Lessons from the field


Jacob Berlyn working with UW-Madison students and Project Mercy students to complete a NEFSE community health mapping activity.

From Ecuador to Ethiopia, Global Health Field Courses allow students to explore and learn more about communities around the world. Even though the experience takes them several thousand miles away, students learn how many of the issues faced abroad are also issues faced in their communities here at home.

Since 2011, 742 students have earned the Undergraduate Certificate in Global Health. Another 146 students have earned the Graduate/Professional/Capstone Certificate. The global health certificate is comparable to minors offered at other universities. These certificates introduce students to preventative, population-level, interdisciplinary approaches to health promotion around the world. As a part of the certificate’s requirements, all undergraduate and graduate students must complete a field experience.

We asked five global health students to reflect on their trips, giving advice for other students.


Duong and her UW field course group in La Calera, Ecuador.

Who: Stella Duong

Education: Duong is an undergraduate student studying Genetics with certificates in Global Health and Business.

Where: She traveled to Ecuador with the  “Microenterprise and Health in Ecuador” field course. The course partners with an indigenous Ecuadorian women’s group called Sumak Muyo, and students learn more about Sumak Muyo’s projects and about how this small business has the potential to empower women through economic freedom.

The Power of Communities: “This course was the last requirement for my global health certificate, so I have taken plenty of ‘public health’ classes; however, nothing in any textbook or newsletter could prepare me for the poverty and injustice that resonated throughout the communities we visited. Nothing prepared me for meeting Betsy, a soft-spoken woman, left to care for her son in a town that does not even have clean water. Nothing prepared me for meeting Juan, who is about to celebrate his first birthday, because his family finally had money to host a small gathering. Yet, in the midst of many forces of oppression, these communities have unmatched motivation and creativity. Furthermore, even in poverty, these communities are truly communities. All profits are shared among community members and the trust among community members is remarkable—doors are unlocked, everyone knows everyone, cooperation among all.”

Tip of Advice: “Take time to hear everyone’s story, you will not regret it.”




Berlyn, right, with Khediro, a Project Mercy student

Who: Jacob Berlyn

Education: Berlyn is a UW-Madison 2015 graduate who double majored in Biochemistry and Environmental Studies with a Certificate in Global Health.

Where: He traveled to Ethiopia with the “Biodiversity, Food Systems and Health in Ethiopia” field course. Throughout his trip he was able to meet with government officials and university professors in Addis Ababa and other cities as well as with community centers and not-for-profit organizations such as Project Mercy and Enga le Enga. Many of their interactions with Ethiopian partners were focused on the links between health, food systems and the environment and what policies and practices are taking place to improve the health of the country as a whole.

Local to Global Connection: “This was my first time outside of the U.S., and I really thought it would take time to adjust to a different culture. I was pleasantly surprised to find more similarities than differences among the places and people of Ethiopia. I only experienced a “culture shock” upon returning home to the U.S. after being able to view the world from a new perspective. An important part of any career, especially one in global health or service to others, involves viewing situations from a different perspective. This trip allowed me to view my life back in the U.S. from a different perspective, having been exposed to life in an different country.”

Tip of Advice: “There are few things more important than education. The opportunities that UW-Madison and the global health program can offer are nothing short of amazing. The opportunity to travel the world and learn from a different culture is afforded to so few people in this world so do not take it for granted.”



Lane with UW-Madison students in Ethiopia.

Who: Rissa Lane

Education: Lane is an undergraduate student studying Biology with a certificate in Global Health.

Where: She also traveled to Ethiopia with the “Biodiversity, Food Systems and Health in Ethiopia” field course.

Local to Global Connection: “I think my greatest understanding of the world is best relayed through the Lilla Watson quote, “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” I learned that global health work is not about throwing resources at people that have less than me so that I may go to sleep at night. Global health work is learning from other cultures and sharing my knowledge and understanding to create a better global community in which local, state, regional, and global values prioritize sustainability of ecosystems and resources, health and well-being of all people, and richness and diversity of culture.”

Tip of Advice: “Completely invest yourself— you may be exhausted in country or feel overworked during the semester leading up to departing from the states, but the people you will meet, conversations you will have and experiences sharing humanity with other field course students, facilitators and Ethiopian partners will be unlike any other in your undergraduate time. Don’t waste a second of it!”



DeVries with Rebecca and her mother Christine after planting sack gardens in Lweza.

Who: Lauren DeVries

Education: DeVries is an undergraduate studying Gender & Women’s Studies with certificates in Global Health and Education Policy. She graduated in May 2016 and has accepted a position with the Peace Corps to work as a Community Health Educator in Uganda.

Where: She traveled to Uganda with the “UW Agriculture, Health & Nutrition” field course. During her field course, she visited a farm, government institutions and different health center levels. The interactions in Uganda were focused around community building activities like gardening, school service and interacting with health care workers. Students also worked closely with the Village Health Project and the project’s work in Uganda.

Local to Global Connection: “Seeing some of the issues in Uganda really made me realize that the U.S. has many of the same problems. For example, The Village Health Project does a lot of work with water and sanitation in Uganda. Immediately, when I came back from our field course in Uganda, the Flint water crisis is all over the news. We had just been dealing with similar water problems in Uganda. In a sense it made the world seem so much smaller because a lot of the problems we have in regards to health are so similar. When you start to tie in history and governments that’s when these issues start to become more complex.”

