UIndy CAC helping train National Guard for COVID-19 response in nursing homes

Indiana National Guard training

Indiana National Guard training

When members of the Indiana National Guard take their places at the state’s more than 500 nursing homes this week and in the months to come, they will do so with training provided, in part, by the University of Indianapolis Center for Aging & Community (CAC). Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb announced in late October that Indiana National Guard troops would be deployed to nursing homes to provide support to staff who have been on the front lines since the pandemic began last spring.

“Nearly 11,000 residents in Indiana nursing homes have contracted COVID-19 since March; more than 2,400 of those residents have died,” said Dr. Ellen W. Miller, executive director of CAC. “While only six percent of Indiana’s COVID cases have occurred in nursing homes, those cases account for more than 57% of the state’s COVID-related deaths.”

This disproportion contributed to the decision to call up the Indiana National Guard, Miller said. The National Guard is not being tasked with resident care responsibilities, but will help with additional administrative tasks that have emerged because of COVID-19.

“That will allow the nursing home staff to focus on caring for the residents,” Miller said. 

For the past eight years, CAC has worked with the Regenstrief Institute to embed nurses with specialized training in nursing homes to reduce avoidable hospitalizations. The effort, known as the OPTIMISTIC Project, was so successful that the leaders of the federally funded demonstration project teamed up with business development experts to found a medical startup company called Probari in order to bring similarly structured training to nursing homes around the country. 

Russell Evans from Probari, Inc. trains Indiana National Guard troops for their deployment to Indiana nursing homes.

Russell Evans from Probari, Inc. trains Indiana National Guard troops for their deployment to Indiana nursing homes.

So, when Holcomb called up the National Guard, Probari was tapped to provide training in long term care before the deployment. Miller, who was part of the leadership of OPTIMISTIC, worked with Probari’s Dr. Kathleen Unroe and Russell Evans, as well experts from the nursing home industry, Lori Davenport and Rebecca Bartle, to construct a half-day curriculum for the troops.

“In addition to training soldiers specifically how to perform their new roles, we designed the training to give them an appreciation of how tough things have been for nursing home residents and staff during pandemic-related lockdowns, an understanding of what to expect on a typical day in a nursing home, and how to protect residents and themselves from infection,” Miller said. 

According to Miller, the Guard will be helping with COVID screening at building entrances, data entry related to frequent testing, facilitating family visitations, and cleaning high touch surfaces in nursing home common areas. More than 1,400 National Guard personnel will be trained and deployed. The first of seven trainings took place on Friday, October 30 at Camp Atterbury in southern Indiana. The Guard is scheduled to be in place through December 31, 2020.

In addition to the OPTIMISTIC project, CAC has coordinated infection prevention training for nursing homes in Indiana for several years at the request of the Indiana Department of Health. CAC will also be a part of a new Indiana Nursing Home COVID-19 Action Network as part of Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes). Led by the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at Indiana University, this ECHO program is geared specifically for nursing home leadership to build capacity related to COVID-19 and protect residents and staff.

Cohabitation study spans decades, despite COVID-19 challenges

For more than 15 years, Amanda Miller, associate professor and chair of the Department of Sociology, has been studying what happens after people decide to move in together. 

From 2003 to 2006, Miller’s research team conducted in-depth interviews with 61 couples (122 individuals), including 30 couples who were working in the service sector and 31 college-educated, middle-class couples. The findings are published in “Cohabitation Nation: Gender, Class and the Remaking of Relationships,” a book co-authored by Miller, and have also been featured in outlets such as The New York Times, Psychology Today, and Journal of Family Issues.

Amanda Miller, Department of Sociology, conducts research via ZoomThis year, Miller and her research partner, Sharon Sassler from Cornell University, set out to conduct follow-up interviews with as many of the original participants as they could find. They wanted to learn about the most significant events in their lives since they had last connected. Some couples were still together; others were not. Each person had stories to tell. 

Although COVID-19 complicated their plans for this research project, Miller and Sassler have so far re-interviewed 66 of the 120 surviving members from the original sample. 

