In 2015 and January 2016, University of Wisconsin-Madison undergraduate students will again have the opportunity to participate in field experiences in Wisconsin and around the world. Registration is open now for the courses.
“The field courses are an important part of the undergraduate global health certificate program,” said Sweta Shrestha, education programs associate at the Global Health Institute (GHI) who leads the Nepal field course. “Ideas learned in the academic setting sink in as students meet local communities and spend time with faculty and staff to understand the multi-faceted determinants of health.”
Undergraduate students will have the opportunity to learn in small groups, visiting underserved locations in Wisconsin and across the world.
They can work with the Bad River Tribal Youth Media Project to look at global health in a cultural context. They can study obesity and health in Madison, Wis., and Vienna, Austria, and explore sustainability in Freiburg, Germany. They might travel to Ecuador to look at sustainability and community health, to Mexico to explore food security or to Uganda to look at health and nutrition.
Field experience is a requirement to complete the Undergraduate Certificate in Global Health, offered by GHI and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
About 200 students are expected to apply for a spot in 16 field courses and opportunities offered through the Area Health Education Center. For a complete list of courses, visit the GHI website.
Students also can complete their field experience requirement with individual global health experiences that are approved and supervised by university faculty and staff, said Robin Mittenthal, Global Health administrative program manager. About 112 students have completed individual programs since 2012. For more information, see the field course guide.
Field courses are an academic experience, not a vacation, Shrestha says. They are led by faculty and staff who have deep-rooted connections to the country and topics. Many have worked for years with local partners who are willing to share their wisdom and experiences.
Students are immersed in a culture and have the opportunity visit and learn from communities and places that often are not open to outsiders. Courses vary in length from a week to five weeks.
When courses involve service projects, such as building a pathway or plastering school walls, the projects are determined by the community. “It’s not about what we want to do but what the community wants to see done,” Shrestha says.
The most important aspect of the field course is reflection, Shrestha says. Looking through a public health or global health lens, even sitting by the side of a road is a time for learning. Students can see who’s on the road, who’s not and why they’re traveling. They look at what kinds of transportation are used, whether it’s safe and more. “All are important to understanding what impacts people’s health,” she says.