Muskingum News


Impact Center Partners with MVHC for Experiential Learning
Students with MVHC

Muskingum University’s Impact Center recently partnered with Muskingum Valley Health Centers (MVHC) to embed a high-impact, experiential learning project into a curricular course on Community Health.

“A key role of the Impact Center is to connect the University with community partners. When students engage with the community, they build relationships, develop professional skills, and learn how to connect curriculum to careers,” explains Molly Dunn, Executive Director of the Impact Center. “We were excited that MVHC was willing to fund the implementation of a project designed to assist a local non-profit, so that our students could have a real-world experience while positively impacting our community.”

During the Fall 2023 semester, students in Assistant Professor of Public Health Studies Kristen DeBois’ class were divided into four groups to develop a community-based intervention. “Each group was paired with a non-profit: Foodworks Alliance, Trulight Ministries (which serves the homeless population in Zanesville), the YMCA, and the Muskingum County Literacy Council,” she said. “The students met with representatives of the organizations to understand client needs, researched the issues, developed an implementable plan to address a need, and presented their projects to a panel of judges who chose one idea for funding. The experience helped hone their grant writing skills, which is a major funding avenue for public health.”

Rick Fulkerson ’08, Chief Administrative Officer of MVHC, recalled “we were excited when Molly invited us to participate and were glad to serve as the sponsor. Projects like this support community education in the social determinants of health, which is an important mission for us alongside providing quality affordable health care. Jeanie Blake, MVHC Chief Patient Experience Officer, joined me on the panel for the presentations and we were truly impressed by all the projects.

“In addition to the Foodworks Alliance project we chose to fund, the students opened our eyes to an additional need in our community that we were positioned to help meet,” Rick added. “We learned that a major issue among the unhoused population is keeping their identification and other personal documents secure from theft, and we were able to donate fanny packs for that purpose to Trulight Ministries. As a Muskingum alum and Muskingum parent, it was amazing to witness the way the students were thinking about how to serve others in the community.”

On March 11, 2024, the project came to fruition as the students delivered 22 complete sets of cookware and dinnerware to Foodworks Alliance for the participants in their Sweet Life Bakery program. The program teaches women in addiction recovery life skills, including how to cook, and the kitchenware will enable these clients to use the new skills in their own homes, supporting their continued recovery and helping them provide positive mealtime experiences for their families.

Health Administration and Public Health major Julia Zalmanek ’24 reflected on the experience. “It was so rewarding to present the kitchenware to Foodworks Alliance and to know that we were making a tangible difference in the lives of women and their families. I was proud to be part of the first class and first group that had this opportunity. In addition to the kitchenware, we developed informational pamphlets for the women on topics such as easy low-budget menu ideas and nutritional fun facts, to help them build habits of eating well. I’m planning to work in public health after my graduation from Muskingum and this experience definitely helped prepare me for my career.”

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