When are Dr. Mike Perko’s students ready to engage in their field as professionals?

The professor in UNCG’s Department of Public Health Education says it’s the first time they enter his classroom and make an observation about health.
He operates with “the truly simple notion that my students and I are in this together, both in and out of the classroom.”
Perko received the 2018 UNC Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching, an honor bestowed on only 17 recipients representing all of North Carolina’s public universities.

“I deeply appreciate the BOG selection committee embracing my own story of fighting for the underdog,” said Perko. “And my personal creed of ‘once a student of Perko’s, always a student of Perko’s.’”

Perko works with a set of core values that he passes down to his students – he calls it “The Seven Cs.” Courage, community, conceptualization, creativity, collaboration, collegiality, compassion. And the students respond to his approach. They comment on his generosity, his approachability and how his ability to tell a good story piques their interest and supports their engagement in a topic.
“To know Dr. Perko (‘Dr. Mike’) is to know that he is a purposeful teacher,” observed Dr. Sharon Morrison. “He believes in empowering students for learning outside the classroom.”

“He encouraged us to think BIG,” recalled one former student. “So, I thought BIG. Really BIG. I could do anything I set my mind to, because that is how Mike Perko inspires his students to succeed – to reach his or her highest potential.”

Perko has served as graduate program director for both the master’s and doctoral programs in public health and teaches in both undergraduate and graduate program. He has been the advisor for dissertations on such diverse topics as opioid overdose prevention, the physical activity of nurses and how organization structure affects the physical health of long-haul truck drivers.

His own research activity spans from worksite wellness and health initiatives to athletes’ use of dietary supplements and performance enhancing drugs to diabetes prevention to smoking cessation studies and programs. He is the author of “The Secrets of America’s Healthiest Companies” and “Can You Win Without Supplements?” as well as a children’s book, “Cornered!” ‒ in which a turtle named Sheldon addresses a bullying problem.

“Because health is such a broad field, and impacts our lives so much, it’s almost impossible to not get interested in a variety of things,” said Perko. “I like to always remember that scholarship in academia should focus on new discoveries, creation of new and or unique knowledge, have application in teaching and involve stakeholders, including students.”