Find out more about Miller’s research experience: 

How far did you get into the interviews before COVID-19 hit? 

“My colleague, Sharon Sassler, of Cornell University and I were in Columbus, Ohio in late February/early March conducting numerous interviews per day and anxiously watching the news at night. The demographers at Ohio State, which included sociologists, economists, and public health professors, among others, were kind enough to let us conduct our interviews from their offices. We had been hearing from them between appointments that COVID-19 was likely to be a serious problem. We both headed back home on the 10th day of interviews (March 8, 2020), discussing before we parted that it may be “a couple of weeks or a month or two when this passes” before we’d get to come back and finish our work. Little did I know that trip would include my last times eating in a restaurant, browsing leisurely in a store, or grabbing a coffee at the cafe for now. In that short period of time, we had completed around 45 interviews.”

How did the pandemic affect your research project? 

“Thankfully, we had asked for permission from the Institutional Review Board to also do interviews via Zoom, anticipating that folks may be scattered across the globe. We ended up finishing the remaining interviews from our houses over the next few months, often in different time zones. I finished one interview on a Saturday morning just after midnight. I went from walking participants down a long university hallway with a sterile desk and chair to welcoming them (virtually) to my spare bedroom or screened-in porch. A few times, when my quarantine puppy couldn’t stop fussing in the background, I conducted the interview from the passenger’s seat of my car in the garage. It was definitely an adjustment!”

Was it easier or harder to follow up with people than you expected?

“It was both easier and harder than I expected. Far more people are on social media than ever before, which makes finding everyone so much easier than it would have been 15 years ago. But, people are also more geographically mobile than ever, and this is a stage of life where some women, especially, change their last names. That made things a bit more complicated. We spent days upon days combing through public access information to find as many original participants as possible. Thankfully, the people we relocated were so fantastic and most were happy to chat with us again! A few even spontaneously reached out to a long-ago ex-boyfriend or -girlfriend to encourage them to connect with us.”

What initially stands out to you about the recent interviews you conducted? 

“One thing I was struck by methodologically was that so many of the individuals we interviewed did not initially remember being a part of the first round of the study. We have been working with the transcripts of our original conversations for most of our careers, so we know them incredibly well. But, we also needed to remember that for most of the young adults we interviewed, this was just a snapshot in time for them.  Many were quite interested in what their “past selves” had said and wanted to dig into the research after our second interview. 

Data-wise, the preliminary results have reinforced for me how very much social class can positively or negatively impact a person’s life. What we really learned about were early mid-life crises. Participants trusted us enough to tell us about heartbreaks, job losses, having academic ambitions thwarted, mental health and substance use challenges, infertility, the stress of modern childrearing, and the death of beloved partners and parents. For some, the power of a completed college education or being in the right place with the right skills at the right time helped them successfully navigate the frequently choppy waters of this life stage, while for others, one life crisis precipitated another with few social supports available to put on the brakes.

I am incredibly grateful that participants are so willing to give up hours of their time and to share their life stories with us. And, I am disheartened to hear how much some of these individuals have struggled and how little it might have taken from their communities to get them back on track. We as a society can do better.” 

Learn more about the University of Indianapolis Department of Sociology.

Related: Research by Amanda Miller examines romantic relationships, career ambitions

COVID-19 crisis presents opportunity to serve community for UIndy student

Amy Rohr '20 (public health) '21 (master of public health)

Amy Rohr ’20 (public health) ’21 (master of public health)

Many University of Indianapolis faculty and students are contributing their time and expertise in the fight to stop coronavirus (COVID-19). Amy Rohr, who graduates in May 2020 with a degree in public health, is also working towards her master of public health, which she will receive in 2021. Rohr has gained hands-on experience during the program through various internships, including the Indiana State Department of Health’s (ISDH) COVID-19 Call Center, where she answers questions from the general public as well as healthcare providers.

