Ryan Loll (’15) Promotes Hiking Habits in Asheville

My name is Ryan Loll and I am a senior at UNC- Asheville studying Health and Wellness Promotion as well as Spanish. I am currently from Charlotte NC but made the decision to stay in Asheville over the summer because I got a position working with Campus Recreation planning pre-rendezblue for the incoming students.

Before summer was in full swing, I got an e-mail from the North Carolina Center for Health and Wellness asking for individuals to assist with an observational study that deals with recording the coming and going of trail users in the Asheville area. The center is working with an organization called “Kids in Parks” who’s goal is to promote a healthy lifestyle for children by motivating them to go out hiking and participate in outdoor recreation. The kids who hike on these trails can plug in their mileage online and get cool prizes after reaching set distances.  Because this project is still in its beginning stages, Kids in Parks wants to make sure that people are using the trails, reading the trail head sign and brochures that are offerIMG_4689ed so that they can implement this program in other states. This is where I came into play. My duty was to sit at the trail head at one of four trails in the area and record who is using the trail. I was given a little booklet that was used for data collection and I would fill out information such as group size, number of children, approximate ages of children, number of males and females, and how long they went hiking.  The funny part is the booklet I was given had birds on the cover and read “Birds of the Blue Ridge” so that people were not deterred by my presence. It was people watching at its finest.

So a typical day of “observing” would be 8 hours on Saturday and Sunday as well as 4 hours during the week of sitting in my camp chair or hammock reading a book or playing cards until a group of hikers would walk up to the trail head. Then we would act natural (or try to at least) and quietly record what they said about the trail as well as general information. They would hit the trail and I would resume back to where I left off in my book. The days ranged from being busy with hikers to an absolute ghost town.  One of the hardest parts of the job was not only keeping yourself occupied for hours while no one goes hiking on a rainy day, but also recording large groups from schools who  would come out and hike.  On my first day of work, a group of about 30 exited the trail and I was quickly overwhelmed with counting the number of people. Thankfully, I had a partner with me for company so that I was not alone all day on a trail, but for the most part I was pretty quiet.

The funniest and best part of the job was trying to be inconspicuous while “observing” hikers. The most popular method of camouflage was pretending to have a pic-nic but when you are at the same location several hours later only moving to avoid getting sunburned, your cover gets blown pretty easily. Sometimes people would catch on to our activities and notice that the same two people are at the same location that they were hours ago and they seem to be writing something down every time people use the trail.  We were instructed that if asked, we inform them about the project, but for the most part we were told to avoid interaction and any personal information because this study was strictly observational.

At the end of June the project ended and my skills of people watching were no longer needed. It was pretty fun being a part of this program because it allowed me to get a firsthand account of how projects like this are implemented, evaluated and improved. Thankfuunnamedlly I had an introduction to health implementation and evaluation in a class I took last spring titled “Health Promotion Theory and Practice” with Ameena Batada that allowed me to understand my purpose in this project. I was also glad to work with this program because it allowed me to establish a relationship with the North Carolina Center for Health and Wellness and I now have some basic experience with data collection not to mention my people watching skills have greatly improved as well.

I feel that the main reason why I got this short term position with the center was because of my relationship with my professors in the department of Health and Wellness (and also a little bit of checking my email).  For any students who are interested in a position like this I highly recommend just stopping by, saying hello, introducing yourself and establish that you are interested in work like this. The professors and staff members in this department are awesome and love getting students involved in projects like this.  After this project I honed in my skills of observational work, multitasking as well as keeping myself entertained during slow days. Thanks to this opportunity, I hope that more projects will present themselves to me and that I can use them for Undergraduate Research.

My advice to current students wishing to gain more experience in their field through opportunities out of the class room is to simply go and talk with their professors about what you are motivated and passionate about and ask them how you can personally grow to excel. These faculty members are not only teachers but resources to help students branch out and establish new relationships within their area of study.  This project and others similar to it are great for building transitional skills such as problem solving, communication, critical thinking and work ethic. Once this project had finished, I felt that I got a tiny taste of what working in health promotion and research is like and I am ready to go out and find another project in my field of study that I am most motivated about.

