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The Integrative Learning Experience

The Integrative Learning Experience Overview

The Integrative Learning Experience (ILE) is a required component of the Master of Public Health (MPH) program. The ILE represents the student’s culminating experience in the program. It is a substantial public health-related project of the student’s choosing, completed in the final two semesters with the guidance of a faculty ILE supervisor. Students have an extended opportunity to work on their ILE project in a 1:1 mentoring relationship with a faculty member.

Students can choose one of three types of projects:

  1. a research project;
  2. a program evaluation; or
  3. a policy analysis.

The ILE project planning and preparation activities span several semesters, ending in enrollment and completion of the Integrative Learning Experience course, GPH 744, in the final semester of the MPH program. The ILE planning and preparation activities are best described in four phases: the Pre- ILE phase, the ILE Planning phase, the ILE Preparation phase, and the ILE course itself. The ILE course, GPH 744, is a full semester, one-credit course on Blackboard in which the students write their ILE paper and create and deliver a project presentation to faculty and students via an online platform such as GoToMeeting or Zoom.

See the ILE Manual for additional details.

The Integrative Learning Experience Phases

ILE Process

Pre-ILE Phase – 2 to 3 semester (9-12 months) before enrollment in GPH 744

Informal planning for the ILE begins when the student is enrolled in the Applied Practice Experience course (GPH 743) after completion of all required courses. In GPH 743 students have an opportunity to prepare a draft ILE proposal. The APE instructor is available to discuss project ideas and provides guidance on the three ILE options (see below). Students receive instructor feedback on their draft proposals. Students typically take GPH 743 two to three semesters before they take the ILE course (GPH 744), depending on the pace they have set for completing the MPH program.

ILE Planning Phase – approximately 7 months before GPH 744

Approximately seven months before students are scheduled to enroll in GPH 744, Student Support sends an email reminding students to reach out to the Asst. Director of Thesis Advising to begin their ILE planning. Students can use the ILE proposal completed in the APE course to begin their formal ILE planning or they can brainstorm other ideas with the Asst. Director of Thesis Advising. Students submit draft ILE proposals for review and refinement or, if students wish to change their proposals, they work with the Asst. Director of Thesis Advising to make necessary or desired updates or develop an entirely new ILE proposal.

Five months before GPH 744 (a full semester, plus a month) and after students have completed their ILE Proposal Form and had it reviewed and approved by the Asst. Director of Thesis Advising, the GPPH Director and Associate Director work together to identify primary faculty members or adjunct faculty members to serve as ILE supervisors. ILE supervisors must have subject matter or methodologic expertise that aligns with student ILE proposals, be familiar with the expectations for the ILE process and standards for a high-quality written paper, and have sufficient time to devote to supporting students through the project development and writing phases.

ILE Preparation Phase – the semester before GPH 744

Once an ILE supervisor is assigned, the student and the faculty member work closely together in the semester before the ILE course, to accomplish all of the research and scholarly work required to insure that the student is ready to begin writing the ILE paper when GPH 744 commences. This preparation work can include, though is not limited to, developing a study design and methodology; obtaining IRB approval, if needed; conducting a comprehensive literature review; collecting qualitative or quantitative data; researching policies; and developing analytic frameworks. Students and ILE supervisors agree on a regular schedule of check-in meetings over a 12-16 week period so that project progression is timely.

ILE Course – GPH 744

When the student and ILE supervisor agree that project preparation is nearing completion and the student is ready to write the final paper, the ILE supervisor will sign the ILE Clearance Form, which allows the student to register for GPH 744. The ILE course is a one semester, 16 week Blackboard course in which ILE supervisors continue as course instructors to guide students through completion of the final written ILE paper. All GPH 744 students also present their ILE projects in a live, online presentation, facilitated by their ILE supervisors and to which other students and faculty are invited.

