CSP Grad Candidate’s Social Media Work Helps Beu Health Ed Reach Out to WIU Students

Rebecca Novick

Rebecca Novick, a grad student in Western’s college student personnel program, posing with a puppy named Roscoe. As the person in charge of Beu Health Education’s social media accounts this semester, Novick has worked to reach out to WIU students about health and wellness issues.

Northport, New York, native Rebecca Novick, who is currently a graduate student in Western’s college student personnel (CSP) program, applied to the program after hearing about it from those she worked with at her undergraduate institution, University at Buffalo (UB).

“While there, I became heavily involved in on-campus student leadership positions, such as student union manager, as well as served in an internship for the Center for Student Leadership and Community Engagement. Toward the end of my sophomore year, I took some time to reflect on what it was I enjoyed most about my undergraduate experience. What I found was that my positions on campus were where I found the most fulfillment and enjoyment, so I decided to pursue the field of student affairs. After speaking with some of my professional staff members, I found that many of them had attended WIU for their degrees in CSP. After researching the CSP program here and finding how well known and well respected it is, I decided I would apply,” she explained.

From her experiences at UB, as well as the knowledge she has gained as a WIU CSP grad student, Rebecca has been using social media for Beu Health Education to reach out to WIU students and provide them with important information about Beu’s resources, as well as about health and wellness issues in general.

Recently, she answered a few questions about the kind of work she is doing for Beu Health Ed, as well as how the work will help her in her future student affairs career.

Q. What do you do for Beu Health Education?

Novick: I am a practicum student for Beu Health Education, and my main responsibility is to manage all social media outlets. I mostly focus on our Facebook and Twitter communications and schedule posts and tweets for each week.

In the beginning of the semester, we (a few other staff members and myself) brainstormed a list of themes we could use for each week. The themes were picked based on current issues facing students, as well as the time of the semester. As I construct posts and tweets, I think of ways in which I can engage students to use the tips and resources shared in our posts and then reflect on how they can improve upon their own practices. In order to do this, I post a series of tips and tricks and then ask if our followers could share their own thoughts or helpful practices.

Q. What have you learned while working in this role for Beu Health Education?

Novick: During my time in Beu Health Education, I have learned that wellness means much more than just taking care of yourself, in terms of exercise, nutrition, and illness. I have come to learn that wellness incorporates many aspects of being, such as financial, spiritual, and intellectual wellness.

Over the course of this semester, I have also learned there are many wellness issues students face that are not always viewed as pertinent concerns. For instance, it is common for students to experience stress, sleep deprivation, and caffeine addiction. Although these may seem like common symptoms of merely being a college student, these practices can become areas of concern if not addressed. I have found Beu Health Center to be well equipped with resources to help students form healthy habits and work through such issues.

Lastly, I have found that social media can be an effective way to communicate the resources and tips needed to help work through common issues on college campuses. As our social media community grows, we are not only able to share information, but we have also been learning new practices, ways to remain relevant to our students, and find helpful resources.

Q. What are your career plans?

Novick: Following my intended graduation this spring, I hope to return to New York and work within the State University of New York (SUNY) or City University of New York (CUNY) public higher education systems. Ideally, I aspire to work within student union management or student leadership development, but I am open to many possibilities.

Q. How do you think you’ll be able to apply what you have learned working for Beu Health Education to your future career?

Novick: As social media continues to grow as an information-sharing platform, I would like to use it as a source for cross-promotion of not only offices across a university’s campus, but also to cross-promote other institutions, as well as the surrounding community. I think there are many benefits of institutions and their communities working together to help raise awareness of all opportunities and resources available to students and community members.

I also feel the knowledge I have gained relating to student wellness can help me to be a more aware and empathetic student affairs professional. In order for me to be able to effectively help students grow, I must understand their struggles and barriers. Having learned how to identify symptoms of many health concerns students face, the more I can do to help.