“The general public is mostly calling in and requesting information or wondering if they can be tested. We also answer general public calls that are just needing assistance on resources, such as the Critical Industry Line, Unemployment, 2-1-1, and the OSHA Compliance Line. The healthcare providers call in for many different reasons such as guidance on protocols or authorization requests to give the COVID-19 test,” Rohr explained.

“It has been interesting to watch how the calls change each week. I have been working at the call center since the beginning of March and each day there is something new. We get updates nearly every day on protocols, testing, results and recommendations. It seems like a turbulent situation, but I knew what I was stepping into. The field of public health is always changing and that is what I love most about it,” she said.

One of the key components of the public health program at the University of Indianapolis is applied and experiential learning. Rohr’s work at the call center has sharpened her focus on the value of sharing accurate medical information with the public.

“My view on the importance of proper health communication has definitely heightened from this situation. I find it very interesting to see where the callers are getting their information. To me, the information has been pushed by the media, but unfortunately, that is not always appropriate or accurate. In order to be an effective health educator/communicator in the call center, I ensure that I am staying calm, giving evidence-based information, and listening to the individual’s concerns and questions,” she said.

For Rohr, it’s an opportunity to give back to the community and put the University motto, “Education for Service,” into action.

“I have genuinely loved helping the public during this time of crisis,” Rohr said. “Of course, I love all things public health, but helping others is very important to me. I always try to remember that these individuals are scared and worried during this time and some just need someone to talk to. If I can be that person for them, even for five minutes, I feel that I am doing my job.”

Rohr is grateful for the mentorship of faculty including Heidi Hancher-Rauch, director of the Public Health Program at the University of Indianapolis.

“Dr. Rauch has gone above and beyond as a mentor. She is a professional that I look up to as a role model. She has helped me develop my love for policy and advocacy, which is what I want to work in in the future,” Rohr said.

Rauch commended Rohr, who serves as president of the honorary society, Eta Sigma Gamma.

“Amy provides amazing leadership within the Public Health Program and for the ESG members, in particular. She consistently brings great ideas forward to share with others,” Rauch said.

Rohr has completed a number of volunteer internship experiences, including the Southside Quality of Life Initiative where she examined the eight SoIndy neighborhoods using GI mapping, using the information to create and analyze maps of recreational areas and how they relate to public health. She also interned with the Indiana Youth Services Association of Indiana in their Trafficked Victims Assistance Program where she created an onboarding tool for new volunteers, helped with advocacy and awareness events, and created documents used for administrative purposes.

Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, Rohr was interning with the ISDH’s Tobacco Prevention and Cessation department, where she compiled and analyzed data, helped with policy and advocacy efforts, organized datasheets, and created fact sheets. Rohr also serves as a Health and Wellness Educator for the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis and a Community Health Advocate for Community East Hospital.

After completing her MPH degree, Rohr plans to work in public health policy and advocacy, and hopes to pursue a law degree in the long-term.

I have nothing but great things to say about the Public Health program. Not only are we getting practical experience and quality instruction, but this program is also like another family to me,” Rohr said. “The hands-on experiences and courses are definitely prepared for the next steps in my career.”

Learn more about the Public Health Program at the University of Indianapolis.


School of Nursing adjusts to aid in COVID-19 support


The University of Indianapolis is finding innovative ways to ensure continuity for students as well as to support the local community during the COVID-19 crisis.

Since hospitals began admitting COVID-19 patients, School of Nursing students have been prevented from completing their required clinical hours in person. To remain in compliance with the accreditation requirements for the SON, students have been allowed to substitute clinical hours with virtual experiences. Normally, those hours would be a maximum of 25% of the total hours for each course in the undergraduate program as prescribed by the Indiana State Board of Nursing (ISBN). With the current COVID-19 crisis in effect, the ISBN is allowing schools to fall back on national guidelines which allow up to 50% of hours in simulation. With that change, the SON has contracted with Kaplan to provide virtual simulation for the remainder of the semester. These virtual experiences will be used in conjunction with guided case studies to meet the required hours.

