Working in the Field


A global health field experience is a credit-based experience in a setting relevant to global health.

These experiences may range from 1~6 credits (one week on site is typically equivalent to one academic credit), though only one credit may apply to the certificate. Students may elect to do a faculty-led group field experience or they may choose to design an independent field experience at the site of their choice. Field experiences are generally carried out during winter, spring or summer breaks. Global health field experiences may also be carried out during the academic semester if they do not interfere with class attendance or completion of requirements for registered coursework.

Field course | experience objectives:

  • Gain greater awareness about global health through exposure to a specific international health setting
  • Develop cross cultural skills related to traveling and working in an international setting, or a local setting working with an international/underserved population
  • Develop professional skills related to cross-cultural collaboration and cooperation with health professionals from other countries and/or cultures
  • Deepen understanding of how diversity (socio-economic, racial, ethnic, cultural, and political) affects health
  • Make specific contributions to a health-related project, service, or study

Academic requirements

Faculty-led group field courses

  1. Completion of all academic requirements for the field course
  2. Preparation and submission of a reflection paper based on a journal kept throughout the field course (see Reflection paper guidelines)
  3. Submission of an instructor evaluation of the student (see Preceptor evaluation form)
  4. Submission of a reference-cited, academic paper/project report

Independent field experiences

  1. Completion of all academic requirements for the field experience
  2. Preparation and submission of a reflection paper based on a journal kept throughout the field experience (see Reflection paper guidelines)
  3. Submission of an evaluation of the student by the on-site preceptor (see Preceptor evaluation form)
  4. Submission of a site evaluation by the student (see Site evaluation form)
  5. Submission of a reference-cited, academic paper/project report

Faculty-led group field courses

Students may elect to do a faculty-led group field experience through the Global Health Institute. Faculty-led experiences are recommended for students with little or no experience traveling in low/middle income countries, are offered annually in one or more countries (Uganda, Thailand, Ecuador), and are administered through the Office of International Academic Programs (IAP). Students who elect to participate in one of these IAP faculty-led courses apply through the IAP office, see:

Upon satisfactory completion of the field course, students will receive credit for PHS645: Global Health Field Study. Please note that PHS644 is the on-campus course prerequisite for these field courses; students will receive information about PHS644 course enrollment in the IAP acceptance letter.


Independent field experiences

Certificate students may also choose to design an independent field experience at a site of their choice. Students choosing the independent field experience option will typically have already had experience traveling and living in low/middle income countries. Independent field experiences are focused around an issue/topic of particular interest to a student and usually take place in a country outside the U.S., but may also be carried out among an international/underserved population in the United States. Students may also undertake work with international agencies as an independent field experience, e.g., the United Nations, the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or global health-related non-governmental organizations. PHS640 is a prerequisite for an independent study.  Please note: if possible, for optimal preparation PHS718 should be taken prior to PHS640 and prior to undertaking an independent field experience.   

  • Select a focus and site for the field experience

Students should develop a global health topic of interest and begin site selection by considering locations where local health issues will provide a learning environment related to their topic. Students should learn about the health status of their chosen country/site; international organizations and programs already working on their topics of interest in their site; and, general information about health care delivery and population demographics for their site. Students may find useful information at the Global Health Institute website ( under the Resources tab >>> Other Resources, e.g., a list of web resources and the Ebling Library global health portal.  Once students have completed their own preliminary, they are encouraged to consult with global health faculty and others who have relevant experience or contacts.

* Note: UW-Madison policy is that “the University will typically not operate a program in or send a Student to any country for which a Travel Warning has been issued.” The U.S. State Department Travel Warning list can be found at: below for further information regarding this issue.

  • Enroll in PHS640, Foundations for Global Health Practice

Students are expected to have identified a geographic region and health topic of interest before the start of PHS640. The course reviews key concepts and trends in global public health, and walks the students through the process of preparing for a meaningful field experience. Permission of the instructor is required to enroll in PHS640.

