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Introduction to the BB H Program

Advising and Curriculum Information

Helpful Information for Biobehavioral Health Majors

Introduction to the BB H Program

Welcome to the Penn State Department of Biobehavioral Health

Welcome to the Biobehavioral Health Major! Biobehavioral Health (BB H) is an innovative interdisciplinary program that enables students to explore all factors—biological, behavioral, social/cultural, and environmental—that influence the health of individuals and groups through the life span.

BB H helps prepare graduates for entry-level positions in a range of health-related settings including roles as health promotion and disease prevention specialists, biomedical product representatives, research assistants, laboratory managers, and technical support positions in biomedical and health-related fields.

The major also provides excellent preparation for advanced study in professional areas and the biological and social sciences, such as medicine, the allied health professions (e.g., physician assistant, physical therapy, etc.), health psychology, public health, environmental health and safety, and human services. The major provides a superb practical, interdisciplinary, and scientific education; it is a flexible major that enables students to explore their interests.

We have an outstanding faculty who can provide excellent academic training and experiences in all aspects of biobehavioral health. However, the quality of your education at Penn State and in the Biobehavioral Health major depends on your willingness to challenge yourself. Get involved. Volunteer to work with faculty in their research. Join the BB H Society. Consider a study abroad experience. Get engaged in community and university-based service activities. Learn new skills on your own.

We hope this handbook will increase your awareness of all the possibilities of the BB H major and take advantage of those which suit you. As you browse the information in this Handbook, remember that the BB H faculty and staff are also available to answer your questions and to encourage you to reach your greatest potential.

We encourage you to use the information in this handbook site as a starting point and not as a substitute for the personal advice that your academic advisers or the BB H faculty or staff can provide.

Collins O. Airhihenbuwa, Ph.D., Head of the Department of Biobehavioral Health

Frank Ahern, Ph.D., Professor-in-Charge, Undergraduate Program

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Faculty and Staff Specifically Associated with the BB H Undergraduate Program

Dr. Collins O. Airhihenbuwa, Head of the Department 219D BB H Bldg, 863-7256 (ask for Jodi), email:

Dr. Frank Ahern, Professor-in-Charge, Undergraduate Program 222 BB H Bldg, 863-7256, email:

Dr. Michele Stine, Academic Adviser 225 BB H Bldg, 863-7256, email:

Dr. JoAnn Foley-DeFiore, Academic Adviser 224 BB H Bldg, 863-7256, email:

Dr. Dana Naughton, Global Health Minor Coordinator 216 BB H Bldg, 865-4672, email:

Dr. Elizabth Lasher, Internship Coordinator 219A BB H Bldg, 865-7256, email:

Cyndi Meyers, Undergraduate Staff Assistant 219A BB H Bldg, 863-7256, email:

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Advising and Curriculum Information

The Vision of the Department of Biobehavioral Health

The Department of Biobehavioral Health seeks to promote and nurture a learning environment for preparation and training in transdisciplinary research and dissemination of knowledge in biobehavioral health by becoming a leader, nationally and internationally, in using team-science approaches to address issues that connect health with behavior from cell to society.

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The Mission of the BB H Undergraduate Program

The Mission of the BB H Undergraduate program is to prepare students to investigate health issues in an integrated way, by taking into account the many different factors—biological, behavioral, social, cultural, and environmental—that influence health throughout the life span. We achieve our mission by providing our students with rich educational experiences involving academic instruction, practical experiences, interactions with faculty, and other opportunities for students to reach their highest levels of intellectual achievement, career aspirations, and personal growth.

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The Goals of the Biobehavioral Health Undergraduate Program

Upon the completion of the undergraduate program in Biobehavioral Health, a student will be able to:

  1. Describe and understand the fundamental biological, behavioral, social, cultural and environmental processes that influence health and disease;
  2. Explain how the fundamental processes underlying health and disease can interact to produce individual differences in health, and health disparities among groups;
  3. Critically evaluate current empirical research on health and disease, explaining implications and limitations to the lay public;
  4. Understand and apply ethical principles in the conduct of research and professional practice and in the analyses in implementations of health-related policies and programs;
  5. and to Plan, implement, and evaluate health promotion/disease prevention programs for diverse populations.

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Advising Appointments

Undergraduate Advising in the BB H Program is handled by Dr. Michele Stine and Dr. JoAnn Foley-DeFiore Students who declare BB H as a major or as their intended major will be assigned to an advisor. You should schedule appointments to see your assigned advisor. If you are unsure of who you should see, please check your Degree Audit. The top of your degree audit will tell you the program in which you are enrolled, your semester standing, and your assigned advisor. Issues requiring the signature of the Dean’s representative in the department, including faculty senate petitions, should be directed to Dr. Foley-DeFiore. Issues regarding course substitutions, including transfer credits, should be directed to Dr. Stine. Advising appointments can be made by calling the BB H Department at 814-863-7256 during regular business hours (M-F 8am-5pm).

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When to Schedule An Appointment

You should check for your course scheduling date at the beginning of each semester. You will find this information at the top of your degree audit under the name of your assigned advisor.

Image showing where to find your scheduling date.

You should plan to see your advisor roughly a week or so before your scheduling date. Please call the BB H office 1-2 weeks before the date on which you wish to see your advisor to schedule your appointment.

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Walk-In Hours

Dr. Foley-DeFiore and Dr. Stine both hold walk-in advising hours each week during the academic year. These hours will be posted on our office doors at the beginning of each semester or you can find out when they are by calling the department office.

