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Spotlight on Walden // Jan 16, 2013

Meet a Graduate: Krystal Kirkland, MPH

Krystal Kirkland is looking forward to Walden’s commencement celebration and hearing her name called as she walks across stage on Jan. 19 at the James L. Knight Center in Miami. She graduated in November 2012 with her Master of Public Health (MPH) and has already re-enrolled at Walden in pursuit of her dream—obtaining her PhD.

“I was very excited about the completion of my program and wanted to continue with my PhD in Public Health while I had the drive, determination, and enthusiasm to do so,” said Krystal when asked why she re-enrolled so quickly.

As a 15-year career veteran in social services, Krystal was looking for a change. Going back to school for both her M.P.H. and doctorate provides her not only with the opportunity to advance in the public health field but also the opportunity to make a difference in our nation’s healthcare. Prior to heading to Miami for graduation, Krystal shared with Spotlight on Walden her career goals and how her education is helping her make a difference.

You mentioned you were looking for a career change. How is pursuing a higher degree making a difference in your career?

My goal is to work for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). I knew in order to meet my goal I needed to increase my level of education to be considered a potential candidate for a highly competitive position. My education is already having an impact on my career as I have had several interviews in the public health field as a result of obtaining my MPH.

How do you hope to make a difference in our nation’s healthcare?

It is important to me that the threat of childhood obesity be eliminated. Obese children can turn into obese adults who have chronic diseases. If we can implement interventions at an early age and help get them on the right track, we can keep those children from becoming future patients with chronic diseases. I was fortunate during my practicum experience to have had the opportunity to work with the Coastal Health District’s Public Health Ambassadors program. My project focused on implementing First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative in my current city of Savannah, Ga. I participated in key informant interviews and conducted a community health assessment utilizing the CDC’s Community Health and Group Evaluation (CHANGE) tool. As a future public health leader, I know our children are our future. It is important that we focus on implementing healthier food choices, healthier habits of physical activities, and addressing healthcare disparities throughout our communities.

What kept you motivated to continue with your education?

My parents have always been big advocates of education. I am the middle of three children and the only one so far who has completed college and received both a bachelor’s and master’s degree. My family played a huge role in motivating me to continue and achieve my goal. There were a few times where I wasn’t sure I could finish, especially with working full time, but knowing how proud they are of me and how excited they will be to watch me get my degree kept me going. Both my parents and husband will be at commencement and watch me cross that stage!

What’s one piece of advice you would give a prospective student who is considering returning to school to pursue an advanced degree?

Go forward. Walden provided me with the flexibility and convenience I needed as a working adult. I was able to pursue my education while working, even when I spent time as a contract worker in Afghanistan. Your degree will open doors, like the MPH has opened doors for me.