the other hand, you have a medical degree and a background in public health, you may be able to both connect to a big picture, creating and overseeing programs that prevent death and disease, and immerse yourself in details, talking with and helping individual patients when your that’s what your program calls for.

The other answer takes into account the fact that most of the undergraduate students who consider themselves pre-med as freshmen will not get into medical school, and more of those who get in to medical school will not finish.  This is not meant to be discouraging, or not very discouraging, anyway — it’s just a fact, and for some people is a useful reality check.  Some people realize before finishing their undergraduate years that they are not cut out to do the work (organic chemistry, calculus, etc.) they are encouraged to do to prepare for medical school.  Others realize that there’s something else they want to do besides medical school, residency, and work in fluorescently-lit hospitals clogged with multiply drug resistant Staph aureus.  Still others don’t know what they want to do but realize that their desire to be a doctor is not actually theirs but is in fact an internalized parental or societal expectation for a respected, well-paid, and readily identified career.  If you find yourself in any one of these groups but still want to address death and disease, global health may allow you to do it in ways that look very different from the day-to-day work of physicians in suburban US hospitals.  The core classes, electives, and field experiences of the Certificate in Global Health should all help you learn about ways to help out in the world that are not medical.

Why study global/public health?  Back to top

What is global health and why should anyone study it?

In a nutshell, public health focuses on prevention and large-scale curative approaches (as compared to the individual curative approach of other medical professions).  Global health is a subset of public health that involves work on both communicable diseases (malaria, HIV/AIDS, etc.) and non-communicable diseases (lung cancer, obesity) that transcend national boundaries and/or are experienced differently or treated differently in different socioeconomic groups.  Here are explanations of the field and the reasons for studying it from different experts:

“The Importance of Global Health,” “Why Study Global Health” and “Health, Public Health, and Global Health,” from Global Health 101, by Richard Skolnik of George Washington University

“Why Rich Countries Should Care About the World’s Least Healthy People,” from an article by Lawrence Gostin in the July 4th 2007  Journal of the American Medical Association.