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Western Illinois University Centennial Honors College students at the United Nations in New York City during an educational field trip, which was part of a Fall 2014 General Honors 299 ("International Health") course. Pictured, L to R, are: Dung Nguyen (Macomb, IL), junior biology major; Alexis Kathalynas (Genoa, IL), junior political science major; Jenna Clayton (Macomb, IL), senior psychology major; Maria Fassett (Geneseo, IL), junior public health major; Loren Brown (Naperville, IL), junior dietetics major; Michael Schwartz (Galesburg, IL), senior athletic training major; Tori Groezinger (Elizabeth, IL), senior accounting major; Claire Jarrell (Orland Park, IL), junior health services management major; and WIU Dept. of Health Sciences and Social Work Professor Fetene Gebrewold.
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WIU students attended a recording of the "Today" show during their trip to NYC for their Fall 2014 GH 299 course. (Unfortunately, they never appeared on television.)
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WIU Centennial Honors College students at Ellis Island, November 2014.
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WIU Honors Students Get Wider Public Health Perspective from NYC Field Trip

December 18, 2014

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MACOMB, IL — It was not the most opportune time to be traveling through western New York State during the week of Thanksgiving this year. Record snow in Buffalo and in that region not only caused myriad weather-related issues for those who live there, but it also resulted in delays and travel-plan reconfigurations for those routed through that area during the busy holiday travel season. Still, despite an overly long trek to New York City, eight Western Illinois University students came away from their General Honors (GH) 299 class field trip with a whole new perspective about public health—and about academic travel in general.

According to WIU Department of Health Sciences and Social Work Professor Fetene Gebrewold, as part of the new GH 299 course, "International Health," the last week of November, Gebrewold, Janell McGruder and Michele Aurand (both staff in Western's Centennial Honors College) and his students traveled to NYC. There, they visited institutions and organizations related to global public health, which included UNICEF and the United Nations.

"This was a new course created for students who are in Western's Centennial Honors College. One of the requirements for it was this educational field trip," he noted.

"The actual travel experience getting there was difficult. Because of the weather, we were rerouted through Washington, D.C. and it took much longer—about 24 hours total—than originally scheduled. But once we got there the weather was great! It was about 60 degrees while we were there," said Maria Fassett (Geneseo, IL), a junior majoring in public health.

"I have always loved traveling in general, but traveling academically was a great experience. I think everyone should take that opportunity. You see things through a different perspective, and the opportunities to discuss with your fellow classmates the places and activities you experienced were amazing. It just puts a different spin on traveling," added Jenna Clayton (Macomb, IL), a senior psychology major.

According to Gebrewold, the purpose of the course is to provide foundational knowledge and application of the international elements of health.

"That includes, but is not limited to, the global dimensions of chronic and infectious diseases. In addition, the course focuses on such major global health organizations as the World Health Organization, which has become the international standard for clinical and epidemiological purposes, a well as the role of the United Nations in maintaining international peace and security, and other organizations, such as the Rotary International Foundation's efforts to eradicate polio," Gebrewold explained. "Since this course is about international health, for the New York trip, I wanted us to visit at least two agencies, so we visited United Nations and UNICEF."

According to Loren Brown (Naperville, IL), a junior dietetics major, she enrolled in the course because she felt like it provided a great complement to her major area of study.

"I enjoyed learning about what kinds of things the different agencies are involved in," she said. "During the trip, I became really interested in the work UNICEF does, because I'm thinking about working with children in the future. Now I am interested in learning more about the different countries and all the different areas that agency serves," Brown added.

Claire Jarrell (Orland Park, IL), a junior health services management major, said she enrolled in the course because she felt like it would be a good fit for her major, as well as the fact she wanted to take an honors class through Western's Centennial Honors College.

"Some of the best parts of the trip for me included our visit to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty," she noted. "And the United Nations was awesome. We were able to go inside and see all the chairs from all the different countries. I thought it was really cool to go in there and see where this all actually goes down. While we didn't get to see the General Assembly meet, we did witness an economics conference in session."

According to Gebrewold, other areas and activities the students engaged in while in NYC included a visit to Ground Zero, a bus tour of the city and a visit to the recording of the "Today" show. (Unfortunately, they never appeared on television.)

"I wish we could have spent more time there," Clayton said of the group's visit to the UN. "But honestly, it was all fascinating—the whole trip. We got to see how things worked in person, and getting to know my classmates better was also a great part of it."

For more information, contact Gebrewold at (309) 298-1736 or via email at

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Office of University Communications & Marketing