For Host Organizations

Are you, or is someone in your organization, interested in hosting a Harvard DrPH student who can make a meaningful impact at your organization? If so, please take a moment to familiarize yourself with the Field Immersion Program. The Harvard DrPH Team has developed this resource to help guide you through the process of identifying doctoral talent, developing a scope of work and meeting the overall requirements of the DrPH Field Immersion Program.  If you have any questions about the program or a potential partnering opportunity, please contact us at

Overview   •   Host Organization Criteria   •   Benefits   •   Role of Supervisor
Project Criteria   •   Learning Plans   •   Finances • Finances   •   Current & Past Host Organizations


Field Immersions are an integral part of the uniquely designed Harvard DrPH Program. The program seeks to ensure that candidates have experiences to execute strategic public health projects while collaborating with senior public health practitioners as a way to develop and demonstrate advanced public health and leadership competencies in real life.

The curriculum includes three stages of Field Immersion/Experiential Learning over the course of the degree program:

Winter Year 1: January Team-Based (facilitated and funded, 3 weeks)

Summer Year 2: Individual or Small Team (full time, 8-10 weeks)

Winter Year 2: Experiential Learning and DELTA Doctoral Project Preparation (3 weeks)

The program shares the responsibility with students for identifying organizational partners interested in hosting doctoral students for Field Immersion. The educational experience requires students to research potential sites, network with public health agencies / organizations, and arrange meetings or calls to design learning opportunities that support their own individual learning goals in the application of the program’s advanced Enabling Change competencies.

Host Organization Criteria

We seek long-term collaboration with a broad range of international and domestic organizations and individuals who are leaders in the field and invested in the professional development of public health professionals. Host organizations can expect DrPH students to contribute to high-impact projects and frameworks around organizational capacity, service delivery, and, ultimately, consumer and public health outcomes. Organizations can be NGO’s, for-profits, or government, either US domestic or international. Specifically, we are looking to build relationships with cross-sector organizations that are:

  •  Influential in the public health or healthcare arenas.
  • Invested in the value and purpose of the experiential student learning experience in a real-world environment.
  • Complex enough to provide purposeful and challenging opportunities that tie to the curriculum and experiential modules of the degree. Specifically, learning and exposure for the student should focus on the program’s Enabling Change Competencies that include Leadership, Management, Communication and Innovation.
  • Committed to identifying a supervisor and providing strong mentorship to the student during their experience.

Benefits to the Organization

Hosting Harvard DrPH students is mutually beneficial for the student and organization. In addition, your investment in the leadership expansion of the public health workforce not only contributes significantly to the success of your organization but also to the public health arena overall. Some of these benefits include:

  • Students who can help to expand and contribute to the mission of your organization’s profile.
  • Execute on a scope of public health work that is strategically significant and fills a void within your organization.
  • Increase your in-house staff mentoring and leadership skills by hosting a student.
  • Extra resources to your organization potentially at a cost lower than hiring a full-time employee.
  • Serve as a pipeline for for Harvard talent to your organization.
  • Affiliate with knowledge and resources at Harvard.

Role of the Field Supervisor / Professional Mentor

In partnership with the school or student, the organization should identify a qualified supervisor/professional mentor, with an advanced degree in the following areas: public health, medicine or other related field with significant public health experience, to oversee the strategic projects in which the student is engaged and provides ongoing feedback.  The supervisor should agree to the following expectations:

  • Engage in a conversation to develop an onboarding plan with the student prior to his/her arrival.
  • Provide an orientation to the setting, procedures and policies, guidelines around safety and security, and access to appropriate professional development opportunities located within the organization.
  • Meet weekly with and advise the student in developing his/her identified public health skills and leadership capacity and provide the student with exposure to senior leaders in action, and strategic and fiscal considerations that influence the organization.
  • Sign a Field Immersion Learning Plan completed in collaboration with the student and submit to the Harvard DrPH Program for approval.
  • Approximately halfway through a student’s field immersion, he/she is required to set up a meeting with his/her supervisor to discuss progress thus far. The goal of this meeting is to set aside time for a formal check-in to revisit the Learning Agreement and to make sure everything is going according to plan.
  • Willingness to communicate with the Harvard DrPH Program for occasional check-ins during the student’s experience.
  • Provide the school with an evaluation of the student’s performance at the conclusion of the Field Immersion. The survey allows for a description of the student’s overall performance and quality of deliverables.