  • Select a UW-Madison academic advisor and field preceptor

Students must identify a UW-Madison academic advisor AND a field preceptor for their independent field experience; this should happen as early as possible in the planning of a field experience. Certificate program staff can assist students to identify an appropriate advisor for their work.

  • Submit field experience proposal

 Once students have identified a topic and site of interest, an academic advisor, and a field preceptor, they prepare a brief (up to ~ three pages) field experience proposal that describes the goals and objectives of the field experience, outlines activities that will be carried out, defines the product(s) of the experience (e.g., summary paper and presentation), and includes the proposed dates for the experience. This proposal must be approved and signed by the academic advisor and the field preceptor, as well as the director of the Graduate/Professional/Capstone Global Health Certificate to ensure that it will meet the certificate field experience requirements. The field experience proposal should be submitted to the director of the Graduate/Professional/Capstone Global Health Certificate as far in advance of travel as possible, ideally at least 8+ weeks before departureNote: projects that involve human subjects and require Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval, animal use approvals, or other regulatory oversight may require much longer periods of preparation.

  • Independent field experience affiliation agreements

All students completing independent field experiences are required by the School of Medicine and Public Health to execute an affiliation agreement between the field site organization and SMPH/University of Wisconsin-Madison. Such an affiliation agreement outlines the expectations and responsibilities of the student, the field site organization, and the SMPH/University. As soon as the field experience site is identified, students should contact Betsy Teigland at in the Global Health Institute office in SMPH to initiate the agreement process. Some sites have existing institutional affiliate agreements which may simplify the process, but students and their advisor/mentor will still be responsible for working with administrative staff to ensure that these are current and applicable. Note that for new sites it may be a time-consuming process to execute the agreements, so please begin as early as possible in field experience planning (at least 8+ weeks ahead of departure for the field site).

  • Register for independent global health field study

All field courses/experiences must be done on a for-credit basis. Students undertaking independent field experiences should register for independent study credit in the school/college/department of their project’s academic advisor. (This is typically a
“699” course number.) Contact Betsy Teigland, for assistance in registering for 699s.

  • General roles of the student, UW-Madison faculty advisor, field preceptor, and Certificate program staff

Student: complete all academic and administrative requirements; comply with all applicable UW-Madison policies for international travel, professionalism, academic and nonacademic conduct (including those of the Certificate Program, the student’s home school/college/program, and those of the university at-large); and, demonstrate culturally-appropriate professional and personal behavior in all activities during the field experience.

Academic Advisor: provide advice, support, consultation, and feedback to the student regarding academic preparation, site selection, topic area, and the field experience proposal; grade the final paper/presentation; review the preceptor assessment; and, submit the student’s overall course grade.

Field Preceptor: provide input into the field experience proposal; orient, support and conscientiously supervise the student throughout the field experience; model professional work habits and attitudes; and, evaluate the student’s performance using preceptor assessment form.

Certificate Program Faculty and Staff: serve as a resource regarding field experience requirements and responsibilities for students, faculty and preceptors; verify compliance with administrative requirements for international travel; review the student’s field experience reflection paper, field experience paper, site evaluation, and preceptor evaluation of the student; and, compile all field experience requirements for the student’s certificate program file.

  • Complete Administrative Requirements

Faculty-led global health field courses (PHS 645-Uganda, Thailand, and Ecuador) are administered by the UW-Madison Office of International Academic Programs (IAP).  Administrative requirements for these courses will be provided by IAP.