These time slots are meant for brief scheduling/advising questions or time urgent issues (must be dealt with in the next week). If you need to have an academic plan approved for multiple semesters (ROTC or Schreyer Honors College students) or have other, more complex advising questions that do not need to be addressed immediately (within the next week) you should schedule an advising appointment by calling the department office.

Walk in hours are handled on a first come, first served basis.

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Cancelling an Advising Appointment

Please remember to call to cancel your scheduled appointments if you know you will not be here for your scheduled time. We understand that sometimes things come up (your car breaks down, you get sick, etc) and you cannot make it to an appointment you've already scheduled.

Please call and let us know ASAP. We promise no one will be upset with you for cancelling! Cancelling an appointment you know you cannot keep will allow us to see someone else during that time slot, cutting down on the wait time for appointments for everyone.

If you come to walk in hours, please make sure before you leave that you ask Ms. Brytczuk in room 219 or Mrs. Gilham in room 223 to cancel any appointment you may have already scheduled so we can schedule someone else in that slot. Please come prepared for your appointments. Bring a list of your questions, any materials we have given you during previous meetings, any forms you need to have signed or approved, and any other necessary documents.

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About the Biobehavioral Health Major

The Biobehavioral Health major is an innovative interdisciplinary major designed to integrate biological, behavioral, and social science approaches to human health. Emphasis is placed on the study of physical health in relation to basic behavioral and biological processes.

The major in Biobehavioral Health will provide a superb practical and interdisciplinary education for any student. Biobehavioral Health graduates will be prepared to address a broad range of health-related topics and issues, including, for example, the interaction of genetic and environmental factors in human health, and the interface among biological, social, cultural, and behavioral influences on human disease processes. Graduates will be well prepared to apply their knowledge to the development, implementation, and outcome evaluation of health promotion and disease prevention programs across all stages of the human lifespan.

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Emphases in Biobehavioral Health

There are two major emphases in the BB H major: (1) the Health Promotion Emphasis, and (2) the Biobehavioral Health Processes Emphasis.

Graduates in the Health Promotion Emphasis will have the ability to enable or empower people to increase their control over, and to improve, their health through strategies that combine educational, political, regulatory, and organizational supports for actions and conditions conducive to the health of individuals and communities. Students will be skilled at applying a variety of planning, behavior change, and socio-ecological models of health which emphasize the continuous interactions and interdependency of individual behavior with:

  1. family, community, and culture;
  2. the social, economic, and physical environment;
  3. and government goals, objectives, and policies.

Graduates will be prepared for entry level positions as patient educators in hospitals, HMO's, and in industry-based (worksite) health promotion situations; as health program planners and evaluators in community, county, state, and federal agencies. Graduates with this emphasis will also be well prepared for further academic training in human services and the social and behavioral sciences, including Biobehavioral Health, Human Development, Psychology, Social Work, Environmental Health and Safety, Public Health, and related fields.

Graduates in the Biobehavioral Health Processes Emphasis will be well-prepared to address a broad range of health-related topics and issues, including for example, the interaction of genetic and environmental factors in human health, and the interface among biological, social, cultural, and behavioral influences on human disease processes. Graduates may find entry level positions as research assistants, laboratory managers, product and sales representatives for biomedical equipment, technical support in biomedical and health labs and will be prepared for advanced graduate study in the natural and social sciences, including biobehavioral health, epidemiology, genetic counseling, psychology, public health, medicine, nursing, etc. BB H majors should consult their advisors to select supporting courses for either the Biobehavioral Health Processes emphasis or the Health Promotion emphasis.

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Helpful Suggestions on the Degree Requirements for the BB H Major

Foundation Requirements : These are courses we encourage you to complete during your first 4 semesters (parentheses indicate section of the degree audit fulfilled by these requirements).

(A1) BB H 101, CHEM 110*, STAT 200/240/250, PSYCH 100, BIOL 141*

(A2) BIOL 110, NUTR 251

*while the lab for this course is not required for the major, it is required for the course to also count for GN credits

Core Requirements : BB H classes which every student must pass with a C or better. We encourage you to take 300 level classes by the end of your second year/4th semester.

(A3) BB H 310, 311, 316,411W, 440

Science Requirements

(A4) Genetics: BIOL 133 or 222*

*BIOL 133: Genetics and Evolution of the Human Species. Only offered spring semesters and cannot be taken (except with special permission) AFTER you have passed BIOL 220W, 230W, or 240W.

BIOL 222: Genetics. More general than BIOL 133. Only offered fall semesters.

Students planning for med school or other clinical training graduate programs should consider taking BIOL 133 during their first 4 semesters, if possible.

(A5) Other Basic Sciences: 12 credits, selected from choices below. Courses designated as natural Science courses for General Education (GN) may be used in this section. The following are the courses generally recommended for specific BB H concentrations within the major:

Biological Processes Concentration: BIOL 129, 230W, 240W, KINES 202, MICRB 106/107, 201/202, CHEM 111, 112, 113, 202/203, 210, 212, 213/213W, BMB 211/212, 251/252, PHYS 250, 251

Public Health Concentration: ANTH 021, 022, 216, 218, EARTH 100, 103, 111, EM SC 101, 420, EGEE 101, 102, 110, 210, ERM 210, FD SC 405, 406, 407, 408, GEOG 110, 111, VB SC 211, 230, 231

BB H Elective Courses: Select 15 credits

(A6) BB H courses at the 200-level or above that are not required for other areas (e.g., A1 or A3).

