For Students

Your DrPH Team has developed this resource to help guide you through the identification, development and successful completion of the Field Immersion component of the program during your time in the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health DrPH program.

Exploration   •   Criteria   •   Planning   •   Reflection   •   Deliverables   •   Evaluation   •   Logistics


Applied practice allows students to advance public health work with a different lens, to develop new competencies and to explore one’s identity as it relates to the practice of leadership. Through the Field Immersion component of the DrPH program, students demonstrate advanced public health skills and Enabling Change competencies that translate into effective policies, programs, and initiatives across community, government, private industry or other institutional settings relevant to public health and healthcare.

Learning Goals Reflection Tool

The succession of Field Immersion experiences plays a significant role in the DrPH program. Degree candidates have the opportunity to develop proficiency in each of the core competencies of the program, across a broad range of public health work settings. There should be an explicit focus on strengthening skill sets around the Enabling Change competency domains specific to: leadership, management, communication and innovation.

Leadership behaviors are learned overtime and often require the right stretch. In each immersion experience, students should expect to adapt to new ways of thinking and behaving in the context of working on a strategic, public health project. These real-world experiences will not only provide you with new ways of translating public health research into effective policies, programs and initiatives to improve individual and population health outcomes but also transfer directly to your professional, career goals upon graduation.

Critical Reflection Questions:

  1. Identify your skills and strengths: Think about what you learned in past work experiences. Identify the skills, knowledge, and experiences that you bring to your work for the upcoming Field Immersion experience.
  2. Areas for growth / stretch: What skills would you like to hone, refine and strengthen and how do they relate to the competencies of the program? What do you need to do to grow professionally? Please relate your answers to both the Mastering Foundational Knowledge and the Enabling Change Competencies of the program i.e. Leadership, Management, Communication, and Innovation Thinking. (Review the competencies of the DrPH program)
  3. What is important to you in a work setting: What organizational mission and goals are of interest to you? What would you like your function to be?
  4. Geographic preferences / interests: domestic, international or both?
  5. Craft individual goals and objectives: What do you personally hope to achieve and how will you stretch forward? Before each immersion experience, you should map out your learning goals and objectives around a minimum of 3-5 competencies and think about the ways in which you hope to master your learning in a practice setting.
  6. Investigate the landscape of opportunities and contacts: Identify a network of people who can provide you with information and referrals to those in a position to offer a Field Immersion opportunity that will enhance your development as a public health professional.

Identifying Competencies and Learning Objectives

When planning your Field Immersion and defining the scope and goals of your project, be sure to consider the objectives of the Field Immersion program and how it fits into your Harvard DrPH Doctoral Degree Competencies.

Leadership Development

The Harvard DrPH Field Immersion program is closely intertwined with the Enabling Change program, a curriculum based on the belief that effective, applied, public health practitioners must augment traditional, public health research skills and methodologies with learning how to enable positive change at four levels of application: within themselves, amongst their teams, inside their organizations, and across systems. DrPH candidates engage in programmatic study and field experience, which permit them to develop competencies related to leadership, management, innovation, and communication. Each of these competencies may be deployed by individuals, within teams, and across organizations and large systems. Students who engage and metabolize these competencies will be among those that are most ready to serve as public health leaders.

Networking and Relationship Building

Build confidence and reduce stress by starting early in the year as you embark on exploring pathways to connecting with organizations for Field Immersion or DELTA Doctoral Projects. We encourage you to commit to the practice of reaching out monthly to schedule informational interviews with 1-2 individuals who do the work you’re interested in exploring. Over time, the practice of building social capital through networking will result in connections to interesting individuals who can expand your perceptions about the ever-changing landscape of public health/healthcare career opportunities.

  • Attend university-wide events, local and national conferences and workshops.
  • Participate in Career Advancement Employer and Skill Building Events.
  • Meet with your academic advisor, DrPH Program staff and HSPH Faculty in your fields of interest.
  • Use the DrPH LinkedIn Platform to connect with the previous experience of peers and alumni of the program.
  • Research and identify organizations and individuals of interest and send outreach communication.