Tip of Advice: “Take the time to know the people living in the communities you’re visiting. They know better than anyone the problems they’re facing are, and possibly their solutions.”



Ross in Uganda at a National Game Reserve

Who: Aleja Ross

Education: Ross is an undergraduate studying Accounting with a certificate in Global Health.

Where: She also traveled to Uganda with the “UW Agriculture, Health & Nutrition” field course.

Local to Global Connection: “One of the most important things I learned and I connect back to Wisconsin is the importance of utilizing what we have in our own backyards. While in Uganda I was so impressed by how resourceful and innovative a lot of the local farmers and technicians were, and if we had a similar mentality to those in Uganda we could probably create more sustainable and cost effective ways of farming, engineering, and so forth.”

Tip of Advice: “Always be open. Try as much as you can to be present and be willing to engage in a completely new culture.”


By Olivia Riedel/May 25, 2016

The importance of field courses – perspectives from Global Health students


Devin Walsh-Felz interviewing a Village Health Team member in Uganda.

Spicy curry and malaria-bearing mosquitoes are a few signs that students might be far from home, but they are not the only ones for University of Wisconsin-Madison students participating in global health field courses. Most importantly, field courses give students opportunities to listen and learn from perspectives that are different from their own.

Since 2011, 656 students have earned the Undergraduate Certificate in Global Health. Another 146 students have earned the Graduate/Professional/Capstone Certificate. The global health certificate is comparable to minors offered at other universities. These certificates introduce students to preventative, population-level, interdisciplinary approaches to health promotion around the world. As a part of the certificate’s requirements, all undergraduate and graduate students must complete a field experience.

Recently National Pubic Radio in a story, “How They Spent Their Global Summer Vacation,” asked global health students for reflections and advice from their global health experiences. Global health students at UW-Madison weighed in, reflecting on their trips and giving advice for other students.



Devin Walsh-Felz, right, joins colleagues at the  Baylor-Uganda Fort Portal office after presenting findings from the Baylor-Uganda team. Also shown, from left, Rogers Rubahimbya, Priya Pathak and  Ronald Kizito.

Who: Devin Walsh-Felz

Education: Second year medical student at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. UW-Madison undergraduate degree with a major in biology and Certificate in Global Health.

Where: Walsh-Felz’s undergraduate global health experience took her to Uganda, which convinced her to return during medical school. She completed an internship with Baylor-Uganda, a not-for-profit organization affiliated with Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative. As an intern she traveled to clinics to collect data, attended meetings with local leaders and delivered reporting tools to clinics. She and classmate Priya Pathak also carried out an independent project focused on newborn care. A large part of community-based care in Uganda is accomplished by Village Health Teams (VHTs) – these are community volunteers who are trained to provide health education and appropriate referrals, especially in rural villages. The study she completed assessed newborn care knowledge of VHT’s and the supervisors who train them.

Local to Global Connection: “One of the struggles I witness in our health care system today is a large amount of waste, as well as tremendous disparities. I believe that part of the solution to some of these problems involves increasing public health initiatives, focusing on preventative care and critically examining access to care. These were also some of the priorities of the organizations I was working with in Uganda. In Uganda, many of the health care challenges arose from limited resources and interrelated limited access. Creative evidence-based solutions are crucial both at home and abroad in order to increase healthcare access, efficiency and effectiveness.

Tweets of Advice: “Work hard to prepare and prepare to be flexible. Understand your expectations and examine your assumptions.”

“Food is an incredible unifying force. No matter where you are or what you’re doing, learn about local food – you will find that you are learning so much more.”


Who: Michaela Brause


Brause and her UW field course group at Enga le Enga, a community center in Shashamene, Ethiopia.

Education: Undergraduate student studying Community and Nonprofit Leadership with Certificates in Global Health and Environmental Studies.

Where: She traveled to Ethiopia during December 2015 with the field course titled “Biodiversity, Food Systems and Health in Ethiopia.” Throughout her trip, she was able to meet with professionals, community members, non-governmental organizations and students who focused on climate change, agricultural systems, economic opportunity, health care provision and nutrition. Brause and the other field course students facilitated workshops with diverse local groups about food systems and health concerns in their communities, providing empowerment strategies for them to use to make local changes.

Local to Global Connection: “During my global health experience, I truly got to experience community building. We were able to learn how environmental, social, economic, political, agricultural and spiritual themes all influence how we see health. We got to facilitate conversations where elders, children, health professionals and other leaders all came together for the first time to passionately discuss how they can make their community a better place. Coming home, it has made me think about how I can be integrating this same collective passion and action into my daily life. I try to look for opportunities where I can listen and learn from perspectives that are different from my own.”

Tweet of Advice: “This world is filled with some pretty incredible people. Each day, try to step outside of your comfort zone to learn what is important to those who are different from you.”




Nina, left, with her host mom, Kanthi, in Sri Lanka.

Who: Nina Rembert

Education: UW-Madison 2014 graduate, double major in International Studies and Environmental Studies with a Certificate in Global Health.