Health and Developmental Sciences

(A7) General Health and Developmental Sciences: Select 9 credits from courses offered in HPA, HDFS (other than 129), KINES (3 credit content courses only), CSD, NURS, RPTM, H R, NUTR (other than 251), PSYCH 212, 243, 270, 441, 470

(A8) HD FS: Select 3 credits from the following options—HD FS 129, 229, 239, 249

Ethics: (A9) BB H 301

University Wide Offerings (Section B; NOTE: 6 of the following 11 total credits must be at the 400 level)

(B2) Health Promotion: Select 3 credits from the following list: BB H 416, 417, NURS 401, 464, PSYCH 441, 474, CAS 253, 453, KINES 403, 445, HD FS 311, 401, 410, 414, 415, 440, 446, 450, 452, 453, 454, 455, HPA 301

(B3) Other Outside Courses : Select 8 credits of courses outside the major. These courses are often courses required for admission to specific graduate or professional programs or courses required to complete a minor. Courses taken as part of an Education Abroad program also may satisfy these credits.

General Education Requirements

GWS: Writing and Speaking Skills

ENGL 015/030

ENGL 202*

CAS 100

*We recommend that you take ENGL 202A (Writing in the Social Sciences) or 202C (Technical Writing) as these courses will cover the type of writing you are most likely to need to master for graduate programs or professional writing in the field. You may select any CAS 100 class you wish.

GQ: Quantification (6 credits, total)

GQ: Math—Any math course from MATH 017 up can satisfy this requirement, however, many graduate programs have specific math entrance requirements. In addition, you may be required to successfully complete MATH 021 before taking CHEM 110, depending on your scores on the CHEM placement exam.

GQ: Applied Math or Statistics—Your STAT 200, 240, or 250 course from A1 will satisfy this requirement.

GN: Natural Science (9 credits)

In order for CHEM 110 to count toward these 9 credits, you will need to take CHEM 111 as well.

GA: General Arts (6 credits) —You may select any course that is designated as a GA course to fulfill these credits.*

GH: General Humanities (6 credits) —You may select any course designated as a GH for these credits.*

GS: General Social Science (6 credits) —These credits will be satisfied with PSYCH 100 (A1) and the HD FS course you select for A8.

GHA: General Health and Activity (3 credits)—These credits will be satisfied with BB H 101 (A1).

*If you wish to study abroad, you may want to delay completing your GA and GH requirements until that semester in order to take those courses while you are abroad. Bear in mind, however, that you will need to maintain 12-15 credits per semester in order to stay at full time status and make progress toward completing your degree, and this may necessitate taking some of your GA or GH courses earlier in your academic career.

IL/US Cultures (6 credits—3 IL, 3 US)

These credits will most likely be fulfilled by courses already required for the major (e.g. BB H 440 will satisfy either of these) or courses taken to satisfy General Education requirements. Please be mindful to check periodically that these requirements have been fulfilled, but students rarely need to take additional classes in order to fulfill these credits.

Writing Across the Curriculum (W; 3 credits)

All students must complete at least 3 credits of writing intensive course work outside of the general education writing courses, designated by a “W” after the course number. These credits may be fulfilled by the W course offered by the BB H department or other programs (e.g., students in the psychology minor may take PSYCH 301W). Because specific courses required for the major and for a selected minor may carry the W designation, some students will take more than one W course.

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3-6-9 Rule

University degree requirements dictate that all students earning a bachelor’s degree must take a specified number of General Education courses. These courses are meant to broaden your “cultural literacy” by giving you some breadth of knowledge about areas that may not be related to your field of study. In particular, the university requires that every student take 6 credits in General Arts (GA), 6 credits in General Humanities (GH), and 6 credits in General Social Sciences (GS). In some cases, students in some fields (such as BB H) will be required to take a number of courses that meet this mission in one area. When a student has 9 credits in one area, the university will allow the department to substitute the extra credits to decrease the requirement in one other area.

For example:

Sarah is a BB H major who has taken PSYCH 100 and HD FS 129 because they are required for the major and can be applied to her Gen Ed requirements. This gives her 6 credits in GS. She also took SOC 119 because several of her friends recommended the course to her.

Sarah took PHOTO 100 to count for 3 credits of GA and HIST 021 for 3 credits of GH. She really wants to take INART 115 as well.

Sarah can apply the 3/6/9 Rule as follows:

  • GS: PSYCH 100, HD FS 129
  • GA: PHOTO 100, INART 115
  • GH: HIST 021, SOC 119 (technically a GS, but those 3 credits move from GS to GH)

There are a few things to keep in mind for a 3/6/9 Rule:

  1. You must have at least 3 credits of true gen ed credits in each area. You MUST take a least 3 credits of GH and GA.
  2. You may not apply the 3/6/9 Rule until you have at least 3 credits completed in each area.
  3. You may only apply the rule once. You cannot take 12 credits of GS and apply the rule to both GA and GH.

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BB H Internship Program, Summer Semester

The Biobehavioral Health Internship Program is designed to provide experiential learning that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skills development at a professional setting within the field of Biobehavioral Health. The summer Internship Program provides real world career experience to those looking to explore or gain the relevant knowledge and skills required to establish a professional identity, to prepare for future job placement and/or enable students to prepare more competitive applications for entry into post baccalaureate programs in medical fields or graduate school. The internship is an opportunity to get work experience and to be a professional in a setting that meets students’ individualized learning goals. Usually the internship process begins in the junior or senior year.

