Nearly 100 students will begin working toward majors in public health this September as part of the University of Michigan School of Public Health’s first undergraduate cohort.

“Our first cohort is quite diverse, representing several U-M schools and colleges as well as transfer students from other institutions,” said Gary Harper, director of the Office of Undergraduate Education and professor of health behavior and health education at SPH.

The public health major is an upper-level program offering Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees.

“What drew me to this program was the opportunity to get a world-class education and have access to so many resources,” said Aya Takai, a junior who transferred to Michigan to major in public health. “The more I researched about public health, the more articles I saw where Michigan was at the forefront of research. I also liked the broad, integrated curriculum and project-based learning in this program.”

After graduation, Takai hopes to go to law school and work in international policy. She says a bachelor’s degree in public health will help prepare her for that career, as health plays a role in many policy issues around the globe.

Undergraduate students will take a variety of courses to build general public health knowledge and develop a broad interdisciplinary approach to the profession. Students choose from two majors — a B.S. in public health sciences or a B.A. in community and global public health. Both majors require a set of integrated core courses with additional requirements that encourage students to explore a breadth of coursework.

“I thought, if I want to go into a health field — regardless of whether I want to go into medicine, dentistry or nursing — majoring in public health would be a good option,” said junior Hussain Ali, a public health sciences major.

Ali came to Michigan as a student in the School of Nursing but then decided he wanted to pursue a career in dentistry. “Public health intersects with preventative health, technology and medicine — all of which are important as a medical professional.”

Expanding degree offerings and other academic opportunities will help meet the rapidly growing need for public health professionals, Harper said.

“With mass retirements only a few years away, demand for public health education is at an all-time high,” he added. “Our new undergraduate program is a significant step toward addressing those tremendous needs.”