Where: Sri Lanka during the summer of 2014. Her program focused on health disparities in rural and urban areas in Sri Lanka. Her five weeks took her throughout the country,  visiting hospitals in Colombo, interacting with local professors and community members, and discussing how the various landscapes throughout the country influence health and public health policy.

Personal Reflection: “I feel like a lot of people from other countries are familiar with the image of white American students, but many aren’t as familiar with seeing black students. At first locals didn’t really know if I was American, but once they understood that I was from the United States, they had a lot of questions for me that weren’t really applicable to the white students in my group. This experience made me think about my own identity. It also developed my group members to think critically about race, and it brought up a lot of conversations throughout the trip about caste, color and opinions on what an ‘American’ is.”

Tweet of Advice: Make sure to write down every detail of your time abroad. You will remember all the big events, but what is really special is remembering all the little things like playing board games with your host brother, or tea time with your professor.


Eric Friestrom celebrating with a local student after helping construct a new school building in Nepal.

Who: Eric Friestrom

Education: A current graduate student in the Doctor of Pharmacy program at UW-Madison. As an undergraduate at UW-Madison, Friestrom majored in Biochemistry with a certificate in Global Health.

Where: He traveled to Nepal as an undergrad with the “UW Global Health Community Health and Health Disparity” field course. Throughout the course he was able to learn about the opportunities and barriers to health and wellness in both rural and urban Nepal.

Local to Global Connection: “This experience really made me take a step back from my own life and view things on a larger scale. Having been raised in a small rural town in Wisconsin, I really didn’t have any perception of what other places around the world would even be like. Initially, I thought my experience would simply allow me to see another part of the world, but once I arrived this quickly changed into developing deeper personal connections with places and the people I met. My experience in Nepal taught me how to work with other people from different cultures towards a common goal.”

Tweet of Advice:
“Global health trips forever change your perception of the cultures around you!”



Daniel Desautels traveled to Mexico City for his field course experience.

Who: Daniel Desautels

Education: Desautels is an undergraduate student studying Microbiology and Life Sciences Communication with a certificate in Global Health.

Where: He traveled to Mexico City during the summer of 2014 with the  “Linking Agriculture and Nutrition in Mexico” field course. The course was based at The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center known as CIMMYT. Throughout his week in Mexico City, Desautels was able to discuss social and cultural aspects of nutrition and food with scientists, nutritionists and family farmers.

Personal Reflection: “My experience in Mexico has made me much more aware of how culture affects every aspect of our lives, especially nutrition and health. Cultures and customs surrounding food, especially corn products, are strong in Mexico and slow to change. Understanding health within its cultural context and global context is especially important in influencing health in a target population.”

Tweet of Advice: “Global health is linked to almost any study or profession you can think of, you just need to go out into the world and figure out how.”


By Olivia Riedel/October 29, 2015

Opening new doors for more meaningful doctor/patient communication

Is an individual who promotes his or her health by primarily exercising and maintaining a nutritious diet healthier than a person who emphasizes health preventing illnesses by sanitizing food and surfaces and regularly updating their vaccinations? Researchers at UW-Madison are starting to find there is actually not a right or wrong answer, but for each individual, the answer depends on the context in which he or she lives.

Health can be thought of in a variety of different ways, but Matthew Jiang, a graduate student in the Department of Psychology, is specifically looking at how different actions based on the ideas of promoting health and preventing illnesses can vary depending on age, culture and background. The UW-Madison Global Health Institute chose Jiang for a 2015 Graduate Research Award for his work that could improve how doctors communicate with patients.

Working with his mentor, psychology professor Karl Rosengren, Jiang is identifying and confirming whether the two ideas of health promotion and illness prevention are valid concepts of health that individuals use to make decisions.


Matthew Jiang, left, and his advisor at their weekly lab meeting

These are two long-standing ideas in public health that psychologists have never really pursued, until now. Together the concepts work to determine how individuals think about health and what their goals are from their health behaviors.

“If you have a two year old, as a parent you would care much more about if he or she is getting sick. Nutrition is important, but you’re really going to be heavily focused on disease and preventing illnesses” Jiang says. “Now, what about when that two year old becomes a teenager. Nutrition and sleep become much more important, and, as a parent, your efforts on promoting their health goes beyond simply preventing illnesses .”

Jiang hopes his research will validate these two ideas of health to promote more patient-centered treatments and ideas throughout health care. Understanding how individuals are thinking about their behaviors will be key for doctors who want to deliver messages their patients are more likely to listen to, Jiang says.

“Understanding how individuals think of a certain behavior is essential to motivating new behaviors,” Jiang says. “The behaviors doctors prescribe need to actually fit in with what’s going on within one’s life.”

Jiang says the GHI Graduate Student Research Award will drastically increase his access to research participants when he starts his data collection in September.

“Because we are dealing with human subjects, we need to incentivize our participants to get reliable data,” he says. “Getting my data is essential to my research, and without this award it would be very difficult for me to have access to different participants as easily as I will have,” Jiang says.

With data from college students and parents of preschoolers, Jiang hopes this award will also help him to collect data from the older populations. Jiang believes older individuals conceptualize their health much differently than younger populations, and this difference will help further explain how contextual health is.