Internship Program Goals and Activities

  • Work in the field and gain valuable “real world” experience in professional settings
  • Develop capacity to think, talk, and write critically about professional work experiences
  • Integrate coursework within professional settings
  • Gain the skills necessary to launch your career and employment opportunities • Prepare more competitive applications for entry into post baccalaureate programs

Internship Requirements:

  • Students must have a minimum 3rd semester standing
  • Students must have completed BB H 311 and on other 300-level BB H courses
  • Students are recommended to have a 3.0 GPA
  • Students must attend an internship information meeting and schedule an advising meeting with internship coordinator
  • Complete a BB H Internship Application and be accepted into the program
  • Once selected into the program, students will register for two courses as part of the internship. These courses are BB H 490 (3 credits, spring), Introduction to Internship Experience and BB H 495 (3 or 6 credits, summer), Internship Experience in BB H.

Internship Advising

After attending an information session, students who are interested in applying for the BB H Internship Program should schedule an advising appointment to meet with the Internship Coordinator, Dr. Betsy Aumiller. Thirty minute advising sessions may be arranged by contacting the staff of the Department of Biobehavioral Health at 814-863-7256. Internship Application materials will be provided to students at the time of meeting with Dr. Aumiller.

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Helpful Information for Biobehavioral Health Majors

Popular Minors for Biobehavioral Health Majors

The Global Health Minor

The Global Health (GLBHL) minor is designed to provide undergraduate students with an interdisciplinary exposure to the theoretical, scientific and practical issues affecting the health of people in various countries and regions of the world. Emphasis is placed on encouraging students to think critically and reflectively about the multiple factors or determinants that influence individual and population health, as well as specific policy and practice strategies for addressing a range of contemporary global health problems. Upon completion of the GLBHL minor, students will: • Have a greater critical understanding of the complexity of contemporary global health issues; • Be able to critique the theoretical frameworks used to inform global health policies and programs in a variety of settings; • Display enhanced personal and professional skills in inter-cultural communication and competence; and • Be better prepared for occupations that demand interdisciplinary and global thinking skills and perspectives. The GLBHL minor supports the goals of those who are planning health and health-related careers in research, teaching, or health services, in any of a variety of settings, including universities, government agencies, international organizations, non-governmental organizations or private industry. The minor also provides valuable training for those who plan advanced specialist health training – for instance, in medicine, nursing, pharmacy, allied health (e.g. physical therapy, occupational therapy), public health, and so on. Completion of the GLBHL minor will strengthen students’ capacity to participate across national and cultural borders, and thus greatly enhance their competitiveness when applying for post-baccalaureate training and careers that focus on global issues. Minor Overview The GLBHL minor consists of 21 credits, of which 15 credits are prescribed courses (BB H 305 Introduction to Global Health Issues; BB H / HPA 440 Principles of Epidemiology; BB H 390A Preparation for Global Health Fieldwork Experience; and, BB H 390B Global Health Fieldwork Experience) and 6 credits from a list of approved courses spanning multiple disciplines and fields of study including anthropology, development studies, geography, nutrition, psychology and sociology. Students have the flexibility to substantially tailor, in collaboration with the minor Coordinator, the minor curriculum toward their own professional interests and goals. Furthermore, by participating in a supervised fieldwork experience for a period of 6 weeks, students will be afforded the invaluable opportunity to translate their theoretical knowledge obtained in the classroom into practice and further cultivate their cultural awareness and sensitivity.  

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The Intercollege Neuroscience Minor

The minor in neuroscience is intended to complement to a wide range of major areas of study and as such, is operated from the Office of Undergraduate Education. Participating faculty came from the Colleges of Liberal Arts, Science and Health and Human Development. Requirements for Admission to the Minor Have declared and been accepted into a major area of study Cumulative grade point average of 2.00 or greater Requirements for Completion Complete the 18 credits of coursework (9 core, 9 elective) with a grade of “C” or better Required Courses BB H 203/PSYCH 260, Neurological Bases of Human Behavior BIOL/BB H 469 Neurobiology BB H/BIOL 470 Functional and Integrative Neuroscience Elective Courses The elective are flexible and may be individually tailored. Examples include, BB H 410, 432, 451, BIOL 471, 479, Kines 460, 463, Psych 484 and more. Neuroscience Minor Committee Members Bernhard Luscher Professor of Biology Rich Gilmore Associate Professor of Psychology Sonia Cavigelli Professor of Biobehavioral Health Contact: Dr. Sonia Cavigelli for entrance into the minor. Phone number: 814-863-0210 Email:

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Important Websites for BB H Majors

This Handbook provides important information on several topics but is no substitute for the more complete information available from websites maintained by the University, the College of Health and Human Development, The BB H Department, and other services at Penn State.

  • Pennsylvania State Univerisity Main Page - This site has links to other important sites including: Tuition and Financial Aid, Athletics, and Health Care.
  • The College of Health and Human Development
  • The Department of Biobehavioral Health
  • The Department of Biobehavioral Health, Undergraduate Program - This site has links to Program Goals; Degree Requirements; Courses and Syllabi; Advising Resources; Online Advising; Career Possibilities; Field Opportunities; Scholarships; Honors Program; Academic Integrity; and Summer Session.
  • Biobehavioral Health Degree Requirements - This site summarizes the degree requirements for the BB H major including General Education requirements; Prescribed (required) Courses; and Additional Courses, and Supporting Courses. This site for example would list the courses that fulfilled the 9 credit Basic Sciences requirement.
  • Courses and Syllabi - This site provides course syllabi for BB H courses taught in previous semesters by various faculty members. The syllabi can provide important information about the nature of the course, the course assignments, exam requirements; etc. The syllabi on this site may not be exactly the same as the syllabi you would receive for a course as the instructor may change the syllabi. This site also provides syllabi for other required (e.g., NUTR 251) and elective (e.g., HDFS 129) courses in other Departments in the College of Health and Human Development.
  • Academic Integrity - This site provides very important information about policies and procedures related to academic integrity. Here you would find necessary steps to address allegations of academic dishonesty. It is absolutely essential that you fully understand how to avoid allegations of all forms of violations of academic integrity including for example plagiarism and cheating.