“Changes in how we deliver clinical education will allow students in the undergraduate nursing programs to satisfy more of their required clinical hours virtually rather than in person,” said Dr. Norma Hall, dean of the University of Indianapolis School of Nursing. “This is especially important for senior students who are set to graduate this May.”

Hall also noted that keeping students on schedule using virtual experiences will allow students to continue their training and enter the workforce this summer as registered nurses. As the cases of coronavirus continue to rise, there will likely be workforce shortages. 

“Our graduates will be entering the workforce at a critical time to alleviate staffing shortages that COVID-19 will cause within area hospitals,” said Hall. “The knowledge and skills our nursing graduates gained at UIndy will be taken into the workforce to care for the sickest of the sick at a time of great need. I couldn’t be more proud of our faculty and students for remaining flexible and resilient during these trying times.”

The School of Nursing has also been proactive in trying to aid local health organizations in their fight against COVID-19. The School of Nursing organized the donation of some materials on-hand to local hospital networks, including Community Health Network and Franciscan St. Francis. The donations included 8,500 pairs of gloves, 30 surgical gowns, 450 surgical masks, 150 thermometer probe covers, and 10 stethoscopes.

The School also made the decision to forgo their shipment of gloves for the month of April (and potentially beyond) so that they might be given to those who need them more.

Art & Design faculty adapt amidst COVID-19 challenges

Art and Design mini supply kit - COVID 19

You can do a lot with a little. That was the perspective Katherine Fries had as she migrated printmaking classes to an online format during the COVID-19 pandemic. The circumstances were less than ideal, but, she decided, it was a perfect opportunity to instill in her students adaptability, improvisation, problem-solving, and creativity – valuable skills that will translate beyond their education at the University of Indianapolis. Afterall, Fries pointed out, what student leaves their undergraduate career able to afford a fully stocked art studio? 

“Printmaking at its core is paper, pressure, and some kind of ink. We can create stencils and stamps from pretty much anything,” said Fries. 

Fries collaborated with colleagues from around the country to identify ways students could continue engaging the creative process using affordable supplies they’d likely have at home. The content of each class remains the same, but the projects were adapted for functionality. Plans for a complicated carving now involve scissors and foam material, for example. And instead of touring the National Library Bindery Company of Indiana, she’s created online tutorials for a bookbinding project using a needle and thread. 

Because many students left their personal supplies on campus during spring break, she also shipped about 25 miniature art kits to students for projects during the last four weeks of the semester. 

“This is not the ideal situation, but we’re doing our best to make these classes meaningful for students even though we can’t be together,” Fries said.

Related: School of Occupational Therapy employs creativity in time of pandemic

Department of Biology adapts to pandemic with biology kits for students

A student dissects a worm using a biology kit.

A student dissects a worm using a biology kit.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, all University of Indianapolis academic departments were forced to rethink their course delivery approach to accommodate face-to-face restrictions. For the Department of Biology, that meant determining that students still had access to hands-on learning experiences in the laboratory.

With CARES Act funds, the department adopted the use of lab kits which were supplied to students at no expense to them. The kits contain all the materials that students need to complete lab activities at home.

A Biology 165 kit.

A Biology 165 kit

“We also wanted to make sure that even though the students were technically taking online classes, they could still come for help, use our facilities and feel part of the campus,” explained Sandy Davis, chair and professor of biology. “It has worked out really well.”

To give maximum flexibility, students taking classes that are using kits can take their kits home and do everything there. If students feel uncomfortable coming to campus, are in a high-risk health group or are under quarantine, they can still complete the activities and not fall behind. Residential students may store their kits in the lab.

Students work on the biology kits in a lab room at Lilly Science Hall.

Students work on the biology kits in a lab room at Lilly Science Hall.

Accompanying this approach is a system of open labs in which students from any class (whether they are using a kit or not) can check in at Lilly Science Hall. Students may pick up their kit, if they have one, and are then directed to an open lab where they can work on their own or collaborate with other students in the class.

