First Master of Prevention Science Grad in the Nation

First Master of Prevention Science Grad in the Nation

An entrepreneurial spirit

As a certified prevention specialist with the Muskogee, Oklahoma, Community Anti-Drug Network (CAN) and a mother to a young son, Lindsey Roberts is used to putting others’ needs before her own.

But in 2011, Roberts accomplished a personal goal that also proved to be historic – she was the first person in the nation to graduate with a Master of Prevention Science degree, which she earned from the College of Liberal Studies.

Roberts began her collegiate studies at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. She completed her Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration from the University of Phoenix. Soon after graduation, she began working in prevention.

“I am extremely passionate about positively impacting my community so that it is a better place to live and so my son can be proud to say he is from Muskogee,” Roberts said. “I really enjoy being involved in the community and working closely with our community members.”

At CAN, Roberts helps parents, schools, employers and community leaders prevent substance abuse issues before they begin. CAN sponsors community events such as medicine cabinet clean-outs for proper prescription drug disposal and all-night after-prom parties. 

“It is great to see high school students having fun and making the choice to be there and not be out drinking and partying. I am proud of the events and that we are sponsors,” she said.

A proactive approach

Former CLS Graduate Programs Coordinator Julie Raadschelderssaid the idea of the MPS degree developed in the midst of emerging concerns about health care and health-related issues. Also, attention increasingly focused on prevention as opposed to treatment.

“Being the first to have an MPS is a good feeling. I work hard to do my best in every aspect of my life, and this was no exception,”she said.

“The idea for the MPS was really initiated by Joe Wiese, former director of the Southwest Prevention Center,”Raadschelders said.“Joe noticed that while there were a number of continuing education or training programs available for the increasing number of individuals working in prevention, there were no academic degree programs in prevention.

“The most respected credential in prevention is the Certified Prevention Specialist credential, which is offered through the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium. We based our academic program on the various subject areas tested for the CPS credential so that while individuals are studying for the credential exam, they can earn academic credit and ultimately an academic degree at the same time.”

The core area of study for the OU MPS degree, which was approved in 2009, focuses on substance abuse. Other critical applied areas in prevention include HIV prevention, obesity prevention and suicide prevention. The goal of the program is to enhance the knowledge, professionalism and effectiveness of individuals currently working in prevention science and those who are preparing for a career in the field.

Pushing herself to a higher degree

Roberts knew she wanted to pursue a graduate degree, but she was unsure of which direction to go. After a year in the OU Master of Public Health program, CLS began offering the MPS degree. Roberts transferred, and the courses were a perfect fit with her line of work. The college’s online course options enabled her to keep working full time and be there for her family. Although there were many responsibilities to handle, Roberts persevered.

“I would have to work on homework and reading late into the night and read textbooks at my son’s practices,” she said. “But I knew that it wouldn’t be forever. I just had to push through and make the necessary time.”

Roberts said her writing greatly improved as a result of her CLS experience. This has helped her grant-writing ability and overall communication skills.

Roberts said she also learned that she could handle more than she ever thought.

“I learned to keep a calendar, write everything down and to make lists. This became absolutely necessary when I had to write my comprehensive exam essays and write a federal grant both due on the same day. This was the culminating moment that taught me, ‘OK, I can handle just about anything!’”

A national first

On May 14, 2011, Roberts’ balancing act paid off when she received her Master of Prevention Science degree – a first for anyone in the country.

“Being the first to have an MPS is a good feeling. I work hard to do my best in every aspect of my life, and this was no exception,” she said.

“It doesn’t really feel like I am the first because there are so many great prevention professionals that I have studied and worked with, I just happened to have finished first. We are all in it together, all working to create safe, healthy, drug-free communities. My everyday motto is, ‘We are all on the same team,’ so I don’t think it makes a difference who is first; the more important aspect is that prevention science is starting be recognized as a reputable field and people are starting to understand the need for it.”

Update: The College of Liberal Studies was renamed the College of Professional and Continuing Studies in 2017.

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The College of Professional and Continuing Studies is a fully accredited academic unit of the University of Oklahoma, offering 100% online, hybrid and onsite degrees for working adults and non-traditional students.