Ashley Vaughn


ashley vaughn

Ashley Vaughn, MPH '21

Oregon State University

Health Promotion and Health Behavior

Ask Ashley about the Oregon State MPH program.

   Ask Ashley

Why did you choose Oregon State University to pursue your MPH degree?

As a first generation college student, the resources that a program offers for students like me were critical in my decision. Ultimately, the graduate tuition waiver incentive that was offered to McNair Scholar alumni at OSU solidified my choice to attend this program. However, in addition to finances, the variety of resources that help students succeed once they begin the program were also influential. From the Graduate Writing Center and the Academic Success Center, to the Career Center, there are many individuals on campus who are invested in my success and wellbeing.

What was your most memorable experience in the MPH Program?

Making it through H513 and really feeling like there we were all in this together for the remainder of the program.The most memorable experience in the MPH program was the mentorship and guidance that I received from my faculty advisor. I felt supported and that she was invested in my success. All opportunities that I was able to find in this program stemmed from an encouragement or recommendation from my advisor.

If you were to recommend the MPH at Oregon State to a close friend, what would you tell them?

While OSU may not have the name association that other programs have, the education that you will receive in the HPHB program is exceptional. I'm leaving the program with tangible skills and a large network which I greatly attribute to the faculty in this program.

What were the most impactful 2 or 3 courses that you took during your MPH program? Why were they impactful?

The first course would be HHS 550: Communicating for Public Health Policy Impact. As we have seen during the pandemic, the ability to communicate is critical to the success of public health interventions. This course gives a hands-on approach to ensure MPH grads have the skills necessary to conduct effective public health communication, with a focus on advancing a public health policy. The next course would be H564: Computing Tools and Health Data. As a HPHB student, data management and analysis isn't a core component of our courses. That being said, in my opinion, these skills still remain a necessary component of a public health worker's toolkit. This course helped me develop a solid foundation in R and SAS which I could build upon on my own later.

What advice would you give current MPH students to get the most out of their program?

1) Don't be afraid to ask for what you want and need. This is your program. What classes are you the most interested in? Don't be afraid to go outside of the Public Health Department to find classes if what we are offered doesn't satisfy a goal that you have. 2) For me, focusing on skills rather than content helped me leave with a stronger portfolio. Qualitative data collection and analysis, data visualizations, GIS, these are all important skills that I learned during my time in the program that directly led to career opportunities.

How did you maintain study-work-life balance during school, and what advice do you have in this regard to current students?

I think often when we talk about work-life balance, we talk about self-care. However, I think it's important to recognize that community-care is just as important. Find your people in grad school. Whether this is a group of friends, an affinity group, family...ask yourself who you can turn to in order to stay in balance. My next piece of advice will sound really hard and definitely wasn't always possible for me but: take weekends off. I saw a tweet from Yale Doctoral Candidate Ambre DromGoole (@AmbreLynae) and her advice was so great, I tried to incorporate it into my routine. When I sought to take weekends off, I was much more efficient during the week. Of course, working 20-40 hours per week on top of school sometimes meant that was impossible. But whenever it was possible I tried to make it work. Learning how to place boundaries between my personal and work time has continued to serve me post-graduation. Set the boundaries that are possible for you and stick to them.

Which clubs, organizations, and/or activities would you recommend to current students?

I was an Oregon Summer Fellow with the Center for Public Service at Portland State University during the summer between my first and second year. This opportunity opened up many doors and I would recommend it to other students. Additionally, I received a grant through the Northwest Center for Public Health Practice to study attitudes towards HPV vaccination in college students. This is another great opportunity for MPH students to conduct research. Finally, our cohort played intramural together before the pandemic. Our Hoopin' for Health basketball team was a great stress reliever!

What is the best part of your current job?

As an instructor, working with students is the best part about this work. The world can feel so heavy, but students always seem to be bringing fresh perspectives that inspire me to keep moving forward. As a public health professional, working with people across many different sectors —housing, education, primary care, social work and health information technology — to come up with solutions is the best part about the work. When the opportunity to become an instructor arose, it felt like this position was made just for me. Not only do I get to continue working within public health, I also get to teach! Having the opportunity to help develop the future public health workforce by combining two of my passions — teaching and public health — seemed like too good of an opportunity to pass up.

What resources did you find most helpful during your job search?

The resources that I found most helpful during my job search were: my advisor, Tonya Johnson the Internship Coordinator, the emails from Amanda highlighting openings, and the book You Don't Have to Be A Doctor By Jeffrey Oxendine.

What advice would you give current students as it relates to the job search?

Don't be afraid to put yourself out there. Informational interviews and networking were key to the opportunities that I found. Attend the Oregon Public Health Association's Annual Conference as well as the APHA Annual Conference. Scholarships are available for students. Before you arrive, write down a list of questions that you can pull from to ask those who are in public health. Find someone who has a job that you may be interested in and ask them what the day to day is like. People always seem happy to share their experiences.