UIndy presents Memory Cafés to support Dementia Friends Indiana

Over the past month the University of Indianapolis Department of Music and the Center for Aging & Community have partnered with the Dementia Friends Indiana movement led locally by CICOA Aging & In-Home Solutions to put on a series of Memory Cafes at Books & Brews-South Indy. An outreach of the Dementia Friends Indiana movement led locally by CICOA, Memory Cafés are welcoming gatherings for individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia and their family members or caregivers to socialize and listen to music. 

To comply with COVID-19 guidelines, concerts put on by the UIndy Dept. of Music were held outside and people were allowed to park their cars and bring lawn chairs to enjoy a socially distanced event.

The last concert of the series is Thursday, Oct. 29 from 2:00-3:15 p.m.

Register here: www.dementiafriendsindiana.org/events/memory-cafe-drive-in-concert

Books & Brews-South Indy is also displaying a new mural created by UIndy Studio Art senior Leah Diekhoff. Make sure you check it out!

One Step at a Time: UIndy professor to run 160 miles across Indiana

Laura running during 40-mile race April 2019Ultrarunning is a microcosm of life, according to Laura Santurri. “You have these absolutely atrocious moments and these incredibly wonderful moments,” she said. “They’re all kind of fleeting, and you learn to just enjoy them for what they are.”

Next week Santurri, assistant professor and chair of the Department of Interprofessional Health & Aging Studies and director of the Doctor of Health Science program, will undertake the longest challenge of her running career as she attempts to run 160 miles over four days across the state of Indiana to raise money for a new scholarship for the Department of Interprofessional Health and Aging Studies.

The scholarship is meant for students in the Doctor of Health Science, Master of Science in Healthcare Management, or the Master of Science in Gerontology programs at UIndy. The students in these programs have already begun their careers and often have many responsibilities outside of their academics, according to Santurri. “These are our future healthcare leaders,” she said. “And right now, we really don’t have many scholarship opportunities for them.”

When the pandemic began, leadership in the Interprofessional Health and Aging Studies department reached out individually to students and learned about the challenges they had been experiencing, and discovered just how many of them had ended up on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People don’t necessarily think of healthcare workers like physical therapists or occupational therapists as being on the front lines, but they have been,” Santurri said. “I just remember thinking ‘Gosh, despite all this, they’re still committed to their coursework and dedicated to finishing that terminal degree.’”

With all that was going on in the healthcare world, Santurri knew she wanted to give back to her students. “If we can help even one person pay for one three-credit hour course, anything to help alleviate some of the burden, I thought it was a good thing to do,” she said. 

Santurri, an experienced runner, always tries to do some sort of fundraising with her running events to make them a more meaningful experience. In the past she has raised money for organizations like the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Victory Lap Greyhound Transport; a non-profit that transports retired racing greyhounds from Florida, and the Interstitial Cystitis Association.

After talking with her students after the onset of the pandemic, Santurri felt it was time to raise money for something that directly impacted UIndy. “I’ve been a student, faculty and staff at a variety of institutions of higher education, but UIndy is the first place that I really feel at home,” she said.

“This is the biggest challenge I’ve undertaken, and with the biggest challenge I wanted to fundraise for something that’s very meaningful and really close to my heart. That’s UIndy, and that’s my students.”

How does one find themselves in the position to run 160 miles over four days? For Santurri, the beginnings of her running career were more inauspicious than you might think.

“Years ago I found myself obese and smoking half a pack of cigarettes a day, and I had just started a master’s program in public health,” she said. “There was a fair amount of cognitive dissonance there.”

Santurri also lives with a chronic pain condition from which she found some relief after receiving a spinal implant. “I used to say if I ever started to feel better I was going to take my life back, and that’s what I did,” she said.

Santurri used to run with her father when she was younger so that’s the route she chose to take her life back little by little. Though she had some running experience, she did not consider herself an athlete. She never ran cross country or participated on the track team. In fact, when she began, she could barely walk around the block.

