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Students: Center for Health Literacy

Student Opportunities

Want to become part of the Horowitz Center team? You can get involved in several different ways. The Center’s work is supported by student volunteers, interns, and students doing independent studies. Please fill out our Student Interest Survey, which is the first step of our application process. Please email questions to

Ways to Get Involved: 

Student Volunteers

Volunteers are non-SPH students with prior experience or education in communication, journalism, information sciences, or health-related areas such as medical anthropology or sociology and interested in learning more about health literacy. 

Undergraduate Internships

Undergraduate internships are for students in the Community Health, Public Health Science, and Family Science degree programs who have a required internship, or for students in other SPH departments interested in an internship with the Center. Students must take the health literacy course (HLTH431) or at least one health communications course (for example, HLTH371) before they can apply.

School of Public Health Social Action Student Award

HLTH431 - Health Literacy in Action is an undergraduate class in which students develop the knowledge and skills to advocate for their own health and that of their family, friends and community. During a semester-long project, students work in teams to design an intervention to improve the health literacy and health outcomes of a specific population. 

Two HLTH431 teams won the School of Public Health Social Action Student Award in 2021 and 2022 with proposals based on this class. The team of Deepti Ghimire, Zara Dunefsky, Ryan Nguyen and Sydney Choo Quan, started Hu-MAN-Kind, a student-run organization to increase mental health literacy among male students on the UMD campus through a social media campaign. Haja Kumalah won the award for her proposed project Black Health Matters, which will provide culturally relevant resources to support the mental health and academic performance of black UMD students. Dr. Catherine Maybury from the Horowitz Center for Health Literacy helped students refine their applications and is mentoring them as they implement their projects.

Graduate Internships

Graduate internships are for students in the Master of Public Health or Master of Health Administration degree programs and have a required practicum/internship or for graduate students in another program interested in an internship with the Center. Students are strongly encouraged to take a health communications course (or related) and must take a health literacy course (see below) before they can apply.

Graduate Assistantships

Graduate students who work with the Center get involved in quantitative and qualitative research projects that impact community health and health literacy. Center faculty currently focus on family health, oral health, digital technologies, environmental health, and disease prevention/health promotion. Students must take a health communications (or related) course and a health literacy course (with an A or A- grade) before they can apply (see below for course options).

Independent Studies

Graduate students who have taken a health communications (or related) course and a health literacy course (with an A or A- grade) may qualify for an independent study with the Horowitz Center. Please email for more information.

Schools for Smiles

Students who are interested in dentistry and medicine can also volunteer with Schools for Smiles, a student organization that provides oral hygiene lessons in local elementary schools.

Read about past student projects.

School of Public Health Courses

How to be a Health Advocate: Health Literacy in Action - HLTH431 - 3 Credits - offered in the Fall and Spring for undergraduate students

This course will introduce you to the concept of health literacy and guide you in developing the knowledge and skills to advocate for yourself, family, friends, neighborhood and community, and engage productively with healthcare providers, systems, and policy. You will explore your own and others’ perspectives of health information and communication, and different pathways and strategies to help create the conditions for informed and engaged individuals and communities. 

The course will cover health literacy from a human perspective (what you can do for yourself and others) and a systems perspective (what you can do to get healthcare systems, including providers, to promote health literacy). Course activities include background readings, individual assignments, group projects in and outside of the classroom, a mid-term exam, semester-long project that culminates with a final paper, brief, and slide presentation, and in-class discussions.

Review the HLTH431 Spring 2019 syllabus. 

Communicating Safety and Health - HLTH371 - 3 Credits - offered in the Fall for undergraduate students


Special Problems in Health Education: Health Literacy - HLTH688L - 3 Credits - offered in the Fall for graduate students

The purpose of this course is to introduce graduate students to health literacy research, practice, and skills. The course will develop students understanding of how health literacy is both a barrier and an asset for health and how health literacy affects a wide range of outcomes. Students will learn the basics of health literacy concepts, models, and research methods, and discuss similarities and differences in health literacy research in clinical and public health settings. Students will study key health topics, populations, and contexts for health literacy research and practice. The course will describe professional skills necessary for effective public health communication practice and provide opportunities to practice the skills. The implications of research for public health practice, policy, and consumer/patient interventions and behavior will be integrated so that public health practitioners and researchers are prepared to address health literacy in their future work.

