If alum Barbara Josma had started her new job any closer to earning her Master of Public Health, she practically would have accepted the offer while still wearing a cap and gown.

In fact, within weeks of completing graduate school, Barbara began her new role as an infection preventionist and staff developer at a rehabilitation and healthcare center in Florida.

“I was blessed enough to get a job right out of grad school, doing exactly what I learned, doing exactly what my projects were,” Barbara says. “It went from doing class projects to realizing everything made sense because I was doing the same things, but in real life now.”

Prior to accepting the new position, Barbara had earned a BA in Health and Human Services at Ashford and also worked as a registered nurse**. However, she knew grad school was in her future, either to enter the field of public health or to become a nurse practitioner.

“With a public health degree, I get to deal with my community, I get to develop plans, and I get to implement them and incorporate them,” she says. “That’s what drew me into the field.”

As one of the first graduates of Ashford’s public health program, Barbara found the experience in the program to be fulfilling, noting that she received support from the instructors, the department chair, and her advisor. 

“I wasn’t ever left hanging!” she exclaims.

Today, Barbara is busy settling in at her new job and dealing with the extra layer of work that comes from dealing with an infectious disease like Coronavirus. One of her responsibilities is to track trends regarding employees who are positive and implement safety controls to keep positive rates down in the facility.

A mother of four children who worked full-time as a nurse while attending college, Barbara acknowledges that it took a dedicated combination of time management and organization to successfully earn her Master of Public Health degree. 

“There were moments where I felt like I wanted a break, where it got overwhelming or felt like too much,” she says. “But when I look back on the purpose and reasons why I decided to do this, it kept me going.”

The most motivating part? Getting to her last two classes in the program and realizing that yes, she had done it. Her master’s was finally in sight. 

“It is a lot of work, but when you put your mind to it, you can actually accomplish it,” she recognizes. “I learned so much while I was in the program that I wasn’t aware of. I became aware of my community, resources that are available, and even diseases that, despite my being a nurse, were ones that I wasn’t thinking about. Diseases that can have huge domino effects when not treated correctly.”

That’s not all she learned.

Barbara also discovered an unintended benefit to getting her degree online. She was uniquely prepared to help her own children (ages 17, 15, 13, and 9) make the switch to virtual school in 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic. “It’s been an adjustment, but then again, it’s not, because I’m so used to the online environment,” says explains. “When I was doing my homework, they were doing their homework. It’s always been like that.”

Although one of the family’s favorite activities to do together – traveling – has been sidelined by the pandemic, they still find time to hang out and enjoy having fun closer to home. Eventually she hopes to start exploring the world again and take her family on some international adventures, but until then, they spend time cooking, exercising, and just spending time together. 

Although she’s freshly graduated, Barbara says she has no plans to stop educating herself. In the next five years, she envisions getting even more involved in the public health realm. 

“I’m always interested in learning and seeing how I can better use my sources to further my career,” she explains. “I never had any doubts about getting into public health and always had it in mind as something I would love to do.”

*Ashford University is now the University of Arizona Global Campus.

**Applicants to this program must have earned a nursing (hospital) diploma or Associate’s degree in Nursing from a regionally accredited or approved nationally accredited college or university including the following coursework or equivalent: Microbiology (with lab). Applicants must possess an active, unrestricted license to practice as a Registered Nurse or its equivalent in at least one U.S. state. All students must maintain this licensure throughout the program of study. Failure to do so will result in dismissal from the program. Students are responsible for informing Ashford of any change to the status of their RN license. In addition, Ashford may perform routine, periodic validations of student RN licenses to ensure compliance with this requirement.

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