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Skills to Pick Up on Your Own

BB H will provide many opportunities for you to acquire knowledge about health and the many factors that impact health. You will also have opportunities to acquire practical skills in health education, health promotion and critical analyses of health-related information. However, you may not be taught all of the many skills that are important for success in your academic studies and for career aspirations, or advancing for to post-baccalaureate education. Therefore, we have compiled a list of suggestions for areas of personal development. There are many opportunities on campus for you to develop and practice many of these skills. Please see the ITS student guide (, the Library System tutorial page ( ), Career Services (, and the information in this handbook about the BB H Society to find opportunities to learn or practice these skills.

Public Speaking

Public speaking is an acquired skill. In your academic education and in most careers, you will be expected to make formal and informal presentations to groups and audiences of various sizes. In BB H you will get opportunities to make in-class presentations. As a PSU student, you are also required to take a public speaking course: CAS 100. However, you may want to go beyond these experiences to hone your skills in public speaking. The Penn State Undergraduate Speaking Center provides guidance to students who seek support in oral and group presentation. Student mentors are trained to assist with writing, outlining, delivery, and visual aids, for both individual and group presentations. The Center’s services are available to all undergraduates, across all majors, and will have both walk-in and appointment hours. In addition to specific presentation support for individual students or their groups, workshops or presentations can be requested by faculty to assist their classes in preparing assigned presentations.

Computer Skills

At the very minimum upon entry into the university, you will be already expected to have basic computer skills in Word Processing (e.g., Word) and Making Presentations (e.g., PowerPoint). You will have the opportunity in BB H to acquire other computer skills, including how to acquire information from health-related databases and from scientific literature, and some basic skills in statistical analysis of health-related data. However, you should consider acquiring additional training to enhance your existing skills and to acquire new skills: To be competitive academically and professionally, you should consider learning spreadsheet software (e.g., Excel) data analytic software (e.g., SPSS, SAS), and applications such as Google docs.

Career-Related Skills

As you approach the 6th semester of your undergraduate education in the Biobehavioral Health major you should already be considering the next stage of your life after graduation. You might consider acquiring an entry-level position in a health-related field, or acquiring additional education in graduate or professional school, or both. You will receive excellent career-related advice from the BB H Academic Advisors, and from the BB H faculty. However you will not receive training on the many important practical skills needed to the get to that next stage. To be prepared you should have been building skills in such areas as Interview skills; Resume-writing skills; and personal statement writing. It is absolutely essential that you visit the The Penn State Career Services building and meet with a career counselor. ( It is also worthwhile to download and read their use their career-guide document: .  

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Career Possibilities for BB H Graduates and Suggestions for Preparation

The following are some career possibilities for BB H majors. The list is by no means complete but might give you some ideas and stimulate your thinking. Many careers require additional post-baccalaureate training in professional or graduate school and for many post-baccalaureate programs there are pre-requisite courses that need to be taken as an undergraduate. It is essential that you discuss your ideas with your academic advisors early in order to prepare for your career goals. It is equally essential that you learn more about your career aspirations though the Career Services Center at PSU.