You must be able to communicate clearly and succinctly your experience, interest and motivations in relation to the mission and work of the organization you are approaching.  In any introductory email communication, be sure to include your updated CV/Resume, 3-4 bullet points for discussion, and your interests as they align with the work of the person or organization.

Consider the following questions for reflection: What work/projects align with your learning and curiosity? How do you develop new skills to bring the learning forward? What work/sector will challenge you to move outside of your comfort zone?

Be sure to seek out influential and qualified individuals committed to providing supervision and mentorship during your field based experience.

Identify opportunities to co-design mutually rewarding projects and leadership development opportunities that: (1) are strategically relevant to the organization, (2) align with your interest and areas for growth and (3) meet the criteria for the Field Immersion requirement.

Keep track of the connections you make and be sure to circle back to folks with updates and thank you emails.

For additional information visit the Harvard Chan School Office of Career Advancement and their Networking Guide.

Host Organization and Project Criteria

The scope of a Field Immersion project should be more than an opportunity for additional work experience. Applied practice allows students to advance public health work with a different lens, to develop new competencies and to explore one’s identity as it relates to the practice of leadership. The projects should be designed with the organization’s priorities in mind and where the student can take on principal responsibility, work with others in the organization, have access to leaders and exposure to high level decision making and should require a significant contribution and completion of a critical deliverable that will allow for the advancement of the student’s learning goals and the organization’s mission. Projects completed and recommendations made by DrPH students are high quality, innovative and provide critical value to organizations.


Developing a Learning Plan

The Learning Plan serves to guide the DrPH candidate through the Field Immersion experience and is also the basis for assessing field performance. The Harvard DrPH program requires learning plans to make explicit the expected outcomes of the Field Immersion experience as tied to the professional goals of the student and program. The content of the learning plan, including start/end date, location and full-time, work hours is created in collaboration between the student and the host organization field supervisor and should align organizational needs and projects, the students learning goals, and additional leadership and management professional development opportunities. Learning plans should be completed one-two months prior to the Field Immersion experience, signed by the student and supervisor, and submitted for final approval to the Harvard DrPH Program. The Learning Plan may be modified, if needed, during the Field Immersion experience.

The following are the requirements for each Field Immersion period:


Students are encouraged to keep a learning portfolio comprised of several reflective writing assignments that document their learning throughout their time in the program, specifically through the Enabling Change Course and Field Immersion/Experiential Learning components of the program. The process of analyzing and reflecting critically on one’s leadership development through field-based learning experiences fosters the transition from academic learning to professional development.  Specifically, critical writing encourages students to explore in greater depth and learn from events, experiences, situations or new information, as it necessitates analytical and focused thinking.

Field Immersion Deliverables

Harvard DrPH students will be responsible for completing several deliverables following each Field Immersion/Experiential Learning experience: (1) three-five page reflection papers, (2) individual and group presentations in the return reflection session, (3) participation in poster sessions and (4) completion of evaluation surveys of each Field Immersion experience.


Shortly after the Field Immersion begins, the program emails or calls both the student and supervisor to check-in, offer support and confirm the placement is off to a good start. The program recommends a mid-immersion review between the supervisor and student and sends a reminder communication to the supervisor with a guide to encourage the scheduling of a review with the student; the purpose of this meeting is to discuss the placement experience to date and to share constructive feedback on the student’s performance.

Prior to closing out the experience, we recommend the supervisor and student meet to discuss the completion of project objectives and to discuss an overall evaluation of the student and his/her contribution to the organization. This aligns with the standard practice of providing employees, in this case the student, with the experience of a performance evaluation

At the conclusion of the placement, students receive a Field Immersion Evaluation as a mechanism for self-assessment and to provide feedback on the placement to the program.  Supervisors are also asked to evaluate the student’s performance and provide feedback to the program.  The Harvard DrPH faculty and staff will provide overall supervision of the Field Immersion activities including the approval of learning agreements, check-ins and evaluation follow-up.