One step at a time she slowly increased her endurance and running ability. “I got to the place where I could run a mile, then I wanted to do 5Ks, then I did some 10Ks with my dad. Then I did a 10 miler, which at the time just seemed crazy,” she said. “But I had lost some weight and I felt good. I eventually got to the point of doing a half marathon and then a marathon.”

Laura running during 100-mile race Oct 2019Very few people end up running the marathon distance of 26.2 miles and even fewer venture beyond that into what is considered “ultramarathon” territory. Santurri’s first ultra was the Chicago Lakefront 50K (31 miles) in 2017. “I thought if I can do 26, then of course I can do 31,” she said. “Those last five miles were just brutal.”

But she hadn’t trained appropriately for the race. Sensing an opportunity for improvement, and not wanting the sour taste of the last five miles of the Chicago race to linger, Santurri got a coach and prepared for a 40-mile race, which is where ultrarunning sunk its claws into Santurri for good.

“It was kind of gradual, then all of a sudden I met the ultra community and it just changed my life,” she said. “Those people changed my life.” 

One day Santurri ventured to Chain O’ Lakes State Park to do a training run with an ultra-running group she connected with on Facebook. She was running by herself and came to a place where she couldn’t tell where the trail picked up. Suddenly a woman came bounding out of the woods and told her someone had passed along that Santurri was running alone and she offered to run the rest of the 20 miles with her.

“Now we run together all the time, that’s a perfect example of who the ultra community is,” Santurri said. “Even if you’re vastly different in your ability, there’s a sense of camaraderie and you’re not out there alone—ever.”

She did her first 100-mile race last October, the Indiana Trail 100 at Chain O’ Lakes State Park in Albion, Indiana. She crossed the finish line in just over 29 hours and 14 minutes, which she called a life-changing experience.

She isn’t breaking any records or competing for awards, but that’s not why she loves ultrarunning. “I’ve never been fast, but it’s not about speed,” she said. “It’s about endurance and perseverance and digging deep.”

Santurri frequently finds herself reflecting on that 100 mile race from last October. “It’s the middle of the night, 2 o’clock in the morning, you’re at mile 70 or 80 or whatever… it’s the most challenging and painful thing you’ve ever done,” she said, reflecting on a tweaked knee 30 miles into the run and a “complete breakdown” at mile 52, “but simultaneously it’s just the most beautiful thing you’ve ever done.”

Along with those trials and tribulations also come moments of extreme Zen. Santurri recalls her pacer stopping her at one point at night as they were running along a lake and instructing her to turn off her headlamp for a moment and just take it all in.

“There are moments when I wish I could be back at mile 72 in the middle of the woods, in the middle of the night,” she said. “Because there’s just something magical about it.” 

Santurri had hoped to repeat her Indiana Trail 100 experience this October but the event was cancelled due to COVID-19. After some discussion with her coach, that’s how the idea to run across the state of Indiana came about.

Santurri will begin her odyssey in Terre Haute and run approximately 40 miles per day heading east with UIndy at the halfway point. On day three she will begin in Richmond and work her way back so that she finishes the run on UIndy’s campus.

Even though Santurri’s past ultra experiences have come on the trails, she is comfortable running on the road as that’s where she’s done most of her training for this run. “The road is tougher on your joints,” she said. “So that’s the benefit of ‘only’ doing 40 miles a day, I get a little time to let my body recover before I get back out.”

Santurri’s husband, who has become her de facto crew chief for her ultra races, has taken the week off to help her, and she has a friend coming in from Ohio who crewed her during the 100 miler last year. She’s also recruited several friends and colleagues to help pace her along the way. She estimates that the total time spent running will be 8-10 hours a day so she’ll need all the distraction she can get.

But there will be many times across the run that there won’t be much of anything being said. Santurri appreciates the quiet reflection that a nice long run brings her. Her runs are the only time that she unplugs fully, not checking texts or emails. “It’s a form of meditation for me,” she said. “Sometimes I use it to work out something I’ve been struggling with, or solve an issue or brainstorm. But sometimes I just let stuff slow into and out of my brain freely.” 

