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What is Health and Human Development?

Diverse fields of study that share one
common goal: enriching the lives of others.

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August 2015

Growing up in Port Arthur, Texas with family members in the U.S. Navy, it was a natural choice for Sherika Smith to join the Navy after high school.

“The military provided me with an opportunity to travel while working and begin my college degree plan,” Smith said.

Active duty for 11 years, Smith currently serves as Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) at Consortium for Health and Military Performance (CHAMP) at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland, where she serves as the internal and external liaison with military community, providing guidance and counsel regarding matters affecting enlisted service members served by CHAMP.

Smith also assists in overseeing the laboratory safety program, protocols, and data collection, assisting with CHAMP administrative and budget execution. In addition to her CHAMP duties, she also assists in field training evolutions for medical students and instructs various courses.

For Smith’s previous command, she was stationed at Naval Hospital Sigonella in Sicily, Italy, for three years.

Smith, married with 4 and 7-year-old daughters, is also earning her master’s degree through the online Master of Health Administration program with Penn State’s World Campus and the Department of Health Policy and Administration (HPA).



More than 4,500 Penn State students are enrolled in the College of Health and Human Development (HHD) studying a wide-array of fields, each committed to the concept of improving the quality of life for others. Smith, who found a home in HPA through the online MHA program, is one of those HHD students, and this is her story.

“Although my duties may require extended hours away from home, my husband understands and is very supportive of my obligations,” Smith said. “I am blessed to have him by my side.”

Smith plans on combining her military skills with her education to integrate into the healthcare administration field following her military career.

“Before starting this degree, I thought there were few similarities in military and civilian healthcare systems, but I have learned how to effectively link outside practices into the military healthcare system for a positive impact,” Smith said. “The knowledge I continue to gain from the course readings, professors, and class discussions will help me transition from my career as a medical laboratory technician to one in healthcare administration.”

In addition to HPA, there are a variety of areas for students to study within HHD through the Departments of Biobehavioral Health, Communication Sciences and Disorders, Human Development and Family Studies, Kinesiology, Nutritional Sciences, Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management, and the School of Hospitality Management. Learn more about HHD.