“If I were to ask a 25 year old why they started a Paleo diet, I believe this person is much more likely to respond that they are promoting their health by eating less carbs and more protein to ensure a healthier future,” he says. “Yet, if I asked a 65 year old that same question, that person is much more likely to think about this diet as a way of preventing the onset of diabetes,or for it to become worse,” Jiang says.

Jiang just finished collecting a sample of participants online and is currently in the process of analyzing that data. His next step is to start collecting data from undergraduates, parents, and older adults in the community.

By Olivia Riedel/ September 25, 2015

Graduate Students Take on Global Health Challenges

With help from the Global Health Institute’s 2013 Graduate Student Research Awards, seven students are tackling health challenges around the world, from the spread of dengue fever in Colombia to the impact of health care changes in the highlands of Thailand.

The results of their research could provide information that will lead to improved health for children and adults. Graduate students Ephrem Aboneh, Andrew Bennett, Yangsun Hong, Jinho Kim, Stephanie Koning, Gail Rosen and James Weger have spent hundreds of hours developing individual research questions that they wish to test. The monetary award given to them from GHI has allowed each to make their plan a reality, which usually involves traveling to another country. Here are their stories:

Improving safety for patients

“I have found that hospitals in the United States have successfully implemented strategies that may be leveraged to support patient safety in hospitals in developing countries.” ̶ Ephrem Aboneh

Ephrem A. Aboneh, a graduate student in Social and Administrative Sciences in the School of Pharmacy, came to UW-Madison because it is one of the few pharmacy schools in the United States with a strong focus on medication safety and patient safety research. Prior to coming to Madison, Aboneh was a lecturer in Ethiopia, where he worked with different health professionals at Addis Ababa University’s teaching hospital. “My work has provided me with an opportunity to understand the scope of problems affecting the current health care system,” Aboneh says.

ED Crowding

Those problems include fragmentation of care, multiple patients safety issues and lack of standardization in Black Lion Hospital’s emergency departments. All are associated with the risk of medication errors that can lead to patient harm.

As those things began to sink in, he became interested in finding a graduate program that could help him get an advanced level training to become an independent researcher. His goal is to study patient safety/medication safety issues.

The GHI research fellowship will allow Aboneh to study medical safety in Ethiopia. He will identify hazards, suggest strategies and make recommendations to improve medication safety in Ethiopia.

“I am hoping to use this as an opportunity to jump start discussion in the area as well as broaden future work,” Aboneh says. He will perform an extensive literature review, observe hospital procedures and conduct two sets of interviews at the Black Lion Hospital to address the problem and identify its main cause.

“I believe that application of human factors engineering approaches in such settings can help identify medication/patient safety hazards,” he says. Aboneh will use the data he collects to analyze rigorous qualitative methods in order to develop a set of recommendations for hospitals like Black Lion to follow. His goal is to identify hazards and strategies to improve medication safety in developing countries.

Improving HIV/AIDS prevention

“Examining school context is important because the high HIV prevalence rates in sub-Saharan Africa including Malawi appear to be closely linked to the majority of teenagers experiencing early sexual debut.” ̶ Jinho Kim

In 2003, the concept of combining several medical interventions to prevent HIV/AIDS was introduced, and since then, much attention has been paid to this approach. Jinho Kim, a Seoul, South Korea citizen and Ph.D. student in the Department of Sociology, found that despite the attention and interest, little is known about the effects of combined HIV/AIDS prevention efforts.

Kim spent two years as director of a public health program in Malawi before coming to UW-Madison. “The program funded by the Korean government had two components, one for providing HIV prevention interventions and the other for evaluating their effects. I want to see what the combined efforts can do,” Kim says.

Kim’s research will provide unique opportunities to examine adolescents’ sexual norms, behaviors and networks in the context of a school environment. His focus will be on friend networks and how they influence students’ sexual behavior.

Kim developed a module of friend networks as part of a project initiated by the Africa Future Foundation in partnership with Daeyang Luke Hospital in Malawi and the Korea International Cooperation Agency. He will add information he gathered previously into a follow-up survey.

“I spent a large part of the award in supporting my summer field trip to Malawi, which is essential for improving the quality of follow-up survey data,” Kim says. “Consequently, the award was extremely helpful to improve my work.” By understanding how friend networks influence students’ sexual attitudes, Kim hopes his work will help stop the spread of HIV/AIDS. He will publish his work as well as use it as his master’s thesis.

Understanding the impact of health care reform

“This research has important implications for global health research and utilizes an interdisciplinary approach to study the social and political motivations behind changing health behaviors.” ̶ Stephanie Koning

Stephanie Koning, from Wenatchee, Wash., is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Population Health. Her work looks at how health care changes affect populations. Stephanie Koning-Thailand“My work is motivated by my desire to understand the social and political motivations behind changing individual and population health behaviors, the broader impacts of health system reform and the best way to promote the protection of human rights through health promotion,” Koning says.

She will study how Thailand’s rural primary health care expansion impacted maternal and infant mortality and the social enfranchisement of ethnic minorities. Using mixed methods, Koning will determine whether intervention in highland villages produced an immediate or lagged increase in hospital childbirths, an increase in childbirth registration and a reduction in maternal and infant mortality.