Q. What is the most rewarding project or enlightening activity you experienced in your work for Beu Health Education?

Novick: In general, I would say the most enlightening experiences I have had while working in Beu Health Education are the opportunities I have had to further my knowledge in WIU’s social media community. I have had numerous meetings with offices and representatives across campus to learn more about their approaches to marketing and building a social media presence. During this process, I have built many relationships and learned much about the functions of various offices around campus. I have been using these opportunities to make connections via social media to help cross-promote events and resources happening across campus.

Q. Anything else you think is important to share?

Novick: I have found the offices and staff associated with Beu Health Education to be extremely helpful and knowledgeable. There are such a large variety of resources and opportunities available to all students, not just those who are struggling with wellness. Not only is the professional staff at Beu Health Education friendly and accommodating, but student peer educators are also extremely knowledgeable and an asset to the office.

I hope students and community members continue to utilize the resources and services Beu Health Education has to offer, whether it is through attending a program, setting up an appointment for individual help, or just stopping by to find out more.

Follow Beu Health Education on Twitter at twitter.com/BeuHealthEd and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BeuHealthCenter.

Working for Western at Western: Beu Health Ed’s Grad Student Andy Lehr Talks Experience

Andy Lehr, WIU College Student Personnel Graduate Student

Andy Lehr, a graduate student in Western Illinois University’s College Student Personnel Program, is pictured here at the University Union in March, where he helped Beu Health Education with the implementation of Kick Butts Day, a national event sponsored by the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. The event increases awareness about the hazards of smoking and using tobacco.

As Spring 2013 Commencement Weekend commences at Western, many soon-to-be WIU alumni are looking toward the world of work that lie ahead. And while it may be daunting to go out into wilds of the job market (particularly in a still-recovering U.S. economy) with not-so-much work experience, many students—both undergraduate and graduate—have had the chance to gain experience working in some capacity for WIU. Andy Lehr is one of those students.

A graduate student in Western’s College Student Personnel program, Andy has been working for Beu Health Education this past semester. He will continue his post at Beu Health Ed in Fall 2013, too. (He also serves as the assistant complex director at Tanner Hall for WIU Housing and Dining Services.)

When I met Andy earlier this year, he was filled with positive energy and ideas about how to help Beu Health Education with its outreach efforts. Recently, he took some time out of his busy grad-student schedule to answer some questions about what he does for Beu and how the experience has helped him acquire skills that he’ll be able to use when he finishes his master’s program.

Q.) What do you do for Beu Health Education?
I am a practicum student for Beu Health Education. It is a requirement of the College Student Personnel master’s degree program that I am in here at Western. As a practicum student, I work for Beu Health Education for eight hours a week.

Q.) What kinds of duties/tasks do you do for Beu Health Education?
My main role is to manage the social media for the office. I work with Twitter and Facebook in order to help and send different health and wellness information out to the WIU community and anyone else that wants to follow Beu Health Ed. I have also assisted in the facilitation of the training for the certified peer education program, Students T.A.L.K., that Beu Health Education offers. In addition to those things, I also sit in on a variety of meetings (such as the weekly update meetings for the AOD [Alcohol and Other Drug] Center and Beu Health Education).

Follow Beu Health Ed on Twitter @BeuHealthEd

Follow Beu Health Ed on Twitter @BeuHealthEd

Q.) How do you use social media to help disseminate info. to students at WIU?
I use social media to get quick health and wellness facts out to all of those that follow us on Twitter and Facebook. I try to focus on one certain topic each week and then Tweet four or five facts and tips a day about the topic. The topics usually align with “Stall Talk,” which are put out weekly by Liz Andrews, the Beu Health Education graduate assistant.

Through the Beu Health Ed Twitter account, I also follow many other health and wellness sites that offer quality information, and I will often retweet that information out to the WIU community. I have also found that using social media to promote different events happening on campus, (Beu Health Ed related events or general campus events) is a great way to help get the word out and support other departments across the WIU campus.

