Zach Harris can see himself working as an executive in a health care system. He has already made Portland Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 list when he oversaw ambulatory operations for Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon.
Now, he’s an administrator in charge of ambulatory services at Queen’s Health Systems in Honolulu, Hawaii, the state’s largest private employer.
To make it to the C-suite, Zach is pursuing a Master of Public Health degree online from Oregon State University – the same university where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees that helped launch his career.
“I stayed with Oregon State because of the quality experiences I had and the education I’ve been able to use my entire life,” he says.
“I wanted to make sure that I got a high-quality experience instead of going fast and just pushing through a program. Oregon State has brand equity.”
Zach was accepted into six Master of Public Health programs. Oregon State Ecampus was his first choice because of the competitive cost and the program’s reputation. The online MPH is offered by OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences, which was the first college of its kind in Oregon to be accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health.
“I wanted to make sure that I got a high-quality experience instead of going fast and just pushing through a program,” Zach says. “Oregon State has brand equity.”
He earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Oregon State in 2007 and an MBA in entrepreneurship from OSU’s College of Business, finance and management in 2010. After working in the health care field for 10 years, pursuing a second master’s degree has become the means to achieving his professional goals.
Oregon State’s online MPH degree gives students the skills, knowledge and credentials to be industry leaders.
“It is very evident that population and public health are key to the effective delivery of health care,” Zach says. “Being able to help a health system implement population health services will make me more marketable in the field.”
He took his first Ecampus online class in 2005, when he was an offensive lineman for the Oregon State football team. Back then, Zach didn’t even own a computer and used one in a dorm lobby. Since then, there’s been a major shift in the delivery of education to online, and he has adapted with it.
He communicates with his instructors and classmates by email, text and phone, and he uses Oregon State’s online learning portal, Canvas, to constantly stay engaged. He has used video to participate in a class debate and interview the head of a nonprofit working on AIDS advocacy in Brazil.
“Technology is now second-nature,” he says. “Everything is happening online.”
Zach balances his work responsibilities, overseeing 200 employees and a $70 million budget, with his studies. Oregon State’s Master of Public Health program provides a great deal of personal support to students, with regular guidance from faculty, advisors and an internship coordinator.
To complete the degree’s internship requirement, Zach plans to create an evidence-based intervention at work through Queen’s Health Systems’ native Hawaiian health program.
While pursuing his second master’s degree, he has been able to continue the activities he enjoys, including spending time with his girlfriend and learning to surf and paddle board. He also enjoys the flexibility to complete his coursework in a part-time capacity without sacrificing his career.
Zach is on track to complete the 60-credit Master of Public Health program in spring 2021. The advice his father gave him is the same advice he shares with anyone considering career advancement by earning a master’s degree online.
“Don’t let it stress you out,” he says. “You get out of the program what you put into it.”