For Rapid City native Nichole Holroyd, the joint South Dakota State University and University of South Dakota online Master of Public Health (M.P.H.) program was the ideal opportunity to continue her South Dakota-based education while living in North Carolina.

Holroyd also enjoys the flexibility an online program allows her as the working mother of a 4-year-old daughter.

Deborah Rumrill USD
Nichole Holroyd

"Flexibility was a necessity for me, and I signed up as soon as I could," Holroyd said. "I was looking to advance in my career and felt health-care administration was one of the only options for a working professional, but I did not have the passion for that route.

"The M.P.H. program opened the door for me to explore other options besides just working on the bench in the laboratory or in administration," she continued. "The M.P.H. allows me to further pursue a career utilizing my background in the laboratory to improve testing and diagnostics utilization. This is going to be vital in the big picture of the health-care change that is occurring in our country right now."

Since starting the degree, Holroyd has discovered a world of opportunity in public health, which is applicable to every aspect of the health-care system.

"I feel many working health-care professionals like myself, who want to further their education, are not left with many options. However, the program really exposes you to all aspects of public health - epidemiology, chronic disease, infectious disease, overall wellness, disability, mental health, how health care functions, research and policy, the list goes on and on," Holroyd said. "It offers this whole other world of opportunity to better utilize the skills that we already have to improve health care overall."

Not only does the M.P.H. program allow Holroyd to live her current life without alterations, but also allows her to tailor the concepts and ideas of public health to her interests.

"My favorite part of the program has been how every class ties together all of the concepts we have learned, yet is diverse enough that you can really find your own niche in what interests you," Holroyd said.

As Holroyd emphasized the program's interwoven courses and concepts, she also mentioned the program's diversity and the learning it provided when it came to interacting with other students.

"The online discussions with my classmates have helped me learn more than I ever thought I would. We have our own unique backgrounds and learn from each others experiences," Holroyd said.

Even though the program is a combination of both SDSU and USD faculty and students, Holroyd explained that a separation of any sort was nonexistent.

"The courses and faculty have been so well integrated and helpful. The collaboration has just facilitated the ability to have better opportunities for the students, such as more diverse classes and research prospects," Holroyd said. "I don't even notice that I am working with two schools."

Overall, Holroyd is grateful for the opportunities the M.P.H. has given her, as well as the life it has allowed her to continue to live.

"I absolutely would not have been able to do this program if it wasn't online. It allows me the flexibility to be able to work, be a mother and a spouse and pursue my career goals of higher education," Holroyd said. "I love the fact that even though I live across the country now, I can still stay connected to and continue my education in South Dakota."