Past Host Organizations Laud the Field Immersion Experience

“I highly recommend it! We greatly appreciated Jeff’s contribution to a significant project of ours and we were all impressed with how he hit the ground running based on prior work experience and training-this is a substantially different experience than a traditional summer internship with people who have less experience and are in an earlier phase of their studies.”

“Tiffany’s evaluation helped us better plan and manage our field projects, and inspired the development of initiatives to improve our operational efficiency. From day one, we were very impressed with the caliber of the applicants and were thrilled to be able to work with Tiffany. She proved to be an asset to our organization, with a mature, competent approach to solving the day-to-day challenges that often arise in working in the field. We’d be more than happy to work with DrPH students and Tiffany in future.

See the full interviews with Nathan Blanchett of Results for Development (R4D) and Rebecca Hope of YLabs for more about their experiences hosting DrPH students on their DELTA Doctoral Projects.

Criteria for Field Immersion Multi-Level Projects

The scope of a Field Immersion project should be more than an opportunity for additional work experience. 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.

Examples of possible Field Immersion Projects:

  • Research and assess the challenges in addressing a particular health problem;
  • Develop sector-based guidance for impact measurement;
  • Design a strategic plan for use of assets and resources (public libraries, hospitals, faith-based organizations, academic institutions, federal grants, fellowship programs) to improve health in a community;
  • Lead the measurement of key business and health outcomes and design strategies for improvement;
  • Create a public health advocacy or advertisement campaign;
  • Assess the impact of health systems on population health outcomes.
  • Review & recommendations for drug innovation policy;
  • Financing services of children’s mental health services;
  • Analyze, develop and recommend an organizational structure that leads to new pathways or solutions to existing problems or inefficiencies;
  • Develop a formalized training assessment tool and plan to address specific needs of an organization;
  • Develop a financial or business plan for a new community program or service.

Field Immersion Learning Agreement

The Learning Agreement serves to guide the doctoral student through the Field Immersion experience and is also the basis for assessing field performance.  We require learning agreements 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 agreement 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 agreements 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 Agreement may be renegotiated, if needed, during the Field Immersion experience.

While working with host organizations, the students are expected to function as professionals at all times, and are responsible for all projects outlined in the Learning Agreement. Students are required to schedule a meeting with their field supervisor approximately halfway through their practicum for a Midpoint Review.  The purpose of this meeting is for the supervisor and student to check-in formally on the progress of the students’ work at that point.


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-summer review between the supervisor and student and sends a reminder communication with a guide to the supervisor to encourage the scheduling of a mid-point review with the student. The purpose for these meetings is to discuss the placement experience to date and to share constructive feedback on the student’s performance.

At the conclusion of the placement, students and supervisors receive a Field Immersion Evaluation as a mechanism to understand the student’s performance and feedback on the placement to the program.

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.  Harvard DrPH Program staff will provide overall supervision of the field immersion activities including the approval of learning agreements, check-ins and evaluation follow-up.

Financial Compensation for Students

The program does not provide funding to students for the Summer 2 or Winter Session 2 Field Immersion experiential learning experiences. However, when possible, Harvard DrPH Program faculty and staff is happy to work with employers to determine a form of compensation beneficial to both the employer and the student.

Current & Past Host Organizations

Please note that this is not an exhaustive list.

  • American Red Cross, Fairfax, Virginia
  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Seattle, Washington
  • Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
  • Board of Supervisors, County of Los Angeles, California
  • Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
  • The Global Fund, Geneva, Switzerland
  • The Global Impact Investing Network, New York, New York
  • Humana, Louisville, Kentucky
  • Intermountain Healthcare, Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
  • MicroClinic Technologies, Nairobi, Kenya
  • Ministry of Health, Santiago, Chile
  • Piramal Swasthya, Araku Valley, India
  • Results for Development, Boston, Massachusetts
  • RTI International, Seattle, Washington
  • The Office of Representative Jeffrey Sanchez, MA District 15, Boston, Massachusetts
  • VinaCapital Foundation, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
  • World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland
  • Youth Development Lab, Inc. (AKA YBank), Rwanda