Q.) What are some of the most rewarding/informative experiences you’ve had in your work for Beu Health Education?
So far, the most rewarding thing has been getting to work in a department outside of what I have been used to. Most of my previous work has been focused on residence life, and it has been very exciting for me have this new experience. Getting to work with Liz Andrews, JoAnn Hairston-Jones [Beu Health Education Coordinator], and everyone else that I have been able to work with, has been a really great experience. I enjoy being able to build new relationships and meeting new people, and without this practicum opportunity, I probably would not have had the opportunity to meet the great people who work in Beu Health Education.

Along with social media, I have come across a lot of other useful information because of working with Beu Health Education. Beu’s Health Education Office promotes the health and wellness of students here at WIU in many different ways. As a student, I try to take advantage of some of the services that are offered. For example, there is a stress-management technique called “Freeze-Frame,” which is used here, and I have been able to use that myself to try and help manage my own stress. Also, while doing research to find information that I want to tweet about, I have been able to increase my knowledge on the different aspects of wellness.

It has been a great experience for me to work for an office that focuses on health and wellness, because I feel everything that I work on I can relate to my own life in some way. I mean, I’m sure that a lot of people talk about stress, health, and wellness in their daily conversations with their co-workers, but I don’t know how many other opportunities exist where the goal of the office is to promote different health and wellness techniques and information. I’m really grateful to have been given this opportunity, and I enjoy the hours that I am able to come into the office each week to work.

Q). How do you think your work for/with Beu Health Education will help you in your future career?
First, I feel as though working with social media will turn out to be an important experience. We are living in a world today where the many different types of social media play an important role in our lives. People seem to be attached to their phones, constantly checking for Facebook and Twitter updates. While some may view this as a negative aspect—given that it seems as though there can be a dependence on technology at times—it is also a great opportunity to do a lot of good. If there are good messages that can be sent out through different outlets of social media, it is important to be using those in the right way.

I think the experiences I have had so far this semester have taught me some of the tools necessary to know how to use social media for good reasons. To have an understanding of social media and how to use it effectively, I think could be very important for me moving forward in whatever it is that I do.

Q). What are your future career plans?
Even though I am working toward my master’s degree in Western’s College Student Personnel program, I am still not sure what my future career plans really are. I decided to pursue this degree because I love working with others and especially because of the opportunity to be able to work on a college campus. College just seems to be such a fun and unique environment to be in, so I can see myself continuing to work in some capacity in student affairs. I’m not sure where I will end up after completing my master’s program here, but I know I want to be working with others in a position where I am able to make a positive impact on others’ lives.

Q). Anything else you think should be included/highlighted I didn’t ask you about?
I would just like to share that there are so many great opportunities and services offered here in Beu Health Education. I hope that students continue to utilize the different resources offered from this office. I wasn’t very aware of Beu Health Education before I became a practicum student here, but after working and seeing everything that goes on here, I now know there are some great services and resources that are beneficial to the WIU community. There are different outreach programs and presentations throughout the year, which are often conducted and implemented by student leaders from Beu Health Ed, and then there are also individual consultations available to help handle concerns, such as sleep management and tobacco cessation.

I encourage everyone to check out the office to see if there are any services provided that may be beneficial, even if only in a small way, to their daily health and well-being. Other than that, just make sure to follow us on Twitter @BeuHealthEd! And thank you very much for taking the time to let me share my experiences!

Boot Camp Program Designed by WIU Alum Recognized One of 10 Most Creative

JoeDeckerWhen Western Illinois University alumnus Joe Decker (’98, B.S.) designed his Gut Check Boot Camp in San Diego, CA, he wanted people to learn how to enjoy working out.

Recently Decker’s company made the top 10 list of “most creative” workout camps in the United States, as released by the Coca-Cola Journey website. The website bills the camps as being taught by “instructors who focus on motivation and muscle-building, not humiliation.”