“We need to see the broader impacts of health system reform and the protection of human rights through health promotion,” she says. The GHI Graduate Student Research Award will allow Koning to visit Thailand to meet with colleagues and mentors, conduct an exploratory pilot study, finalize her dissertation research aims and methods, and find a research assistant.

Grant allows field research

“My overall objective is to determine whether small forest fragments in a highly relevant setting has value for reducing water-borne pathogens.” ̶ Gail Rosen

Gail Rosen, a Ph.D. student in Population Health Sciences, came to UW-Madison to work with Dr. Tony Goldberg, her advisor who leads the Kibale EcoHealth Project in Uganda and sparked her interest in reducing water-borne pathogens.

Rosen is proposing a holistic, interdisciplinary approach to examining the value of small fragments of forest for reducing pathogens in surface water that cause human and animal disease. “First, it represents an opportunity to apply theories and methods from multiple disciplines to science that may have practical, actionable implications,” she says. “I’m using molecular techniques in a sampling strategy informed by ecology and epidemiology to look at interactions between things as small as a virus and as large as an ecosystem, all with the aim of protecting human health. That’s exciting. The work should also provide insight into how ecosystem services related to health hold up under conditions of landscape change, which is of course a very relevant question as forests become increasingly fragmented.”

Rosen’s study will take place in western Uganda, where forest fragments persist in low-lying areas through which water flows and where water-borne pathogens are highly likely to cause disease. Rosen will test whether small forest fragments act as “filters” and can stop water pollution. She hopes to prove the forest fragments can be used to remove pathogens from water.

“I’m so grateful to GHI for this award,” Rosen said. “It’s giving me the chance to get into the field for the whole month of January. Aside from the fact that I need to be there to collect my samples, I think it’s really important to put in the field time. It’s hard to understand a system you haven’t seen firsthand.” The project fits GHI’s interdisciplinary approach to public health that includes examining and addressing environmental impacts on well-being.

 Combating mosquito-borne disease

“Seeing and understanding the dire nature of how infectious disease affects society puts these diseases and their afflictions into perspective. This was powerful and I think is something that scientists sometimes talk too nonchalantly about without first-hand experience.” ̶ James Weger

By studying human dengue fever in northern Columbia, master’s student James Weger hopes to help avert a massive viral outbreak. Weger, a Madison, Wis., native is a third year graduate student in the Department of Pathobiological Sciences.

Weger’s work will increase understanding of the mosquito-borne viruses circulating in Magdalena and La Guajira, Columbia. These regions support many arboviruses, which could emerge from the forest to cause massive disease outbreaks in the human population, Weger says. The work also will augment Weger’s research and global health experience.

Weger’s work focuses on human dengue fever, an infectious tropical disease that is spread by mosquitoes and also known as break bone fever. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle and joint pains and a characteristic skin rash that is similar to measles. In a small portion of cases the disease develops into the life-threatening dengue hemorrhagic fever, resulting in bleeding, low levels of blood platelets and blood plasma leakage.

Dengue fever represents a massive threat to the public health in tropical climates, Weger says.

He has found that relevant data is necessary for continued understanding of transmission dynamics, predicting outbreaks and developing an effective vaccine. To do this, Weger will isolate mosquitoes from the tropical areas and test them for a panel of virus pathogens in order to understand infection rates in the areas.

The GHI fellowship allowed Weger to travel to Columbia, which he had not done before, and see close up how infectious disease affects people. The trip helped him appreciate the impact of infectious diseases and inspires him to work to find a cure for human dengue virus that will contribute to public health. Weger says. “The award meant a lot to me and allowed me to experience something that I would have otherwise not had the opportunity to experience,” Weger says. “It also provides valuable funds to a project which I feel is important and can hopefully have good results.”

May 13, 2014 | by Carley Eisenberg

Internship spotlight: Hovel gets hands-on experience in public health

After graduating from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in December 2012 with bachelor’s degrees in biology and Spanish, plus a certificate in global health, Elizabeth Hovel embarked on a new learning adventure earlier this year—an internship in northern Spain, with the health department of Asturias, one of 17 Spanish autonomous communities.

The Asturias Consejería de Sanidad—comparable to a state health department—has been collaborating with UW–Madison’s Population Health Institute to implement the Health Observatory of Asturias—the first application outside of the United States of the County Health Rankings methodology pioneered by the PHI.

Dr. Rafael Cofiño, chief of population health in Asturias, has been a visiting scholar at UW–Madison, working with Dr. Patrick Remington, Dr. Javier Nieto, and Marion Ceraso.

Dr. Cofiño and Lori DiPrete Brown, associate director for education and engagement of UW–Madison’s Global Health Institute, assisted Hovel in planning her internship. To help with funding, Hovel received an internship grant from the Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies (LACIS) Program.

During her internship, Hovel:

  • Participated in a community health rotation with family medicine residents, which consisted of learning about public health programs and spending time with various associations working to improve social determinants of health;
  • Took courses in community health, qualitative investigation, and web 2.0 strategies;
  • Spent a week at a clinic with a primary care pediatrician;
  • Helped to review and organize the Health Observatory’s online health asset database to make it more searchable for citizens;
  • Translated some materials from Spanish to English to increase the Health Observatory’s potential for outreach.