Planning for The Integrative Learning Experience

Step 1 – Pre ILE

Use the APE course assignment to practice creating an ILE proposal on a topic that interests you or that allows you to develop public health competencies and skills that will help you advance in your public health career goals. You can obtain project feedback from your APE instructor and from your fellow classmates. As you proceed with your electives after your APE, you should continue to reflect on possible ILE projects and reach out to the Asst. Director of Thesis Advising for input, feedback, or questions.

Consider the following questions in your ILE reflections:

  1. What foundational and program competencies would I like to acquire by the end of my program?
  2. What research questions, public health programs or public health policies have I always been interested in exploring?
  3. What public health skills will I need to support my career goals?
  4. Is there an ILE option that is well-aligned with the work I completed at my APE site?
  5. Will a research manuscript, evaluation report, or policy analysis be useful to a particular stakeholder audience in the community in which I expect to practice public health?

Step 2 – ILE Planning

While you are taking electives, reach out to the Asst. Director of Thesis Advising to discuss your ILE project ideas or if you need help deciding on possible projects. When you receive a notice from your Student Support Specialist about beginning ILE planning, be sure to contact the Asst. Director of Thesis Advising within the timeframe outlined in the notice so that your ILE planning progresses smoothly.

With the assistance of the Asst. Director of Thesis Advising, you will finalize an ILE proposal and choose appropriate public health education competencies using the ILE Proposal Form. When the ILE proposal is satisfactory to you and to the Asst. Director of Thesis Advising, the program will locate an appropriate ILE supervisor, notify you of the assignment and provide you with the necessary contact information. You will receive a copy of the ILE Manual that outlines further details of the ILE process and expectations.

Step 3 – ILE Preparation

You will begin your formal ILE preparation in the semester before you are scheduled to take GPH 744. It is important to create a schedule of regular check-in meetings with your ILE supervisor so that your project work can be completed in a timely manner and you can be cleared to take GPH 744 the following semester. During this time you will complete all of the pre-writing project work necessary for you to write your final ILE paper.

Step 4 – ILE Course GPH 744

When you have completed your ILE preparation work and your ILE supervisor agree that you are ready to write your final paper, you will fill out the ILE Clearance Form for your ILE supervisor’s signature. Once that form is signed and approved by the program, and you receive an email from the Registrar’s Office, you can register for GPH 744.

GPH 744 is a course on Blackboard with discussion board requirements and periodic assignments. Your ILE supervisor continues to work with you and is your instructor for GPH 744.

ILE Manual for Students and Supervisors

The ILE Manual contains more detailed information about the expectations of students and ILE supervisors. Before beginning your formal ILE planning, please read the manual carefully and reach out to your Academic Advisor or the Asst. Director of Thesis Advising with any questions.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: Can I take the ILE with my last elective course?

A: Yes, but you may want to discuss with your Academic Advisor, Student Support Specialist, or the Asst. Director of Thesis Advising the associated workload expectations for the ILE and for your chosen elective so that you can make the best decision about will succeed in both.

Q: When will I be assigned an ILE supervisor?

A: You will be assigned an ILE supervisor 4-5 months before your final semester in which you are scheduled to take GPH 744. You must have an ILE proposal approved by the Asst. Director of Thesis Advising before you will be assigned an ILE supervisor. It is up to the student to initiate this process, but you will be notified by your Student Support Specialist (though you can contact the Asst. Director of Thesis Advising at any time with ILE project ideas or questions).

Q: Can I choose my ILE supervisor?

A: You can suggest an ILE supervisor for your project, but final approval must be given by the GPPH program to insure that the proposed supervisor has the requisite subject matter or methods expertise and has the time to commit to the project.

Q: Are there sample ILE papers that I can read?

A: Sample ILE papers will be available sometime during Spring semester 2019 after we obtain the requisite permissions from students.

For any ILE questions, please contact Mary Lou Ciolfi, JD, MS, the Assistant Director of Thesis Advising, at