“I feel extremely honored to be a part of the list of the ‘most creative boot camps’ in the world,” Decker said. “There are a handful of things that have helped to climb to the top of my industry: growing up on a farm in the Midwest, serving in the military and graduating from WIU.”

Decker was named the Guinness Book of World Records’ “World’s Fittest Man” in 2000 after a 24-hour physical fitness challenge.

His 60-minute hardcore fitness program features high intensity exercises, which sometimes use nature’s bounty, such as rocks, as tools.

Decker has made his mark on the fitness world by being the first two-time winner of the Spartan Death Race, a 48-hour fitness challenge in Vermont, billed as “totally unexpected and totally insane.”

He has also designed his own fall challenge on a Fulton County farm, called “The Suck.” The 36-hour fitness challenge is held in Decker’s hometown of Cuba and includes a variety of outdoor physical and mental challenges.

The Coca-Cola Journey website says the trainers at the Gut Check Boot Camp get high marks for encouraging students and “emphasizing a team-based atmosphere where no one is left behind.”

“If you decide to try it, you’ll sweat buckets and burn hundreds of calories, but Decker designed the program so it’s more about getting healthy and learning to love being active than spot-reducing or reaching a goal weight,” the website says. “Voted ‘Best Boot Camp of San Diego,” by a local magazine, this tough routine is not for the faint of heart.”

To see the list of all 10 boot camps, visit coca-colacompany.com/stories/boot-camp-workouts-for-everyone. To learn more about Decker’s program, visit gutcheckfitness.com.

‘Riding the wave of awareness’

‘Riding the wave of awareness’

Student helps organizes preventative screening for those in need

Kymberly Miller is excited about educating people on a topic that few like to talk about.

Miller, a non-traditional student who is taking courses at Western Illinois University-Quad Cities while working full-time for Trinity Regional Health System in Rock Island, Ill., organized a free colorectal cancer-screening event earlier this month for qualifying people in the Quad Cities region, the first event of its kind in the area. (Click here to see Miller receiving the Lujack’s Extra Mile Award on WQAD Channel 8).

Miller, who works in Trinity’s GI Lab, took on the additional responsibilities of an internship for the organization, through which she helped provide preventative screenings to the uninsured or to those would not have been able to afford the procedure otherwise. Since last fall, Miller has been working to coordinate donations, medical staff, and patients who meet the qualifications. Her efforts resulted in five doctors and 35 staff members volunteering their time on a Saturday (March 5, during Colon Cancer Awareness Month), providing preventative procedures to as many as 15 patients who could be at risk for the disease—which include factors such as family history and being over the age of 40.

“Our main goal with this has been to educate people, raise awareness, and provide the screening for people who’ve met the criteria,” she said. “Getting screened is the best way to diagnose cancer. There is no better way.”

(More, below the photo)

photo of Kymberly Miller
Kymberly Miller, WIU-QC student

In her position at Trinity, Miller is responsible for assisting with basic operations of the department. While she doesn’t have a history of colon cancer in her family, she has seen firsthand the benefits of early screening—and, at the same time, the devastating news that a cancer has been found too late, and could have been easily prevented.

“I’ve seen people who’ve put it off and put it off… and then it’s too late, and you just feel bad. It’s such a preventable cancer. If you get it early, there’s a 90 percent chance you’re going to be fine. You hear so much about breast cancer, and colon cancer actually kills more women, but you don’t hear about it as much because nobody wants to talk about colon cancer preparedness. But it’s not anything to be scared of. The screening is usually done in 15 minutes.”

A new kind of lab, a new direction

Not long after beginning her new life as a student and full-time worker, Miller took on an internship, which consisted of coordinating the free screening event. And though the event may have only been one day, it became a reality through Miller’s efforts to coordinate patient care technicians and secure donations from medical supply companies. She wrote proposals that resulted in a company providing all of the day’s pathology reports for free, to the scope provider donating extra scopes for the day.