Hovel, of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, talks about her experiences in an interview:

Question: What is your background in public health?

Hovel: I completed the Undergraduate Certificate in Global Health, which included classes in global and public health and cross-disciplinary electives.  I’ve been very involved in volunteer work in the Madison area and was able to integrate that into a public health honors project.

I also participated in “Linking Agriculture and Nutrition,” a weeklong field course at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico, led by Drs. Sherry Tanumihardjo and Natalia de Leon.  The sum of my experiences with the certificate allowed me a deep understanding of its focus on a local to global connection.

Q: What previous international experiences have you had?

Hovel: I have always loved to travel and learn about other cultures.  At the UW I was able to thoroughly integrate this passion with my studies.  In addition to my field course in Mexico, I spent a semester abroad in Seville, Spain.

Q: What experiences during your internship did you find to be most meaningful and/or rewarding? What sorts of insights did you gain?

Hovel: One especially meaningful experience for me was the opportunity to be involved in the different stages of the Observatory’s work.  During my rotation, we met with the researchers who compile findings to create a “picture of health” for each zone: health factors and outcomes are presented as rankings with the purpose of inspiring action.

I was able to sit in on several meetings with local government leaders who approached the Consejería wanting to develop a project that could improve their community’s situation of health.  Seeing this motivation sparked by the rankings was particularly rewarding and I was able to learn about different approaches to collaboration; we definitely have opportunities to do more of it in the United States.

The Consejería has a great video about this process, titled From Information to Action. (Click on captions for English subtitles)

Q: How did this experience strengthen your belief that important work in the health field is not always clinical?

Hovel: I learned quite a bit about social determinants of health, which include factors such as socioeconomic status, education, and physical environment.  These and others greatly influence people’s health status—they are the “causes of the causes” of health problems.

For example, children who live in neighborhoods without access to safe parks may be more sedentary, which can lead to obesity, which can lead to many chronic health issues.

Great community health assets can be primary care clinics, but they can also be bike paths or organizations that work towards better social integration.  Community health is inherently interdisciplinary and the opportunities for meaningful work are endless.

Q: How did this experience affect your views on universal health care?

Hovel: I was able to see first-hand the advantages of the Spanish National Health System, such as more direct collaboration between public health departments and clinics and quality primary care for all.  Something that caught my attention is that it’s written into Spain’s General Health Law that every resident has the right to health services.

While every country is different, I think health as a basic human right is an attitude that we need to adopt and I’ve become even more passionate about increasing access to care here in the United States.

Q: What impact did your internship have on your future plans?

Hovel: I will be serving with Americorps in the coming year at Sixteenth Street Community Health Center in Milwaukee, and I hope to pursue degrees in both medicine and public health.

The internship really solidified my professional interest in working to improve community health, and I feel more adept to do so.  My time in Asturias was a fantastic learning experience—I hope we are able to create more opportunities for exchange in the future.

Published by the International Division by Kerry G. Hill, June 05, 2015

Winning climate change solutions range from meat processing to mindfulness

The Climate Quest competition to spur innovative climate change solutions is down to a field of five.

At the Climate Quest Concept Pitch on Sept. 19, 18 teams presented their ideas to a panel of investors and entrepreneurs, who rated the ideas on many factors including creativity, scalability and potential impact.

Photo: Climate Quest logo

The panel selected five teams to advance to the next round of the competition. Climate Quest is led by the UW-MadisonOffice of Sustainability in partnership with the Global Health InstituteWisconsin Energy Institute, and Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and focuses on developing practical, multidisciplinary approaches with likely society-wide impact.

“These projects are a constructive response to the dilemma we find ourselves in.

Climate Quest is a way for all of us to go beyond debating whether climate change is happening or assigning blame, and moving the process forward by engaging the community in developing solutions,” says lead Climate Quest organizer Darin Harris.

Each advancing team will receive a planning grant to produce a full proposal and proof of concept for the final Climate Quest later this year. The winners will be supported in implementing their solutions.

“Although we had to pick finalists, this is not about winners and losers,” Harris says, adding that many of the non-advancing teams are also continuing to pursue their projects. “The main point of this competition is to get people started. This was an opportunity to help nucleate ideas and launch them into potentially effective solutions.”

Videos of most of the presentations are available online for public viewing and commenting.

Five finalists announced:

The Dionysus Project

Team members: Bartlett Durand (lead), Michael Gurin, Sean Murdock, Russ Conser, Peter Byck, Anthony Michaels, Teresa Forst, Patrick Michaels and Geoffrey Steinback.

Additional advisers: Allen Williams, Bill Niman, Nicolette Hahn Niman, Brian Bradley, Timothy Zauche and Steve Wille.

The Dionysus Project is a re-creation of the beef industry to create a closed-loop, carbon-neutral and energy-efficient model centered on a “human-scale” slaughterhouse paired with a digester, full waste stream management, and process and energy efficiencies to dramatically reduce the carbon and energy waste typical in the industrial meat model.


Team members: Keari Bell-Gawne, Jonathan Elmergreen and Dennis Ramirez.

EcoMotion is a game-styled mobile app that increases social motivation to combat climate change by encouraging individuals to make behavioral and lifestyle choices that reduce their personal carbon footprint.

