When Greg Budney, MPH’11 completed his capstone course during his undergraduate program at Butler University in public relations, he began to think he might have chosen the wrong career path.
“At Butler, you had to run a public relations campaign, and my client was the Butler University Health Center,” Budney said. “They wanted to understand if eligible students would take the Gardasil HPV vaccine if offered, and if interest was high, to do an informational campaign encouraging students to take the vaccine offered at the Health Center. It allowed me to tie my formal training in public relations to my interest in science. After that, it took some time for me to find the MPH program, but when I did, I applied immediately.”
Budney encourages students and alumni with nontraditional paths seeking education and a career in public health to leverage the communication skills and confidence gained from their journey to impact the field.
“I always thought that I had an advantage over some of the science students. I was formally trained in communication and understood how to write in a non-scientific manner, but I understood the science because of my public health education. This has helped me acknowledge the data and communicate it in a meaningful way to community members and leaders.”
Budney believes interdisciplinary training is critical in public health. It has helped him and his colleagues tremendously in the messaging shared to encourage mask usage and vaccine uptake.
Reflecting on his time as a student, Greg recalls the advice he received from Professor Gregory Steele, who encouraged him to search for jobs with titles beyond “epidemiologist” and to understand the total value they gain as a student.
“While I’m technically an epidemiologist at Denver Public Health, I’m also a project manager. Students should look for positions with titles like project manager, data analyst, informaticist, or biostatistician.”
Budney also encourages students to emphasize what they have learned beyond their classroom experiences when applying for positions. “When students manage multiple classes, you have to shift gears and learn multiple things at once. The program is also an education in balancing competing priorities and time management to get everything done. You learn at a very foundational level how to carry a caseload.”
During his time as a student, Greg met one of his future supervisors, who served as a guest speaker in one of his classes. Several months after graduating, Greg saw a position was open on a job board. He reached out directly to that individual, introduced himself, reflected on the information shared by the speaker, and connected with them before applying for the position.
“Once I applied for the position, I emailed the supervisor directly and exchanged communication about my interest in the position, my classes, and my experience. And while it can be scary to email an alum or guest speaker, emailing about a job with someone you have a tangential relationship with is important because otherwise, how will they know who you are? Sometimes you hear back, and sometimes you don’t. But if you’re able to somehow connect it to how you might know them or where you might have seen a presentation of theirs, that enhances the communication you have with them. You can always find some little kernel or nugget that you can lean on to make the communication easier.”
Greg encourages students and alumni to stay connected to the school and each other. He is very open to networking with undergraduates to speak about how he got to where he is.
“I know a lot of people are always scared to reach out to alums. One of the biggest [concerns] I get on career panels is students or young alums feeling like they don’t have the skills and experience needed for a position. I’ll ask them to pump the brakes for a moment and ask them if they manage a personal budget, showing those skills transfer to managing a grant budget as well as other opportunities to transfer skillsets. I’m always happy to share little tips and tricks like that with students.”
Budney believes that it’s all about leaning on networks and staying connected to the school as alumni to not only share with others but also to improve consistently.
“I still occasionally connect to career advisors from past institutions. I believe alumni and students should use these resources as students and after graduation. In some ways, it helps everyone. The career advisor may need me to speak at a career panel but can also provide me some updated industry tricks for my resume.”