Campus Liaisons Bringing APHA to College Students Nationwide

By Johnson, Teddi Dineley | The Nation's Health, August 2007 | Go to article overview
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Campus Liaisons Bringing APHA to College Students Nationwide

Johnson, Teddi Dineley, The Nation's Health

DURING a student body meeting this past spring at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, Sarah Forestall set up a table at the back of the auditorium and handed out information about APHA. Later, she addressed the assemblage, emphasizing the many benefits that can be gained through membership in the world's oldest, largest and most diverse organization of public health professionals.

As her school's representative to APHA's Student Assembly, Forrestal is one of dozens of students who each year volunteer to serve as campus liaisons. Powered by youthful energy and a shared desire to improve the world, campus liaisons raise awareness of APHA's activities and public health on college campuses around the nation. They also play a key role at the local level by advancing the Assembly's mission to equip students with educational and career-enhancing information, resources and opportunities to communicate, network and advocate.

This fall, nearly 100 such ambassadors--the largest constituency in the program's seven-year history--will arrive on campuses with the tools they'll need to advance the cause, such as brochures, fliers and posters, as well as sewing kits, toothbrushes and pencils inscribed with the Student Assembly logo.

"The mission of campus liaisons is to get the word out to students about the benefits of being a member of APHA and the Student Assembly," said Campus Liaison Subcommittee Chair Lenette Golding, MPH.

At the beginning of each semester, Golding, who has chaired the subcommittee since November 2005, sends a box of supplies to each liaison, who is free to distribute the items however she or he wishes. For example, a liaison might set up a table at an important event, such as a new student orientation. Some liaisons have even created contests, using supplies such as Student Assembly water bottles and chip clips as prizes, said Golding, who is a doctoral student at the University of Georgia. Whatever the distribution method, the freebies spark interest and open the door to conversations about the many benefits of belonging to APHA and the Student Assembly, as well as the educational and career rewards that can be gained from attending the APHA Annual Meeting.

As a volunteer opportunity, the campus liaison program is popular with many students, Golding said, because it doesn't require a large investment of students' time in return for being able to state on their resumes that they are "connected with something so well-respected as APHA, and in the world of public health, everyone knows of APHA."

With the exception of one undergraduate student, campus liaison teams have traditionally been composed of graduate-level students. In 2005, the Student Assembly voted to allow an undergraduate, Alaa Eddin Obeid, to serve as the campus liaison at the University of Central Oklahoma after he expressed an interest in the job. Obeid's success in raising awareness of APHA at the undergraduate level influenced the Student Assembly's recent decision to begin recruiting undergraduates into the campus liaision program. To that end, the Assembly recently elected Allen Suh, a public health policy major at the University of California-Irvine, to co-chair a new undergraduate program.

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