East Tennessee State University’s College of Public Health has received a notable award for implementing innovative curriculum through an exceptional program.

Mike Stoots

The 2017 Delta Omega award for Innovative Public Health Curriculum was presented to Dr. Mike Stoots, professor and Undergraduate Coordinator in the ETSU College of Public Health, for his creative approach to course study through “Project EARTH: An Innovation in Education and an Education in Innovation.”

Led by Dr. Stoots at ETSU’s Valleybrook campus, Project EARTH (Employing Available Resources to Transform Health) works to prepare the public health students to confront and solve any crises they may face in their field of work by providing them with skills, knowledge, and hands-on work they require.

“The way I implement my teaching is very hands-on,” states Dr. Stoots. “I also push teamwork, problem-solving, and creativity in my curriculum. It’s so beneficial, because this type of thinking doesn’t stop once they graduate. It’s something they carry with them outside of the University and bring to their careers.”

Project EARTH consists of three different parts: ESSENTIALS, VILLAGE, and SKILLS. The ESSENTIALS (Essential Skills, Strategies, and Expertise Necessary To Improve and Advance Low-resource Settings) component is for undergraduate Public Health students, and targets teaching students the ability to adapt in low-resource areas. The Niswonger VILLAGE, which launched this past Spring, grants students the opportunity to put their skills to the test and apply them in real-life scenarios. SKILLS (Short-term Knowledge, Immersion Learning, and Leadership Skills) is a half- to multi-day experience open to the public. People learn skills such as agriculture, first aid, and group problem-solving.

“It’s amazing to see the way people interact and open up in these situations,” Dr. Stoots said. “For example, a lot of females are told they can’t do certain things in hands-on situations. Out here, they’re taught these skills, implement them, and their confidence sky rockets. Then, they take these skills, thinking processes, and confidence back to the classroom with them.”

The Delta Omega Award for Innovative Public Health Curriculum was created to applaud the students and faculty members who work to bridge the gap between public health academia and practice through their creative take on curriculum. Project EARTH has grown tremendously since the program began 4 years ago, and there are big plans in store for its future.