Independent field experiences are administered by the Global Health Institute. For independent field experiences, students must submit the following information and forms (forms are contained in the “Independent Study Packet”) to the Global Health Institute office at least 8 weeks before departure: 

  1. Confirmation of registration for credit
  2. GHI Approval Form
  3. Student Agreement Form
  4. Approval Letter from Field Site Preceptor/Organization
  5. Contact Information
  6. CISI travel insurance (REQUIRED by the UW System) – Contact Betsy Teigland in the GHI office to ensure that CISI enrollment is through the correct unit.
  7. Health Self-Assessment
  8. Statement of Responsibility
  9. Copy of airline itinerary
  10. Copy of passport photo/signature page (Plan ahead: your passport must be valid for at least 6 months past your anticipated date of return to the United States. Also ensure you have a valid VISA if a VISA is required for the country(ies) to which you will be traveling or transiting through.)
  11. Financial Aid (option for eligible PA and MD students only)

These forms in the Independent Study Packet can be found on the GHI website at:

Travel to U.S. State Department Warning List Countries

UW-Madison policy is that “the University will typically not operate a program in or send a Student to any country for which a Travel Warning has been issued.” The U.S. State Department Travel Warning list can be found at:

Students who wish to pursue study in countries on the warning list should fill out the Warning List Travel Policy and Exemption Form and submit it toGHI at least four months prior to the planned study. The request will be reviewed by a committee of faculty.  Possible reasons for granting an exemption include: student will be pursuing a unique educational experience that cannot be gained elsewhere and that is directly related to their graduate studies or career plans; student is a citizen of the country in question; student has considerable experience in the country in question. For more information, please go to our website at and contact programs coordinator Betsy Teigland (, HSLC 4270B).

In all cases, students should periodically consult the State Department ( and CDC ( websites for warning and notice updates on the country they will be visiting.

  • Complete Academic Requirements

The Programs Coordinator of the Certificate in Global Health will monitor completion of requirements for the field experience. In addition to turning in assignments to the academic advisor, copies of all items listed above and described below should be submitted to GHI Programs Coordinator Betsy Teigland by the student. The academic advisor will assign a grade for the experience, based on the field experience report, journal and preceptor assessment.

  1. Reflection paper: The requirement of regular journal entries is intended to provide the student with an opportunity to reflect on their own responses to the global health experience they undertake. Students are encouraged to reflect on both positive experiences as well as challenges, considering issues related to professionalism, cultural competence, and/or ethics. The reflection paper will be submitted to the academic advisor and the Certificate Programs Coordinator. Reflection paper guidelines
  2. Preceptor evaluation: A brief report from the field preceptor (this may be submitted via e-mail) should comment on the student’s performance in the planned tasks, as well as professionalism and cross-cultural skills. It is the responsibility of the student to assure that the preceptor report is filled out and submitted on time to the Certificate Programs Coordinator. Preceptor evaluation form
  3. Site evaluation: Students are asked to fill out an evaluation of the site of the field experience. This is particularly useful to the program in advising future students on potential field sites. Site evaluation form
  4. Reference-cited field experience report: Students are required to prepare a summary report about the field experience. Whenever possible this report should be shared with international colleagues in addition to being submitted to the UW-Madison Faculty advisor and the Certificate Programs Coordinator. The written report should be approximately five pages in length (not including the references) and should include a concise summary of project objectives and outcomes of the field experience, with background information about the site and its health status as is appropriate to the topic. The student should include references to any information/facts/opinions of others that are cited in the text as in any professional paper, including but not limited to, health data about the country and problems addressed, the information or evidence-base that provided a foundation for their work, and any other sources that they used to carry out the work. Students who plan to prepare a paper for publication may submit a draft in the format specified for an identified journal.

Financing the field experience

Responsibility for funding the global health field experience lies with the student. Depending on the site and duration of the experience, costs could range from $1000 to $4000+, including program fees, travel, UW-Madison tuition and in-country living expenses. In some cases, students may be permitted to increase their student financial aid package to pay for the trip. While grant opportunities for educational opportunities of this nature and duration are limited, a number of opportunities for financing global health field experiences can be found here. In particular, scholarships are available through International Academic Programs/Study Abroad office for students participating in Faculty-led field experiences managed through IAP.