Clinical laboratory technician
e.g., Implement research laboratory procedures with consistency and accuracy. Take science courses with labs; sign up for BB H 494 or 496 to get lab experience with a BB H faculty researcher.
Clinical research associate
e.g., Monitor clinical trials of drugs/devices/procedures to determine safety, efficacy and adherence to FDA regulations; assist in writing protocols and in processing of clinical data. Obtain lab experience via science courses and BB H 494/496 over several semesters.
Non-profit or government agency health specialist
e.g., Plan, present and evaluate health promotion activities for an agency such as the American Diabetes Association. Become a HealthWorks educator for the experience. Volunteer with the health agency of your choice.
Women’s health/sexual health educator
e.g., Educate and counsel on reproductive health issues with agencies such as Planned Parenthood. Get experience with HealthWorks sexual health content area; take WMNST courses.
Health promotion and wellness program coordinator
e.g., Implement and evaluate worksite health promotion/disease prevention programs. Take extra health promotion courses. Get experience with HealthWorks at UHS. Develop your communication skills.
International health promotion specialist
e.g., Promote health through prevention/intervention programs around the word. Obtain cross-cultural experience with education abroad; study a foreign language. Serve with the Peace Corps as a first job after graduation.
Health communication specialist
e.g., Create and evaluate health promotion programs for a public relations agency that has health-related clients. Develop excellent writing skills with communications courses and writing experience for the Collegian. Learn web page design.
Sales representative
e.g., Make sales calls on physicians as a product rep for pharmaceutical or biomedical device corporation. Join the Collegian business staff and sell ads to get sales experience. Take business courses. MKTG 220 (personal selling) is good if you can get it.
Home health care equipment retail store
e.g., Own or manage store to sell /lease equipment for home health care needs. Get work experience in a store that sells/leases home health care equipment. Take business courses.
Health systems software specialist
e.g., Represent health professional needs on a software design team; enlarge & verify data bases. Develop computer skills through classes for credit, non-credit workshops and practice.
Health care plan evaluator
e.g., Analyze data for Medicare, Medicaid or Health Care Financing Administration. Earn the HPA minor and become proficient with spreadsheet software.
Development officer
e.g., Plan and implement fund raising activities for non-profit health-related agencies. Volunteer with Dance Marathon or other event to raise money for a non-profit health agency. Recruit for Red Cross blood drives. Develop leadership skills for work with volunteers.
Genetic counselor
e.g., Provide emotional support and information to individuals and families concerned about genetic conditions. Take organic and biochem, and extra genetics classes. Get counseling experience via volunteer position. Earn MS in genetic counseling.
Registered nurse
e.g., Work as a home health care nurse or certified educator. Take the pre-clinical courses to apply for an accelerated post-baccalaureate BSN “bridge” program.
Nurse practitioner
e.g., Diagnose and treat basic health problems; become a specialist such as a pediatric NP, nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, etc. After earning BSN/RN, earn the MS in nursing.
Physician assistant
e.g., Diagnose and treat basic health problems under a physician’s supervision.
Public health professional
e.g., Plan, Implement, evaluate public health programs. Take supporting courses that focus on your interest in public health and health promotion. Get experience with health agencies. Many career areas are open to those who earn a Master of Public Health.
Medical social worker
e.g., Help families obtain services and adjust to the serious illness of a loved one. HD FS courses and volunteer experience with a community agency will be helpful. After graduation, earn the Master of Social Work degree.
Health Informatics Specialist
e.g., Assist doctors and other health care providers to find current medical information in high technology libraries. Develop proficiency in computer skills especially in databases and HTML for web work. Earn a masters degree in library science or health informatics. Training programs available through CDC.
Health Law Attorney
e.g., Practice law for a private HMO or serve the public in a legal aid office. Develop critical thinking and communication skills through courses and student organization leadership. Attend law school after graduation.
Physical Therapist
e.g., Provide therapy to clients who experienced health difficulties. Take chemistry, anatomy and physics while gaining volunteer experience with a PT. Aim for a GPA of at least 3.5. Consider the gerontology minor. Apply for an entry-level masters program in PT.
e.g., Work as a primary care physician in family practice. Strive for a 3.6 GPA while taking the full year each of chemistry, organic, biology and physics. Get experiences related to medicine. Attend a 4-year medical school to earn the MD or DO degree.
Chiropractic of Naturopathic physician e.g., Serve your patients as a primary care practitioner trained in chiropractic or natural therapeutics; you will do limited surgery. Take the same pre-med science courses as above. Attend chiropractic or naturopathic school to earn the DC or ND degree.
e.g., Work in a private practice as a clinical or counseling psychologist. Consider a minor in PSYCH or HD FS, get high grades and GRE score. A year or two of related work experience may be required for admission to a PhD program in psychology.
e.g., Analyze disease and environmental data related to health of specific populations. Take additional statistics courses. Earn MPH or PhD. Explore Training programs offered by CDC.
Basic research scientist in biobehavioral health
e.g., Study interactions between the central nervous system and children’s immune systems. Complete the neuroscience minor. Gain research experience in the lab of a BB H professor. Attend graduate school to earn a PhD.  

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Letters of Recommendation

Most graduate schools, professional schools, and potential employers will ask for a letter of recommendation or a reference from someone in your academic program who can speak knowledgably about your abilities, skills, and personality. Often a great deal of emphasis is placed on these letters, so requesting letters of recommendation or reference is an important piece of your application. Below is a list of guidelines regarding letters of recommendation.

  1. Ask someone who knows you well enough to say something specific about you. Admissions committees and employers are looking for some particular information, such as how you deal with controversy, what your leadership abilities might be, or how well you handle criticism. Letters that are overly vague and indistinct give them little useful information and, therefore, do not set you apart from other applicants in a meaningful way. In some cases, a letter that is too vague or general looks as though the writer has nothing positive to say about you, and can potentially be worse than not having any letter at all.
  2. Ask someone in a position of authority. The Teaching Assistant may well be the person you saw every week for your lab session and may know you better than the instructor does, but they are not the best person to ask for a letter. Asking the TA is somewhat akin to asking another student to write a letter for you; it carries very little weight with admissions committees and can sometimes work against you. However, if you are taking a summer class from a graduate student who is the instructor of record for the class, then that person is an appropriate choice.
  3. Plan ahead. Many of your courses will be large (more than 80 students) and the odds are very good that you will need a letter at some point. Be actively involved in the classes you enjoy, particularly those in your major. Speak up in class, ask questions, and go to office hours, make a point of meeting them one or one if possible. Make an impression on your instructors. They will be much more likely to agree to write a letter for you if they recognize you from your participation. They also will have something positive to say about your enthusiasm, initiative, and leadership in class discussions.
  4. Come prepared. Once you decide to ask someone to write a letter for you, request a meeting to make the request. Let them know what you need and ask to make an appointment to talk about it. Bring them any information that may be helful to them in writing the letter. This includes: evaluation forms from the institution to which you are applying, a resume/CV, your personal statement (if applicable), and any specific information about the letter itself (content needed, deadline, address and title of person to receive the letter). The best letters are often written for students who have made the process as simple and straightforward as possible, if only because these students have immediately demonstrated organizational and planning skills.
  5. Ask for your letter at least 2 weeks in advance or the deadline! This is a minimum time frame. Remember that there are several hundred students asking for letters of recommendation each semester. It is unlikely that your instructors or advisors will have time to drop everything to write a useful letter for you with only a day or two of notice, unless there is some critical extenuating circumstance involved.
  6. Remember to send a (polite!) reminder a few days before the deadline. This is especially important during really hectic times, such as the end of spring semester. And remember to send a word of Thanks afterwards.  