Improving Global Dairy Production in the Face of Climate Change

Team members: Warren Porter (lead; picture above), Paul Mathewson and Matthew Axler.

This project will provide online and mobile access to a tool that allows users to assess climate change impact on milk production and identify environmental or livestock changes that can improve milk production under current or future climate conditions.


Team members: Rachel Bergmans and Valerie Stull.

MIGHTi is exploring microlivestock farming — production of edible insects — as a means to cultivate an inexpensive and low-environmental impact nutrient source that will be sustainable in a changing climate, while simultaneously mitigating food insecurity and empowering women in developing areas such as rural Zambia.

Mindful Climate Action

Team members: Bruce Barrett (lead), Carmen Alonso, Mary Checovich, Bob Gillespie, Maggie Grabow, Cathy Middlecamp, Margaret Mooney, Evan Moss, Kristi Rietz, Leah Samson-Samuel and Julia Yates.

Additional advisers: Steve Ackerman, Richard Davidson, Mark Johnson, Ken Kushner, Sonya Newenhouse, Dave Rakel, Dick Smith and Jon Temte.

This project combines mindfulness-based stress reduction training with education on climate change, energy use and carbon footprints to create a program that will stimulate people to adopt more sustainable behaviors and lifestyles.

The review panel included:

  • John Holton, chairman and president of JWS Foundation
  • John Nelson, managing director and CTO of Global Infrastructure Asset Management
  • Tom Olson, chief investment officer — Private Markets at UW-Foundation
  • Ulice Payne, president of Addison-Clifton LLC
  • Ben Ryan, senior manager of business systems and cost engineering at SunPower
  • Julie Van Cleave, chief investment officer at UW-Foundation

By Jill Sakai/ September 30, 2014
This story was originally published by University Communications.

Six student projects awarded Wisconsin Idea Fellowships for 2015-1016

Originally posted March 23, 2015 on the Morgridge Center for Public Service website.

Six student projects have been selected from among nearly 20 submissions for 2015-16 Wisconsin Idea Undergraduate Fellowships.

The 17th year of the Wisconsin Idea Undergraduate Fellowships (WIF) will feature two domestic projects and four international projects. The six projects—to be implemented over the course of the next 12 months—were collectively awarded over $30,000.

Wisconsin Idea Fellowships are awarded annually to undergraduate student projects working to solve issues identified by local or global communities. Fellowships are awarded to semester-long or year-long projects designed by an undergraduate student (or group of students) in collaboration with a community organization and a UW-Madison faculty or academic staff member.

Waterborne Disease Prevention in Kumanzimdaka, South Africa

Student: Theo Loo, Microbiology and Global Health student form Singapore

Faculty Mentor: Michael Bell, Professor in Community & Environmental Sociology

Currently, 40% of South Africa’s population lives in rural areas with little access to clean water, leading to illness and disease. In 2014, Theo and three classmates conducted a rapid health impact assessment that outlined several physical water source protection strategies to prevent waterborne diseases in Kumanzimdaka, South Africa.

This WIF project builds on that assessment with the goal of reducing the prevalence of waterborne diseases in Kumanzimdaka. The project will conduct water testing and water sterilization workshops, establish a community dialogue, and map houses, community centers, livestock feeding pastures and latrines. The project will then produce a recommendation for physical water source protection strategies, and has the potential to lay the groundwork for a systematic approach to reducing waterborne diseases across rural South Africa.

Narrativas del cruce: Female narratives of migration between the US and Latin America; Arizona

Student: Alexandra Arriaga, Journalism and Latin American, Carribbean & Iberian Studies student from Hickory Hills, Ill

Faculty Mentor: Karma Chavez, Associate Professor in Communication Arts

Traditionally, the majority of migrants crossing the United States/ Mexican border have been male. But in recent years, the number of women who embark on this journey has risen. In an effort to research the unique struggles that women face in making the journey, this project will collaborate with existing organizations near the border to gain access to the women’s stories. The project will conduct interviews and recordings with the end goal of composing a multimedia story collection.

TEAM (Time for Education, Awareness, and Management of) Concussion: A Community Resource for High School Students and their College student mentors; Madison, Wis.

Student: Kristen Cassarini, Kinesiology student from Madison, Wis.

Faculty Mentor: Heater Krug, Clinical Associate Professor in Communication Sciences and Disorders

Within Wisconsin and specifically the Madison community, very few support resources beyond traditional medical care exist for high school teenagers who have experienced a concussion. Although medical care is important in rehabilitative efforts post-concussion, individuals can also face isolation from friends, depression, and a lifestyle change including a stoppage of everyday activities.

This project will build a collaborative group setting to support high school teenagers who have experienced concussions. TEAM Concussion members will attend social and recreational activities designed to combat isolation and facilitate the development of relationships among peers. Presenting a structured curriculum, trained college students will engage high school students in interactive and engaging educational activities surrounding concussion symptoms and management.

Expanding Entomophagy: Investigating potential barriers to mealworm consumption in Zambian and the United States; Lusaka and Southern Province, Zambia

Student: Marjorie Kersten, Community and Environmental Sociology and Global Health Student from Waunakee, Wis.