Students are evaluated and graded on the achievement of defined learning objectives and deliverables to the program and host organization. As part of each Field Immersion experience, students reflect on and evaluate their overall practice experiences, particularly as they relate to their academic and professional goals. The course instructor reviews required deliverables and evaluations completed by students and host organizations to provide a grade. Every Field Immersion experience is graded on a pass/fail basis.


Financial Compensation

In the past, limited support has been available for Winter 1 and Summer 2 Field Immersion; however, at this time, the Harvard DrPH program cannot make any commitments regarding financial support to students. Students can independently seek additional funding from a variety of fellowships and awards from both Harvard University and external, third-party sources.

Health and Safety in the Field

Pre-Departure Travel Orientation

The Harvard Chan School is holding a pre-departure orientation travel session for students on Monday Nov 7 from 5.30 – 7.30 in Kresge G-1. This session is mandatory for any student traveling internationally for practicums, Field Immersion, winter session trips, independent study and any school business.

Harvard Travel Registry

Students are required to register their travel before undertaking Field Immersion international travel. Be sure to enter your lodging, transportation and emergency contact information in the Harvard Travel Registry. Students will also want to register with the embassies of their countries of citizenship. In an emergency, Harvard Travel Assist, which is available worldwide, will provide you with medical referrals, security advice, emergency evaluation and repatriation. Before you go, visit: Harvard Travel Tools.

Health Insurance

All students traveling on Harvard sponsorship are required to have health insurance. While Harvard Travel Assist provides access to medical and travel assistance services, it does not provide health insurance coverage. So students need to talk with their health insurance companies about coverage abroad.

Safety and Security

Before departure, familiarize yourself with current information on health and medical facilities, as well as personal safety and security at your destination. Carefully consider your safety when arranging local lodging and transportation. The following are helpful resources in addition to Harvard Global Support Services.

U.S. State Department Travel Warnings

U.S. State Department Country Specific Information

Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC)

Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

Travel Safety Questionnaire

If you’re traveling to high-risk regions with Harvard sponsorship, you’re required to complete the following steps. These steps are also recommended for all travelers to high-risk regions, whether or not the travel is sponsored by Harvard: (1) typically one month prior to travel, submit a Travel Safety Questionnaire to our International Safety and Security team. Harvard Global Support Services will share your questionnaire with the designated School official, Stacey Herman; (2) depending on the travel, we may request a follow-up consultation, usually a brief phone call; and (3) based on our recommendations and in consultation with you and any involved faculty, the designated School official may require additional safety measures and/or trip adjustments as a condition of receiving Harvard funding, credit, or other sponsorship. In exceptional cases where appropriate risk mitigation is found too costly or impractical; this may have the effect of deferring or canceling the trip.

Travel Waiver and Release

Every student undertaking a Field Immersion, either domestically or internationally, is required to submit an assumption of risk, general release form and travel waiver to the Assistant Director of Field Practice. The program’s administrator will distribute this document to you before the travel period.


Visit a travel clinic or doctor for a pre-travel health consultation, including any specialists, at least one month before travel. Depending on health risks for each particular destination, students will need to factor in time to take single or multi-dose vaccinations.

Work with Human Subjects

DrPH candidates who are conducting research with human subjects while abroad should refer to the IRB website. Research with human participants includes not only medical or biological but also surveys, interviews and records review. Prior approval from IRB is required and the review process can take at least 1 month. Students should check with the organization of interest to inquire whether they have IRB approval for the proposed work. Please consult with the Assistant Director of Field Practice or the Assistant Director for Regulatory Affairs and Research Compliance, Alyssa Speier, at for further assistance.

International Students

All international students completing a Field Immersion in the United States, must obtain work authorization from the Harvard International Office before the start of this experience.  Please note that the Harvard International Office recommends appropriate work authorization regardless of whether or not you will be paid by the host organization. Elizabeth Capuano, the HIO advisor for HSPH, holds office hours for HSPH students and scholars in Kresge most Thursdays.