Miller explained that she was a facilitator for an idea that had long been in the works in the community. Trinity has representatives on the Colon Cancer Free QCA Consortium, through which area doctors’ offices collaborate to raise awareness and educate the public, and general practitioners ensure that people are getting screenings if they meet the risk factors. Trinity and the consortium partnered with a free clinic in the area that offers services to the working uninsured to identify individuals who would qualify for the free screening.

Miller came to her job and her internship at Trinity after having worked for several years in quality control in a chemical plant. But a few years ago, she found herself unemployed. So she took an entry-level position as a technician in the GI Lab at Trinity, and at the same time decided to pursue a degree in general studies at WIU.

“I’ve taken several classes over the years, and with the job market the way it is, I definitely wanted to go back and finish that up,” she explained.

Now in her second year of studies at WIU, Miller has focused on management and communications courses, and her classes—particularly those with Mary Hogg, associate professor of communication at WIU-QC—have helped her with her with the internship, and vice versa.

“Mary Hogg had me speak about the screening event in class, and she ran off the flyer that I’d made up, offering extra credit to students who want to come and write something up about it.

“I’ve had to speak with doctors, with the president of Trinity, present my progress to the senior team, the CEO and COO,” she added. “It has helped me build confidence, definitely. A lot of doctors have been very supportive. When they tell you how proud they are and give you words of encouragement, it’s nice. And it all boils down to the fact that you’re helping people.”

One giant team

Miller explained that in addition to donations secured for the screening day, the Trinity Foundation provided funding for the event. But Miller got so involved in the cause, she decided to create her own fundraiser to help out even more—a Taco Tuesday at a local pub that donates proceeds to local causes.

“I just felt like this event was something worth growing and sustaining,” she said. “So I hit up local business to provide certificates and baskets for a silent auction. But it was also just a way for all the volunteers to blow off steam, have a good time, and kind of ride the wave of awareness we’ve been going on.

“What keeps me motivated is that I’m helping people, and the fact that this has never been done before,” she continued. “I’ve enjoyed the people-contact, too; I love to talk to people, and when I can get people to feel good about giving to the cause, when it becomes a giant team, that’s fulfilling, also. It’s a huge project, and I feel blessed that I got such a cool project to work on. And to be the first one to do it is pretty cool too.”

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An up-lift-ing achievement: student sets world records in international competition

Like many college students, Sophie Simmons found herself feeling a bit restless during a break from school.

But instead of channel-surfing or sleeping in, she got involved in a new sport. And not long after that she set a world record in it.

Simmons, a senior exercise science major at WIU, recently brought home the record for her age division and weight class at the American Drug Free Powerlifting Federation (ADFPF) World Championships held in Castleblayney, Ireland. Simmons was among 300 competitors from 20 nations competing to lift the most total weight over a set of three lifts, a squat, a bench press, and a “dead lift.” The 21-year-old in the 58.5-kilos (or 123-129-pound) weight class lifted a total of 656 lbs.

“It was incredible,” she said of the experience. And as if that weren’t stunning enough, the Macomb native dropped this tidbit of information: “I’ve only been doing the sport for a little under a year.”

Find out how she got into the sport—(more after the photos)—below.


photo of Sophie Simmons in the national power lifting competition

at nationals in June 2010

photo of Sophie Simmons lifting a weight in a power lifting competition

Simmons displays her strenghts at nationals in June 2010

photo of Sophie Simmons at the World Championships

Sophie Simmons at the World Championships in November 2010

While Simmons may have mastered the art of power lifting in record time, she has been competing in athletic endeavors since childhood, starting with gymnastics at age seven, which would lead her to winning national titles in power tumbling.

“I’ve done track and pole vaulting, I love dance, cycling, swimming…I like to do everything,” she said.

Still, she had never heard of power lifting until last fall, when she was looking for motivation and happened to visit the workout room at the Salvation Army Community Center in Macomb as part of a kinesiology class. There, she met two retired WIU physical education professors, Judy Gedney and Roger Gedney, who introduced her to the sport. Judy is not only a WIU Athletic Hall of Fame coach, but also has competed in power lifting for 40 years.