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Problems with Faculty or Staff

BB H undergraduate students who have problems with faculty or staff or other students are encouraged to first meet with the Professor-in-Charge of the BB H Undergraduate program (Dr. Frank Ahern, or the Head of the Department (Dr. Collins Airhihenbuwa,

The following are some important categories and resources:


BB H is proud of the diversity represented among its undergraduate majors. BB H is committed to maintaining an inclusive environment that embraces diversity and is free of discrimination and harassment. BB H subscribes to the Penn State Statement on Non-discrimination that prohibits discrimination and harassment against any person because of age, ancestry, color, disability or handicap, genetic information, national origin, race, religious creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or veteran status and retaliation due to the reporting of discrimination or harassment. (

The following are other resources for students who have concerns about discrimination.

Discrimination on the Basis of Disability: Contact the coordinator of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) programs in the Affirmative Action Office, 814-863-0471.

Discrimination on the Basis of Veterans Status: Contact the director of Veterans Programs, 814-863-0465, or the Affirmative Action Office, 814-863-0471.

Sexual Harassment: Contact the University-wide designated sexual harassment person for students, Peggy Lorah at 814-863-2027, or the Affirmative Action Office at 814-863-0471.

Discrimination on the Basis of Age, Ancestry, Disability, Color, National Origin, Race, Religious Creed, Sex (Including Sexual Harassment), Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Genetic Information, or Veteran Status: Contact the Affirmative Action Office, 328 Boucke Building, 814-863-0471. The Affirmative Action Office also provides confidential consultation and informal complaint resolution. Students may also resolve complaints informally with assistance from the Student Affairs office, 213 HUB-Robeson Center, 814-863-1260; advisers; or department heads. The Affirmative Action Office website provides additional information. Problems of discrimination should be reported as early as possible following the alleged incident.

Complaints against a student should be filed with the Office of Student Conduct, 120 Boucke Building, 814-863-0342. Information about Student Conduct policies and procedures is on the Office of Student Conduct website:

Grade Disputes

Occasionally, a disagreement arises in the assignment of a grade. If you wish to question the grade assigned in a course or assignment you should first discuss the matter with the instructor. If you and the instructor fail to resolve the grade dispute through informal means, you may request a review of the disagreement by the Professor-in-Charge of the Undergraduate Program (if BB H see Dr. Frank Ahern, or the head of the Department (if BB H, Dr. Collins Airhihenbuwa, If this does not resolve the dispute, the student who is an undergraduate may seek further review from the associate dean for undergraduate education, or the director of academic affairs for the college offering the course. This website provides additional information regarding grading disputes and the Grade Adjudication Petition Form:

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Reporting of Crimes, and Other Inappropriate Behaviors

All members of the Penn State community—including students--are asked to be mindful of their individual responsibility to help keep the University a safe and ethical institution. The following resources are available for faculty, staff, students and others to report any suspected illegal or unethical conduct, and to seek assistance:

Reporting a crime: Contact the campus police or security office. In an emergency, dial 911.

Assistance for victims of sexual violence, sexual abuse or sexual harassment:

  • The Penn State Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Hotline at 800-550-7575 (TTY 866-714-7177), available 24/7.
  • The University-wide designated sexual harassment resource person for students: The Director of the Center for Women Students at 814-863-2027
  • A list of sexual assault resources for each campus location:
  • If a child is a victim of any kind of abuse, including sexual abuse: Contact the Pennsylvania Child Welfare Services "ChildLine" at 800-932-0313 .

Reporting ethical violations (including fraud, theft, conflict of interest and violations of University policy, including research compliance, discrimination and athletics-compliance issues):

**PLEASE NOTE: If you encounter a problem or situation in which you are unsure of who to contact or what to do, please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Stine, Dr. Foley-DeFiore, or Dr. Ahern. We will be more than happy to sit down with you and help you determine the best and most appropriate course of action. Please come to us if you have any doubt about whether or not you should act! We would much prefer to talk through an uncomfortable situation with you, even if no intervention is needed, than to have you stay silent.**

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Many of the skills and experiences you will leave with when you graduate will come from your activities outside the classroom. We strongly encourage all of our students to become involved in Penn State co-curricular clubs and activities as a way of building skills, experience, and relationships within the university. We also strongly encourage you to consider becoming involved in community-based organizations as a volunteer. Community based agencies that are popular with BB H Majors include: The Mid-State Literacy Council ( , the AIDS Project (, Habitat for Humanity (, and Mount Nittany Hospital (

Biobehavioral Health Department Opportunities.

BB H Society (

The BB H Society is a great way to get to know other students in the major and to get involved in activities such as

  • Professional Development (Alumni Career Panels, Faculty Research Night, Career Services Presentations)
  • Philanthropy (volunteer activities with The AIDS Project, Out of Darkness, The Red Cross, and others)
  • Social (ice skating, pot luck dinners, climbing Mt. Nittany, away football viewing parties)

To join:

  1. Log into ANGEL and do a Group Search for “BB H Society”
  2. Add yourself to the group to receive email updates and have access to the Society membership information and calendar.
  3. Come to the next meeting! Dues are $5 per semester and can be paid at the beginning of any meeting. For more information, contact Dr. Michele Stine, faculty advisor for the group at

Genetics Awareness Project

The purpose of The Penn State Genetics Awareness Project is to promote awareness about genetic disorders in the Penn State community. We host fundraising events and donate proceeds to the genetic disorder foundation we focus on during club meetings.

