Dual-degree student Kyria Brown tailored educational experience to fit her public health research interests
Kyria Brown, MSW/MPH ’20, is a trailblazer. She’s part of a new collaboration between the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW) and the Colorado School of Public Health at the Anschutz Medical Campus that allows students to pursue a Master of Public Health degree while they’re earning a Master of Social Work. Not only was Brown in the first MSW/MPH cohort, she also found ways to make the program her own.
“One of the strengths of the program is all of the clinical opportunity there, but I wasn’t really interested in clinical work, so I talked to my professors and found my own path. I came out on the other side with a very rich experience,” says Brown, whose MSW concentration was in organizational leadership and policy practice.
The Laramie, Wyoming, native says her research interests lie at the intersection of public health and social work. Specifically, she’s focused on pregnant women who are experiencing things like homelessness and substance use. In her 20s, she volunteered as a doula, providing low-income women with physical, emotional and mental support during childbirth.
“I had some family closeness to substance abuse issues and homelessness. My childhood experiences and my experiences as a doula have shaped my passion in my research area,” Brown says.
At GSSW, Brown was a member of the Phi Alpha National Social Work Honor Society. As part of a research team studying maternal engagement in the neonatal intensive care unit, she learned a variety of research tools and co-authored a paper, “An integrative review: Maternal engagement in the neonatal intensive care unit and health outcomes for U.S.-born preterm infants and their parents,” with Associate Professor Jennifer Greenfield and other research team members. It was published last year in AIMS Public Health.
Additionally, Brown spent the last academic year in a work-study role with GSSW’s Center for Housing and Homelessness Research.
“I was able to learn skills that helped me grow while helping with really impactful work,” Brown says.
Fifteen students are enrolled in the growing MSW/MPH program, and three are graduating this spring, including Brown. Her coursework, research and work-study — all tailored to her interests — gave her a leg up on her PhD applications, Brown says. Now, she’s a Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Fellow in the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, where she’s starting a PhD program in social work. After her doctoral program, Brown plans to become a faculty member at a research university.