Name: Kurt Conklin, MPH, MCHES
Department: Public Health
Please list the degrees you have earned and the institutions attended.
- BA – Spanish, Latin American Studies (State University of New York College at New Paltz)
- MA – History (Temple University, Philadelphia)
- MPH (Temple University, Philadelphia)
What was your college experience like?
I was the first person in my family to enroll in college, so I was intimidated and did not have any guidance from home as to how to succeed in my courses. However, this freed me to explore many different areas of study including Spanish, Chinese, world history, religions, anthropology, and women’s studies. So I ended up with a very strong Liberal Arts education.
I also worked at night and on weekends while attending school: I was a truck loader and forklift driver for a warehouse that supplied natural foods to food co-ops in the northeastern U.S.
Did you go to college with the intention of being a professor? If not, how did your path bring you here?
No, I could not have imagined in my wildest dreams that I would become a member of the faculty at a university. My path brought me here because my eventual work in public health, as a trainer of sexuality education professionals, helped me to develop my teaching and research skills.
What is one thing you wish you had known in your undergraduate/graduate career? Why?
I wish I had known earlier, when I was an undergraduate, how to seek and read peer-reviewed research studies. Although SUNY New Paltz gave me an excellent education, most of what we were assigned to read came from books or other materials pre-selected by the instructor; as a result, it was not until later that I got more hands-on experience in doing research. This is a key skill not only for anyone who might one day become a faculty member in a university, but also for anyone who simply wants to have the best possible critical thinking skills as a citizen in society.
What is the best part about being an MSU faculty member?
The students! Our undergraduate and graduate students come from all walks of life and places all over the world. They enrich my experience!
What does a typical day look like for you?
I come to campus, spend time in my office responding to e-mail messages that came in since the prior afternoon, and then review the slides and activities I will use in classes that day in case it makes sense to make some last-minute adjustments. I teach my courses, then come back to the office or go home to begin grading students’ papers, quizzes, and exams.
What are a few of your recent accomplishments?
Teachers College at Columbia University gave me a role as a consultant for a project in which they train school health teachers from around the country to improve their methods of teaching about healthy sexuality. Also, this past summer, I worked with two of our graduate students in public health to conduct observational research on COVID-19 in Perth Amboy, New Brunswick, and Sayreville. The project is trying to see how Latinx residents of those three municipalities are served (or not served) with information and services to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection.
What is your favorite class to teach at MSU? Why?
I teach a course on Immigrant Health in our summer sessions, which I like because many of our students come from immigrant families, so their own personal histories enrich the teaching and learning.
What advice would you give to incoming students in order for them to succeed?
Learn how to write well by reading as much as you can. Read fiction! Read newspapers! The more you are exposed to well-crafted writing, the more you will see what good writing looks like, and the more you will absorb those observations to help strengthen your own writing. As much as we are all tempted to spend time scrolling on Instagram or Twitter, those forms of media take away from time spent reading well-crafted writing, which is an essential skill we still need for today’s workforce.