Advisor: Dr. David Vandenbergh Web Site:

College and University-wide Opportunities.

Penn State offers hundreds of student clubs and organization covering a wide array of interests and topics, including health related topics. Many students interested in health related careers become actively involved in GlobeMed, Global Medical Brigades, The Pre-Med Society, The Pre-PA Society, The HHD Student Council, The HHD Honor Society, and THON among many others. Please check the Student Affairs directory of student organizations to find a complete list of clubs and groups that may interest you!

In addition, Student Activities holds an Involvement Fair at the beginning of every semester. Be sure to visit this fair to talk to representatives from many of these student groups.  

The following are opportunities for College and University-wide engagement that are especially appropriate for BB H majors.

  • College of Health and Human Development Global Leadership Initiative /gli The Global Leadership Initiative (GLI) is designed to prepare a select group of academically talented and highly motivated students for future leadership in areas related to global health, human development, and sustainability. Students will have a chance to enhance their leadership skills and global awareness through experiences abroad and in-class learning, and by communicating with previous GLI students and sharing international experiences with other students.
  • College of Health and Human Development Mentoring Program /alumni/mentor/ The College of Health and Human Development Mentoring Program connects HHD students and alumni by matching students with professionals in their field(s) of interest who can offer advice and information about career options or other issues relevant to particular fields. If you are interested in becoming a protégé, please contact or Diane Collins, Mentoring Program Coordinator, at 814-865-3831 or
  • Health and Human Development Honor Society This society is open to any undergraduate student in the college with a 3.30 grade-point average or higher. Letters of invitation are sent to eligible students each fall. The society has regular meetings throughout the year and sponsors a variety of service projects. For more information, please contact the office of the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies and Outreach, 814-865-1427.
  • University Health Services’ HealthWorks Program HealthWorks is a peer education/outreach program in University Health Services that aims to promote health among Penn State students. Training consists of a mandatory 3-credit class (BB H 324) that addresses health behavior theory, health promotion strategies, and health issues relevant to the college population. Health topics include alcohol and other drugs, nutrition, physical activity, sexual health, sleep and stress. Training courses are conducted each fall semester through the department of Biobehavioral Health. Upon completion of training, educators are asked to commit to 2 semesters of active involvement with the program, including continuing education. Experienced educators are encouraged to assume leadership positions with the organization. For more information, contact HealthWorks, 201 Student Health Center, 814-863-0461.
  • Penn State Pre-Medical Society The Pre-Medical Society at Penn State is an academic and professional society that aims to give students the opportunity to explore a future in medicine with other like-minded students. In addition, members help each other prepare for the application process and admission into professional schools in the healthcare industry.
  • Penn State Pre-Physician Assistant Society The purpose of the Pre-Physician Assistant Club is to provide students interested in the physician assistant profession with support and valuable information about graduate school and the career itself.
  • Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon: THON THON is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world. The Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, affectionately known as THON, is a yearlong effort to raise funds and awareness for the fight against pediatric cancer. Since 1977, THON has raised more than $101 million for the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital. THON 2014 will take place from February 21st-23rd, 2014 at Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center.

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Student Feedback on the BB H Program

BB H values student’s opinions about the quality of the undergraduate program including, for example, availability of courses, advising, and of course, the quality of teaching. There are several important ways that undergraduate students can provide feedback to the program as well as offer suggestions to make the program better.

Student Ratings of Teaching Effectiveness (SRTEs). All students have an opportunity to evaluate teaching effectiveness for all BB H courses. We take the SRTEs seriously. The faculty instructors take them seriously. We want you to take them seriously also. All SRTEs for all BB H courses are reviewed every semester by the Professor-in-Charge and by the Head of the Department, and by the instructor. Your opinions and ratings do help faculty to become better instructors and to make the program better. We greatly encourage you to do the SRTEs, especially for BB H courses. And we hope that you do the SRTEs not only for courses/instructors that you didn’t like, but for courses and instructors that you liked!

BB H Graduating Senior Exit Survey. An online survey for all BB H majors is made available just before graduation for all Fall, Spring, and Summer graduates. This is an important survey in which you get to rate your total BB H experience including for example, such things as 1) whether BB H met the goals and objectives of the program, 2) what was the quality of your experiences with BB H academic and career advising, 3) who were your best instructors, and 4) what you would do if you were in charge of the BB H program. These Senior Exit surveys are critical to evaluating the successes as well as the needs of the BB H program (for example, past exit surveys were very influential in adding the BB H Internship Program and in developing our career advising presentations). When you are ready to graduate, please give us your accumulated wisdom about the BB H program.

Profile Survey of BB H Majors. Each spring, a short online profile survey is made available to all BB H majors and intended BB H majors. This is our way of getting to know our BB H majors better and for you to know your BB H peers because we make the results known to all BB H majors. We ask for example: What are your career goals? Do you work? What minors, if any are you seeking? Do you participate in research? What topics and examples are over-used in BB H? Completing the Profile Survey is a good way to have yourself, your interests, and your special circumstances made known to BB H.

Your feedback on this 2014 BB H Undergraduate Handbook

What are your ideas to make this Handbook better? Are there any errors? Please give us you feedback. Send notes or e-mails to Cyndi Meyers, Room 223 BB H Building,

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