Community Engagement Public Health Students

MPH student works toward improving community health

When you follow your interests and passion, the path becomes clear

Rachel Culp sitting on bench on Oregon State campus

By Kathryn Stroppel

Graduate student Rachel Culp is studying public health, health promotion and health behavior, and is the student outreach coordinator for the Coast to Forest mental health program, where she is helping to build an online directory of mental health and substance use resources. She is also supporting a new podcast, Life Upstream, which will launch later this year.

Why are you interested in health promotion and health behavior? What’s your passion?

I originally wanted to work in the health care field, but discovered that while I loved the material I was learning, my passion was for work at the community level rather than the individual level. This realization led me to public health, where I was drawn to health promotion and health behavior because I wanted to learn how to create and implement community-level programming that targets social and behavioral determinants of health. My passions are eating disorder prevention and disability equity.

Why did you choose Oregon State for your MPH and this college?

I chose OSU because I was really drawn to the interdisciplinary emphasis of the Master of Public Health program. I wanted the freedom to tailor my coursework to my career goals, and OSU was the MPH program with the most freedom in electives.

I also completed my undergraduate degree in Oregon and really fell in love with the state, so the location was a big plus!

What difference do you hope to make in people’s health and well-being?

I hope to highlight how health and well-being go beyond the medical model’s idealized version of health. Instead, I want to base my work on the social model, which shifts from the cure-focused emphasis of the medical model to addressing social and environmental factors.

Ultimately, as a disabled person, I hope to make programming more accessible and inclusive for people with disabilities.

“I hope to highlight how health and well-being go beyond the medical model’s idealized version of health.”

Tell me about your role with Coast to Forest. Why did you want to be involved, and what are you learning?

I am a student outreach assistant with Coast to Forest. My work is currently divided between working with communications teams and assisting with the development of a web library of mental health and substance use resources.

I wanted to be involved because I am passionate about mental health and saw the wonderful work C2F has been doing. So far, I have been learning about podcast development and how to create community-facing resource guides.

What’s been the most memorable experience you’ve had during your time at OSU?

My most memorable experience was the public health leadership panel at the end of the H 513 course. The panel included five different professionals who had been working in the field throughout the pandemic. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about how the pandemic has impacted public health, as well as the struggles and successes that happened along the way.

Do you have any advice for students considering the MPH at Oregon State?

Go for it! It’s OK to be nervous and question things a bit. I would also recommend talking to current students and faculty to get to know more about the program and how it can be tailored to your interests.

Anything else you’d like to share?

It’s OK to change your career or academic goals over time!