Santurri will need all that focus and more as she endeavors on her journey across Indiana. It will be a beautifully painful experience that will require her to dig as deep as she ever has before. She embraces the beauty of the solitude of running, just as she does the mental and physical challenges. She knows there will be hard times along her 160 mile route. But as many runners have found, she also knows: Though pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.



UIndy Speech and Debate Team has Success Going Virtual

UIndy Speech & Debate team goes virtualThe University of Indianapolis Speech and Debate Team competed in their first tournament of the year and first virtual tournament ever in the 2020 T-Town Swing Tournament hosted by Tulsa Community College and Northeastern State University.

The team earned widespread accolades throughout the tournament, culminating in a second-place finish in individual events sweepstakes.

The UIndy Speech and Debate Team is a nationally ranked learning-centered community that competes in speaking events to enhance student’s communication, research, and public speaking skills. Stephanie Wideman, assistant professor of communication, is the team director.

“Learning during a pandemic presents challenges to all educators. However, this team’s resilience and dedication to the craft of public speaking means we can adapt and keep excelling during difficult times. It is essential we offer some sense of normalcy for our students, and competing, even virtually, offers that opportunity,” Wideman said.

Elise Paz ’23 (finance & Spanish) earned the title of tournament champion in communication analysis for her work exploring how obituaries have the rhetorical potential to shape public memory of these historic times. “Hispanics in the United States have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic due to their marginalized status and inability to access good healthcare and protective measures against COVID-19. In writing this speech, I was given the opportunity to shed light on this issue and give voice to those in need,” she said.

Team president, Craig Chigadza ’21 (psychology and international relations) speaks to his feelings about competing virtually: “As a collegiate competitor in speech and debate, the opportunity to be back on the circuit, competing even virtually, serves as reassurance that where there is a will there is a way. The feeling of being back with my university family is amazing,” Chigadza explained.

See a full list of team results below:

I.E. Sweeps: 2nd Place
Combined Sweeps: 3rd Place
Elize Paz ’23 (finance & spanish)-Tournament Champion (1st Place) in Communication Analysis
Landon Owens ’22 (sports management)-3rd in Programmed Oral Interpretation
Kathryn Leigh ’21 (biology)-3rd in Prose
Bhumibol Shakya ’23 (communication & psychology)-3rd in Impromptu Speaking & 5th in Informative Speaking
Collin Fausnaugh ’22 (supply chain management)-4th in Impromptu Speaking & 5th in Extemp Speaking

Alli Nelson ’20 begins career with Indiana State Department of Health

WIN_20200917_13_45_23_ProIn the age of COVID-19, the UIndy Public Health program is committed to making a difference. UIndy graduates promote health and prevent disease within local and global communities, as well as reduce health inequities through conscientious application of evidence-based public health strategies including programming and policy development.

One of those graduates, Alli Nelson ’20, now works for the Indiana State Department of Health as a COVID-19 Health Educator Epidemiologist. Below is a Q&A about her experience in the Public Health Education and Promotion program at UIndy and what it has been like to start her career in the midst of a pandemic.


What was your year of graduation, major and any minors or concentrations?


I graduated with a B.S. in Public Health Education and Promotion from UIndy in August of 2020. I am part of UIndy’s 4+1 public health program, so I am currently finishing up my last year of my Master of Public Health program at UIndy and will graduate with my MPH in August of 2021. I was very lucky to be able to complete an extra accelerated program so I will graduate with my Bachelors and Masters in four years.


What was your experience in the public health program? How did it prepare you for your current career?


I cannot say enough good things about UIndy’s public health program. It prepares students so well to step out into the workforce either with an undergraduate degree or a graduate degree. The program gives you plenty of opportunities to network with professionals in the field and build relationships that prove to be beneficial upon graduation.


Additionally, the public health program focuses heavily on hands on experience. You are actively working with the community to design health education and promotion programs/interventions, conduct evaluations, compose grant proposals, and so many other hands on activities. This is so beneficial for students as it gives them the experiences that prepare them and allow them to standout when they are looking for a career.