“I had been doing triathlons, but triathlon season ends when it gets cold, so I started working out there,” Simmons explained. “I was like, I need something to do, something to compete in.

I’m just really competitive by nature. I love working out, but I need a goal, something to look forward to.”

Aside from her experience with weight training as an athlete, and seeing weight-lifting competitions on TV during the Olympics, she only knew the stereotype of the bulging-muscled female body builders in tiny bikinis. With her slight frame, Simmons acknowledges, “I don’t look like a power lifter. I look like a runner.”

But Roger Gedney recognized something in her, she said.

“I was a gymnast for about 10 years, and so were Roger and Judy back in the day. Gymnasts just have a natural base strength, and the movements are similar in power lifting, so I caught on to the form on my first lift. I was like, ‘I think I can do this.'”

Judy Gedney taught Simmons each of the three lifts and explained other elements of competition, including the one-rep maximum lifts in three attempts and how the totals are added up. The organization is one of the only federations that’s explicitly drug-free and determined by drug testing, she said. At their encouragement, she began training for competition in November 2009, working out at the Salvation Army center for two hours a day, three days a week from December through April. (That’s in addition to her student-worker position at Western’s Spencer Student Recreation Center as a personal trainer and group fitness teacher.) She found satisfaction in the process as her strength began to build.

“It’s a process where you can visibly see your results as you improve along the way,” she said. “I have a notebook filled with every workout I’ve done since the first day I was in there, and you can see, as your weights go up, the strength you’re attaining. It’s rewarding to see your progress.”

She stepped up to five days a week for the summer, and “this summer was the strongest I’ve ever felt,” she said.

And it wasn’t just a feeling. In June, Simmons competed in nationals held in Columbia, Mo., where she set qualifying totals to compete on the international level. Once she knew she was going to the world championships, she said, “my only goal was to do the dead lift, 140 kilos. That’s 309 pounds.”

A shoulder injury set back her training. But she kept at it.

“Roger definitely had the biggest influence on me to stick with it and keep it going,” she said. “They’re 70 and 75 years old (respectively) and they’re still both in incredible shape,” she added. “It’s inspiring.”

And at the international meet, she lifted 92.5 kilos (or 203 pounds) for the squat; 65 kilos (or 143 pounds) in the bench press; and 140 kilos (309 pounds) for the dead lift.

Despite this show of physical strength, Simmons says one of the things she’s most proud of actually happened after the competition: she traveled around Ireland on her own.

“It was the first time I’d traveled out of the country,” she said. “It was really humbling going to a different country, realizing how much I didn’t know about the world. At the meet, I had to make an effort to meet people and go out of my way to talk to the other athletes, who were from places like Ireland, England, Italy, Sweden, Poland, and Germany—I’m friends with some of them on Facebook now. I also got to spend a day in Dublin, which was so exciting. I really was proud and surprised at myself.”

So, now that she’s conquered the world (or at least the world championships in her sport), what’s next?

“For the next semester, I just want to concentrate on figuring out where I’m going to graduate school!” she laughed.

For now she is concentrating on readying her application materials for Arizona State, where she hopes to study exercise and wellness programming. She hopes  to prepare for a career in corporate/workplace health and wellness teams.

“I want to work with people and make a difference by coming up with practical ways to incorporate fitness into peoples’ lives,” she said. “I’m enthusiastic about it because fitness and exercise is my life.”

And despite her success, Simmons says she won’t be returning to power lifting training right away.

“I’m proud and happy about it, but honestly…it’s a sport you can do your whole life. I might pick it back up, but not for awhile. I do still weight-train, but I’m not sure what my next endeavor will be. If you’d told me five years ago ‘you’re going be a world champion at power lifting,’ I’d be like ‘no way.’ So who knows where I’ll be in five years.

“I like challenges,” she continued. “Everything I do is 110 percent. I don’t go halfway into something.”