Morgan Pearson Martin (’08) Blends Physical and Mental Health

-Tell us a bit about your experience at UNC Asheville?  What is your major? When did you graduate? How were you involved on campus?

My name is Morgan Martin and I graduated from UNC Asheville in 2008 with a B.A. in psychology and a minor in health and wellness promotion. When I graduated, I only needed one or two more classes to receive a double major, but I was in such a rush to get my first real job I didn’t take the time to finish it!

At UNC-Asheville, I started out as an Environmental Studies major. After dabbling in those classes for a semester, I decided perhaps I would rather focus on teaching at the elementary school level. It didn’t take me long to determine that I didn’t have the passion needed to truly love the teaching field! It was during that time I had taken a few psychology classes and started to get hooked on learning more. I started adding in classes for the minor in health and wellness promotion, which had just been created, and I LOVED the combination! I enjoyed combining the two fields, which allowed me to learn how our physical health and wellbeing affects our mental state and vice versa. While delving deeper into these two areas, I began working and volunteering on campus in various capacities.

I served as a resident assistant my sophomore year in Founder’s Hall, which began to spark an interest in working in higher education. I also worked as a student activities assistant, where I helped with various activities focused on student entertainment and education. I was a member of Psi Chi, the National Honor Society in Psychology. I was also a member of Active Students for a Healthy Environment (ASHE).  I participated in service learning opportunities, which included a trip to New Orleans with Habitat for Humanity one spring break. Additionally, I participated as a mentor when I was an upperclassmen, in a freshman colloquium course that was focused on Martin Luther King Jr.’s work and taught by Professor Merritt Moseley. During that class, I had the opportunity to serve in various capacities, including assisting students with finding resources on campus and with projects for the class. I also served on a student advisory council for campus health and wellness. It was through these opportunities that I started to really develop an interest in continuing to work in an academic setting, preferably with students. I loved my college years so much I wanted to focus my career in this area!

About two months before graduation, I started applying for jobs in Maryland. My boyfriend at the time (now my husband), who I met at UNC-Asheville, was from Maryland and we figured there would be more job opportunities in the D.C/Baltimore area than in Asheville. Although we both toyed with going directly to graduate school, we were eager to start supporting ourselves. I had also never lived outside the mountains of Western NC and was eager to live in the “big city.” I was able to secure a job before graduating in Maryland at University of Maryland University College (UMUC). My title was Community Relations Coordinator. In this position, I recruited community college students from all over the state and assisted them with transferring to UMUC.

While at UMUC, I was still thinking about graduate school. I applied and was admitted to Loyola College of Maryland (MA in Counseling) and to University of Baltimore (MS in Counseling Psychology). I took a course at University of Baltimore and decided I just wasn’t sure what I really wanted to do yet. After working at UMUC in the coordinator position for a year, I was promoted to Assistant Director, where my duties remained the same but I also began to oversee a large scholarship program. It was at that point, I realized that in order to continue an upward trajectory I would likely need to get serious about earning a master’s degree. The problem was that I still didn’t know “what I wanted to do when I grew up.” I decided I would pick a degree and go for it, so I found a subject area I was interested in that I thought could serve me well professionally, and I began a degree program. Two years later, I completed my MS in Management with a specialization in Non-Profit and Association Management with University of Maryland University College.

Getting the master’s degree seemed to serve me well, because while I was in the midst of earning it, I was honored to have the opportunity to begin serving as Director of College and University Partnerships at UMUC. In that position, I helped to form new articulation agreements and partnerships with community colleges across the country, in order to provide community college students with a seamless transition to UMUC that would save them time and money. I managed a team of tespeakingn people and got some wonderful experience as both a manager and a higher education professional. I also wanted to get back to my interests in health and wellness promotion. I decided to earn my yoga teaching certification so that I could continue to nurture my interests in health promotion while working full-time in higher education. The yoga teaching program was an excellent way to fulfill my interests in health, fuel my yoga practice, and explore other opportunities that I had not had the chance to focus on before.