The program pushes you to grow as a professional and develop important skills such as team building, communication, networking, problem solving, critical thinking, cultural competency, and so many other skills. The program also connects you with professionals and organizations that could be your future employer. That was the case for me. Our program director sent out an email of job openings at the Indiana Department of Health that was sent to her by a former UIndy graduate and I interviewed for a position and landed a job.


Can you give us a little more information on your current role?


I am currently contracted by the Indiana Department of Health as a COVID-19 Health Educator Epidemiologist. Within this role, I am working on an infection prevention and control program that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is rolling out called Project Firstline.


The aim of Project Firstline is to provide basic infection prevention and control trainings to all frontline healthcare workers, so this could be nurses, physicians, environmental service workers, dialysis facility workers, outpatient facilities, etc. Basically, we want everyone to know basic infection prevention and control like the back of their hand.


To reach this goal, I and another health educator will be providing 10 regional Project Firstline trainings within the next two years. The trainings will be based on the needs of the regions that will be identified through a Learning Needs Assessment that will be distributed throughout the state. This will assess what infection prevention and control trainings frontline workers currently receive and what are the gaps in the training that need to be addressed.


On the logistical side of things, I work on providing the grant deliverables for the grant that is funding this project as well as developing distribution lists of all dialysis centers, local health departments, homeless shelters, outpatient clinics, ambulatory surgical centers, primary care centers, and others to use to disseminate the needs assessment and the trainings.


How’s your transition to the workforce been? Especially with regards to starting during the pandemic.


The transition has not been too difficult. UIndy’s MPH program was online prior to COVID-19, so I was used to being productive and working from home. My current job is also fully online, so it wasn’t too different of a transition.


I attend a lot of Microsoft Teams meetings which is helpful to answer my questions and collaborate on different projects. I would love to work in person with my supervisor and other health educator, but it is not essential at this moment and it is safer for us to work from home. I was very fortunate to find employment during the pandemic, which I know was not the case for many. I am very thankful for my public health education that has prepared me to step in a role where I can help when a strong public health workforce is needed now more than ever.


Did any faculty or staff mentor you when you were a UIndy student? If so, who are they and how did they help?


I feel like all of the public health faculty and staff have mentored me throughout my time at UIndy. When we were on campus, I was definitely the student that went to professors office hours very regularly. Dr. Heidi Hancher-Rauch, Dr. Angelitta Britt-Spells, and Dr. Kara Cecil have played a very important and impactful role in my development as a public health professional.


I have sat down with all of them and received very valuable advice and talked through how to set myself up to be a successful/impactful public health professional. I never doubted that the public health faculty did not want the best for me and took time out of their busy schedules to meet with me and many other students. They are all great role models for all the public health students in the program.


I cannot say enough good things or thank them enough. I did not originally start as a public health major and I was originally on track to go into the Occupational Therapy program at UIndy, but they helped me discover my passion for public health and decide that I wanted to spend my life using my passions for the greater good of the public’s health.


What would you say to high school students who are considering UIndy?


I would definitely recommend UIndy to high school students. If you are wanting an institution that you know has your best interest in mind, UIndy is for you. If you want professors that care for you and success and are available to you, UIndy is for you. If you want to build community and have a close cohort to walk through college with, UIndy is for you. If you want to make a difference in your community during school and after graduation, UIndy is for you. If you want to gain professional experiences and skills that will set you apart upon graduation, UIndy is for you. If you want to take pride in your education, UIndy is for you.


Do you have any advice for UIndy graduates? 


My advice for UIndy graduates would be to have confidence in your skills and the education you received. You are capable and qualified for a position. I know being a graduate in 2020 can make it difficult to find a career due to the current circumstances, but this season will also build skills, character, and qualities that will be very attractive to employers. 2020 graduates are flexible, adaptable, determined, and will be valuable assets to a company. Have patience and trust that your hard work, dedication, and education will pay off.


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