Faculty Mentor: Susan Paskewitz, Professor in Entomology (CALS)

Forty eight percent of Zambia’s population experienced food insecurity from 2012-2014, with December- March being the particularly difficult “hungry season” between crop production. But protein-rich insects provide a potential solution.

This WIF project will explore existing entomophagy (insect-eating) practices in Zambia through a survey focusing particularly on women, who are typically the primary contributors in developing world food systems. Based on the results, the project will develop complete meal plans that incorporate insects into traditional Zambian food.

The long-term goal of this project is to increase the acceptance and frequency of entomophagy within the Lusaka and Southern Province of Zambia and to improve food security and nutrition.

Linking Ecuadorian Teachers to the Latino Earth Partnership Environmental Education Program; Ecuador

Students: Brenna O’Halloran, Geography, Environmental Studies and Biographical Aspects of Conservation from Eagan, Minn., and Lauren Feierstein, Geography and Biological Aspects of Conservation student from Shorewood, Wis.

Faculty Mentor: Catherine Woodward, Faculty Associate in WISCIENCE

The Ceiba Foundation for Tropical Conservation works with communities in costal Ecuador to improve environmental and science education. Many teachers in these communities lack formal science training.

This WIF project will train teachers from three Ecuadorian elementary school in an environmental science curriculum that they can implement in their classrooms. The teachers will attend a workshop, receive help with teaching activities and receive lesson books in Spanish for future activities. The project also aims to lay a broad groundwork for Madison, WI-based Latino Earth Partnership to expand their work to Ecuador and provide science education workshops there annually.

The Soap Project: Women’s Empowerment & Sanitation in Lweza; Lweza, Uganda

Students: Mackenzie Carlson, Gender & Women’s Studies student from Pulaski, Wis., and Corinne Praska, Genetics student from Rochester, Minn.

Faculty Mentor: James Ntambi, Professor in Biochemistry and Nutritional Sciences

On a previous trip to Lweza, Uganda, Mackenzie and Corinne had the opportunity to develop relationships the community and learn about its needs. Women, in particular, expressed excitement for obtaining skills to make products that they could then sell to gain independence and economic stability. Local health care providers also expressed the need for better sanitation.

This WIF project aims to tackle both issues by launching a soap-making training program in the village. The project also aims to promote youth development, further educational opportunities and stimulate the local economy. Additionally, the project will develop marketing strategies to build long-term structures for the production and sales of local-made soap.

Carybeth Reddy, Peace Corps volunteer, answers why she loves the world

Carybeth Reddy, a former Global Health Institute intern and field course participant, wrote the following post on her blog, Ode to the Road. The UW-Madison 2012 graduate from the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences says her international experience while at UW-Madison motivated her to join the Peace Corps. She’s in Cameroon as a Peace Corps volunteer working in community economic development.

Reasons to Love the World

BBC Travel posted an article, 50 Reasons to #LoveTheWorld, saying that the news can be pretty depressing, making us want to stay home. They asked people to “share one experience from the last year that truly inspired them – something that, in no uncertain terms, reminded them why they love the world. Madly.”

Coming off a not so great week as a Peace Corps volunteer, I decided to do the same. Days here can be frustrating, but I have moments almost daily where I stop and am reminded of the beauty of this country and the world.

So here’s why I love the world —

Because when I let go of the work frustration I feel and just sit under the stars with my neighbors to escape the heat inside, I feel at home.

Because when I reached the summit of Mount Cameroon, the highest peak in Western and Central Africa, I felt so tiny compared to the vast volcano, but so powerful for having conquered its steep slopes.

unnamed-21Because when that elusive dry season thunderstorm rolls in to provide a short break from the stifling heat, the whole town breathes a collective sigh of relief.

Because as I sat in my apartment on the 19th anniversary of one of the worst days, wondering how I should feel or what I should be doing, my neighbor poked her head in to give me the first mango of mango season and I realized I should just feel what I feel. In that moment, it was pure happiness as I tore off the skin and let the juice roll down my chin.

Because as I floated with my dad and sister in the clear water of the Mediterranean after more than a year apart, I remembered how lucky I am to have the best family in the world.

Because when my favorite Besongabang mommy, who’s deaf, and I have a conversation – me speaking Pidgin so she can read my lips and her speaking Kenyung that I don’t understand, it always ends in fits of laughter that remind me that humans can connect, anywhere, anyhow.

Because all arguments in Cameroon end in on est ensemble or “we are together” without any grudge being held. And that’s beautiful.

Because when I walk through the field to reach the primary school in Besongabang to teach water and sanitation classes, I’m met with chants of “Auntie Cary!!!” coming out of the classrooms, reminding me how unique my life is in this moment.

Because when I walk through the field to reach the primary school in Besongabang to teach water and sanitation classes, I’m met with chants of “Auntie Cary!!!” coming out of the classrooms, reminding me how unique my life is in this moment.

Carybeth ReddyBecause when my sister and 3 friends came to visit, all in the last year, my Cameroonian, Ecuadorian and American worlds all collided in a magical way.

Because when I float in the Atlantic waves off the black sand coast of Limbe and stare up at majestic Mount Cameroon rising out of the tropical flora in the distance, I remember that I am fortunate to be here.

What inspired you to love the world in the last year?