-What are you doing today? In July 2013, I decided I was ready for a new challenge! I wanted to continue to expand my experience in higher education while also incorporating my interest in health and wellness. I applied to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH) for the position of Associate Director of Alumni Relations. My work now is focused in higher education but takes place in the framework of public health.  JHSPH is the oldest, largest, and best school of public health in the world, and being surrounded by world class researchers and students from across the globe all focused on public health and saving people’s lives is extremely rewarding. Many of you probably know what alumni relations work consists of, since I’m sure you have probably been in contact with UNC-Asheville alumni office at some point in your time there! My work is primarily focused on engaging JHSPH alumni with the school and with each other through events, volunteer opportunities, and focused communications (such as social media, e-mail newsletters, website content, etc.)  

-What is next for you? I continue to explore my dual interests in health/wellness promotion and higher education. I have been working at JHSPH for one year now and have learned so very much. As I continue to grow in my position at the School, I am also nurturing my interests in health and wellness promotion. I now serve as secretary on the board of a recently formed non-profit group called Yoga for Parkinson’s, Inc. which aims to provide low-cost or free yoga classes to people with Parkinson’s disease and their caregivers. I volunteer my time teaching yoga to people with Parkinson’s. I am also expanding to use yoga as a customized therapy  to people with specific and unique needs, such as fertility issues, mobility issues, etc.

-What do you know now that you wish you knew as a student? If I could return to being a student, I think I would take advantage of more opportunities that I thought were too difficult to attain. I would do a semester abroad and apply to graduate school right away after graduating. I would finish that dual major too! Overall, my experience at UNC-Asheville was a wonderful one and I have extremely fond memories of my time there. I enjoyed a balance of fun and academia, formal service and work activities and soaking up the sun on the quad.

-What advice do you have for job-seeking students who are pursuing your degree? You can do anything with a degree in psychology. I truly believe that my psychology degree has helped me to better understand how people work and to understand things from a different perspective than I would have otherwise. Utilize the Career Center! I used the career center in so many ways: career coaching, mock interviews, and resume reviews, to name a few. Start early in exploring your options if you aren’t 100% sure what direction you want to take. Volunteer, shadow, do internships, find any way that you can to explore every potential interest that you have. Keep an open mind because sometimes the most unlikely of jobs can lead you down a path that you never knew you were interested in but end up being fascinated with. And even if the first job you land isn’t exactly what you want, be comfortable knowing that you will still learn a myriad of transferrable and invaluable skills that can serve you as you continue to grow professionally.

Russell Pannell (’14) Provides Healthy Living in Asheville

img_0300 (2)My name is Russell Pannell.  I graduated from the Health and Wellness Department in 2014 with a minor in Biology.  Health and Wellness is a very diverse field with lots of opportunities to help people.  Whether you are headed in a clinical direction or in want to hit the streets and help the community, there are many avenues to explore.  At the start of my career at UNC Asheville I was originally interested in studying biology.  However I found most of what I was learning to be very abstract and I looked for something applicable to my everyday life.  When I found the Health and Wellness program it was a perfect fit.  I got to learn about the human body, human nature, and society. During my time at UNC Asheville I was involved with many organizations, one of them being the UNC Asheville Cheer and Dance team.  Being a personal trainer at the school gym or interning with the City of Asheville as the Health and Wellness Intern, I was routinely involved with volunteering to community health initiatives, working with theAsheville_City_Hall_-_Hi-Res YMCA and the Fall Prevention Coalition.  While at the time I was doing all of these activities it was never obvious how these experiences would shape my professional career, but in a way the sports, clubs, and volunteering in the community has helped me to grow as a person and a professional.  Whether it was getting to know someone who helped me learn a little bit about the wellness field, or how someone may have helped me learn a little more about myself.  Everyone you meet and work with has something to teach you about life and about yourself. Currently I am working at the Reuter YMCA as a Healthy Living Coach, were I am a personal trainer and wellness coach.  My responsibilities include training clients and advising them on how to not only train better, but how to be better than they were the day before.  Creating a drive within my clients to improve their lives from an intellectual, emotional, and interpersonal level is what drives me to do the best job I can.  When you can see people’s health and demeanor improve every time you see them, it instills a resolve in me to continue to do a good job and to keep helping others. This has been a great stepping stone since graduating that will lead toward the next opportunity. For those of you who are just arriving at UNC Asheville I have a little piece of advice.  If you get invited to go to some event, even if it doesn’t sound interesting, go to it.  Shutting yourself off to any opportunity is an opportunity lost.  If you don’t like it so be it, but most likely there will be something you will enjoy and can hold on to.  For those of you who are about to graduate, I would say talk to your professors.  They have a wealth of knowledge that exists outside of the class room and have the knowledge and experience to point you in the right direction.

