Bringing community to the classroom

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School of Public Health (SPH) adjunct instructor Melissa Oden has found a unique way to bring real-world perspectives to her students’ work in the Maternal and Child Health MPH degree program.

As students wrapped up the spring semester in Dr. Oden’s Human Sexuality and Health class last month, they shared their final presentations with community judges representing non-profit, health care, educational and other related organizations. Judges helped evaluate and recommend grades based on the ideas presented, professionalism, research and impact of the projects.

Topics ranged from the prevalence and risks of “sexting” and its relation to other high-risk sexual behaviors, the effects of body image on sexual health among adolescents, breaking the cycle of intergenerational teen pregnancy, revenge porn and the weaponizing sex in digital form, and sexual health of youth in foster care.

Business entrepreneur Sue Wallace, one of the judge panelists, said she was “fascinated to hear the students’ views on several difficult topics regarding human sexuality.”

“I was impressed by their brilliant minds in addressing these tough subjects,” Ms. Wallace noted. “I applaud Dr. Oden for helping to open their thought processes and assist and challenge them to ‘think outside the box’ when addressing these critical issues that face our societies today.”

Jorge Urby from Parkland Health and Hospital System, Dallas, stressed the importance of this class “because it exposes students to a topic that many people find taboo but that needs to be discussed and understood better.”

“Giving presentations in front of a panel of professionals is a great learning experience for students,” Urby noted, “especially since they will be doing more of that as they continue with their career trajectory.”

In addition to serving as an adjunct instructor in the SPH Department of Behavioral and Community Health, Dr. Oden is the school’s Public Health Practice Experience Liaison.

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