Factors such as curriculum, faculty and location are key variables that help differentiate between a good master’s degree program and a great one. However, one of the more underrated aspects of graduate work is who you know.
Meeting alumni from your university is important not only because of how valuable a close-knit network of professional friends can be during a job search, but because students can learn from others’ missteps and triumphs. In a sense, successful alumni serve as templates that students can follow for years to come.
Here are some health promotion management (HPM) alumni whom current American University HPM students should know:
Megan Hammes, Class of 2004
In 13 years as manager and now interim director of University of Iowa UI Wellness and its LiveWELL Program, Megan Hammes has had the opportunity to develop, implement and evaluate wellness programming for approximately 18,000 faculty and staff. It’s an investment of time, energy and passion that was shaped, at least in part, by a wealth of learning and experiences from AU’s master’s in Health Promotion Management Program.
“I obtained a lot of practical, hands-on experience during my time at AU,” said Hammes, who has poured her knowledge, talent and training into a program that won UI a 2015 C. Everett Koop National Health Award (Honorable Mention) for outstanding worksite health promotion and improvement programs. In four years, LiveWELL helped increase the percentage of faculty and staff who have “good nutrition” from 50 percent in 2011 to 68 percent in 2016.
“In our field … we often need to explain and articulate in lots of creative ways to make linkages for leaders as to how improved health equals improved culture and performance, which ultimately dictates how well the company is performing,” Hammes said.
She encourages current students to embrace the many advantages of the program in the heart of Washington DC.
“The DC area was just fantastic for having easy access to experts and professionals, and I valued that a lot. Today, I continue to have contact with my former classmates and people who I met during my tenure at AU that have proven to be a very powerful professional network.”
Madeline Fromm, Class of 2013
Before earning a MS degree in health promotion management at AU in 2013, Madeline Fromm worked in Megan Hammes’ office (see above) at the University of Iowa, where she had previously received her bachelor’s degree in health sciences. Madeline is proof that a career path doesn’t have to move slowly.
Madeline began as a public policy specialist for the American Council on Exercise in 2013 and quickly was promoted to engagement program manager earlier this year. Her graduate coursework, along with an array of experiences in DC, helped prepare her for the type of research, analysis, reporting, planning, presentations, communication, education and advocacy she now is responsible for on a regular basis.
Cathy Turner, Class of 1990
After 26 years with Virginia Hospital Center—today serving as director of health promotion and senior health—one could excuse Cathy Turner if her passion for health and wellness had plateaued. However, Turner insists she still loves her role.
“There is no better feeling than when someone tells you that if they had not come to the health fair they would have never known they were diabetic, or because of their screening they made lifestyle changes and it changed their life,” she said.
Turner completed a master’s in health fitness management at AU in 1990, seizing as many opportunities as she could grab along the way.
“One of the most valuable aspects of the program was the opportunity to get practical experience while working at USPS Fitness Center, which was a contract AU’s health promotion program had,” Turner said.
Kelly Serwer, Class of 2009
Kelly Serwer, who earned her MS in HPM in 2009, has built a career in wellness — a career that began at the university level. She transitioned from her bachelor’s program in exercise science at Ithaca College to AU, then immediately entered the workforce as a fitness services manager.
Since then, Kelly has been a program manager and wellness coordinator at a few organizations, and she has been a certified Zumba instructor for nearly six years. Today she is a wellness specialist at CRSA Inc., where she continues to show that education, preparation and networking really do matter.
Are you looking for the right combination of curriculum, networking and community opportunities along your path to a career in health promotion? Learn more about American University’s MS in Health Promotion Management Program.