Chelsey Rey (’15) Explores Occupational Therapy

 Who Am I?IMG_0130

I’m Chelsey Rey, a senior in the Health and Wellness Department here at UNC Asheville. If you had asked me what I wanted to do when I first started college, I would have told you I wanted to be a physician so I could change people’s lives with the power of knowledge and medicine. I started out here at UNCA as a Cell and Molecular Biology Major, because I knew if I wanted to go to medical school that was the way to do it. As I made my way through 2 years of being a biology major, I realized that medical school was just not for me. I was at a complete loss. What else could I do?

After some research I found the Health and Wellness Promotion Department here at UNC Asheville and I made an appointment to talk to Dr. Keith Ray, the department chair. This meeting with Dr. Ray convinced me I had finally found the perfect major, and I filled out the paper work to become part of the Health and Wellness family. I discovered that medical doctors are not the only people who can make a difference and improve other’s quality of life (crazy, I know.), which is what drew me to becoming a physician in the first place. When I first entered the department, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do as a career. I took the Strong Interest Inventory Test at the Career Center and discovered Occupational Therapy.

What is Occupational Therapy?

I had never heard of occupational therapy before, so I did some research. Occupational Therapists help people across the lifespan participate in the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. My interest in occupational therapy lead me to CarePartners, an outpatient rehabilitation clinic. For my internship I worked with CarePartners Outpatient Clinic. Not only did I get to shadow occupational therapists as they evaluated and treated patients, I got to put my academic knowledge into use by working with others in the office to create a health information booklet for patients with lymphedema, the chronic swelling of the lymph nodes. Lymphedema treatment is a specialty at CarePartners and it was important for CarePartners to give their patients the best information possible to help them create a better quality of life while managing this chronic condition.

How has my internship experience benefitted me?

This experience has helped me greatly, aPrintcademically as well as professionally. I have made connections with people in the community and I have learned much more than I would have ever been able to learn just in the classroom. This internship gave me a hands-on experience of what it was like to work in my field of interest. This experience has helped me to become a competitive candidate for occupational therapy school because I now have 120 hours of clinical observation and the required amount is usually around 40. I have also developed great relationships with the therapists I have worked with who are willing to write me letters of recommendation, which is also a requirement for occupational therapy school.

What am I going to do next?          

Overall my internship at CarePartners has been a fantastic experience. It has helped me solidify my decision to go into occupational therapy, as well as given me a great opportunity to extend my connections in the community. I got to see patients with the therapists and learn about their story and about why they are in therapy. The therapists gave me opportunities to ask questions and learn more about each individual patient and their condition. I created lasting relationships with the therapists, patients, and other professionals at CarePartners. I would definitely recommend participating in an internship before you graduate from UNC Asheville. It has helped me tremendously and it has also given me the opportunity to be given the Community Engaged Scholar Award. All of these experiences will make me a better candidate for occupational therapy school as well as a valuable employee after I graduate.