Review the HLTH688L Fall 2019 syllabus.

Public Health Communication - HLTH671 - 3 Credits - offered in the Spring for graduate students


Independent Studies

An independent study is an opportunity for students to explore and research a topic of personal interest related to health literacy. Please contact the Center for more information:


Non-School of Public Health Courses

Graduate Course in Personal Health Informatics and Visualization (INST682 / CMSC838X - 3 Credits)

Personal Health Informatics cover a broad concept that encompasses an array of approaches to collect, store, share, analyze, and reflect on personal health data. Not only health care providers are relying on Health Technologies to improve patient care, people are increasingly using health devices and apps in their everyday life. Individuals have started using new technologies to collect data, increase awareness, and reflect on and change their behaviors. This course will cover topics such as technologies designed for personal data collection, data integration, self-reflection, goal-setting, DIY health, and personal data visualization.

Review the INST682 / CMSC838X Fall 2018 syllabus.

The Horowitz Center for Health Literacy sponsors the Rudd Dissertation Fellowship to foster innovative doctoral-level health literacy research relevant to public health priorities and contexts. Dr. Rudd is one of the founders of the health literacy field in the U.S., and she has trained and influenced thousands of students and practitioners around the world. This fellowship honors her contributions and supports the next generation of health literacy leaders.

In the past, up to $30,000 has been available for the fellowship, and the amount awarded depended on student need and budget. The funds must be applied to tuition, fees, or research expenses. Within 3 years of award, students must spend the funds and defend the dissertation.

2020-2021 Rudd Fellow: Laura Koo

Ms. Koo’s research will examine the associations among parental communicative and critical health literacy, empowerment and advocacy behaviors in the context of food allergy management in elementary schools using a nationwide sample of parents of school-age children. Koo will measure health literacy with an adapted version of Ishikawa, Takeuchi and Yano’s Functional, Communicative, and Critical Health Literacy Scale. 

2018-2019: Catherine Maybury and Heather Platter

Ms. Maybury's dissertation is a national survey of third- and fourth- year dental students to understand their perspectives on what is taught in U.S. dental schools relating to communication techniques shown to improve patient understanding and three regimens that are effective in preventing dental caries (tooth decay). 

Ms. Platter's dissertation is a mixed methods study examining provider communication techniques and knowledge of lung cancer screening guidelines. Her study will also explore barriers to lung cancer screening among older adult long-term smokers at high risk for developing lung cancer. Using a grounded theory methodology, a final theoretical model will be created, which can be applied and tested in future screening interventions.
Read about Dr. Platter's success as an NCI Cancer Prevention Fellow 

2013-2014: Kathleen Ruben

Ms. Ruben's dissertation examined the health literacy of decision-making partners for individuals with dementia in the Arkansas Independent Choices program and the potential impact of low health literacy on this vulnerable population.

In the Spring 2021 semester, Dr. Cynthia Baur, Center Director, hosted a series of virtual teach-ins titled Fact or Fake: How can I know what to believe? The series provided a space for attendees to process their beliefs about key events from 2020, including the coronavirus pandemic, racial justice protests of the summer, and the 2020 elections and their aftermath with a specific focus on the varied and often contradictory information and claims about each. Through the series’ six bi-weekly drop-in sessions, participants were encouraged to assess their own information-seeking behaviors and how they formed their beliefs about each of the events.

The teach-in series was a unique opportunity for experts to share relevant insights into each event and for UMD faculty, staff, and students to reflect on and discuss that information. Respondents to a final feedback survey about the series indicated their interest in similar sessions in future semesters.


“Inspired by our work in the HLTH431 class, we translated our project into a student- run organization - the Hu-MAN-Kind Project. This course not only taught us valuable lessons, but also gave us the unique opportunity to translate what we learned in the classroom into the real world.”

Deepti Ghimire, Public Health Science, 2023 Public Health Science, 2023