Welcome to the “Alumni Spotlight” monthly series. Learn how our Union Institute & University (UI&U) graduates are living the UI&U mission of engagement, enlightenment, and empowerment.
Featured this month: Renee Mahaffey Harris
Education: UI&U Graduate Certificate in Health Education (2014)
Profession: Health advocate for the marginalized and disenfranchised. In her role as the Chief Operating Officer Center for Closing the Health Gap, she works to improve the health and quality of life for vulnerable populations. Under her leadership, the Center for Closing the Health Gap helped steer the creation of the Food Desert Task Force of which she currently chairs, successfully implemented Health and Wellness education series, and launched groundbreaking community based health initiatives in the Greater Cincinnati region.
The Union Graduate Certificate in Health Education prepares the health educator student for the Certificate Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential through the extensive study of the Seven Areas of Responsibilities for Health Educators. The CHES designation signifies that an individual has successfully passed a national competency-based examination demonstrating skill and knowledge of the Seven Areas of Responsibility of Health Education Specialist, upon which the credential is based. (National Commission for Health Education)
In the Q&A below, Renee discusses her passion for health advocacy and her certificate from Union.
Q. What would you like people to know about health education?
A. Health education is critical work that prevents premature deaths. Lifestyle modifications can and do improve health.
Q. What can be done to improve the health disparities for vulnerable populations?
A. We need to meet people where they are and involve them in the development of their health solutions. Continue to implement education and community based health initiatives in collaboration with community organizations such as our hospitals, health organizations, community based organizations and businesses throughout our region. Education, training and outreach programs save lives and improve the quality of life to make our neighborhoods and our people stronger.
Q. What has your degree meant to you personally and professionally?
A. It enabled me to get the credentialing to sit for the Certificate Health Education Specialist (CHES) exam. CHES is the national competency-based examination that demonstrates an expertise in the core competencies essential to effective health education.
I needed to prepare for this certification while working full time. Union’s Graduate Certificate in Health Education offered me the curriculum and faculty I needed to be considered a top professional in the field.
Q. What quality do you admire most about your alma mater?
A. I admire the adaptability and flexibility that is offered to the working adult. Union met me halfway and allowed my career goal to become a reality.
Q. If you could give advice to a Union student, what would it be?
A. You are part of an institution that is going to enable you to achieve your professional goals while working full time.
Q. What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment?
A. I have learned from failure. I have learned to move forward in the face of my biggest trials.
Q. What is your passion away from work?
A. Serving others.