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Winter 2010: From the Editor

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I discovered my college major in a broom closet.
I was a senior in high school and had gone to Purdue with my mom to talk to my academic advisor. I had been accepted into the pre-pharmacy program but decided I had made my career choice for all the wrong reasons and that pharmacy wasn’t really what I wanted to do.
So I’m sitting with this academic advisor (I still remember her name and the really bright lipstick she was wearing—on her teeth), telling her how I wanted to change my intended major. I was interested in the health field and teaching but didn’t want to be a doctor or nurse—the whole blood and passing out thing. Did she have any insights into what I might do?
She looked at me and said “Well, you can’t do that here.” She basically showed us the door and left me to wonder what was next.
I don’t quite remember how we ended up in the School of Liberal Arts, but when I told the person at the front desk about the encounter we had just had, she said I had come to the right place—sort of. The advisor was in Liberal Arts but his office was in Lambert Fieldhouse. So we took a trek across campus and began the hunt for Professor Savage.
We searched every inch of that building, finally stumbling on the door to a janitor’s closet with the number we were looking for. We knocked and found a man in a pair of gym shorts, T-shirt, tube socks, and tennis shoes. We told him who we were looking for. In a thick Australian accent he said, “I’m him.”
He pulled a couple chairs into his office/closet and for the next hour he introduced me to the field of public health.
I found the variety of fields in public health very appealing. I volunteered as a peer health educator—much like the W.A.R. Council at Wabash. We covered topics including alcohol and other drugs, nutrition, sexual health, and disease prevention. I continued educating college students through graduate school, often as the “token alcohol speaker” at fraternity or sorority chapter meetings or in front of a handful of students at the residence halls.
I knew I had “arrived” as a health educator when I could stand up in front of a fraternity full of men and talk about the health of their penises without cracking a smile. It was important for me to laugh with them, acknowledge their discomfort in having the conversation with me—a young woman only a couple years older than them—but at the same time turn it into a teaching point.
But I learned early on that the issues health educators deal with are the issues no one really wants to talk about but everyone needs to hear and understand: the dangers of excessive drinking and other drug use, the risks of obesity and inactivity, and sexual health concerns.
Much like Professor Savage not having an office in one of the then newest buildings on campus but was tucked in a glorified broom closest on the “PE” side of campus, health education, prevention, and wellness take a back seat to quick fixes, medicine, and treatment.
But the two really go hand in hand.
The more we know, the more likely we are to make good decisions regarding our health and well-being. What is health? What is well-being? Well, good question. I know what my answer is, but it’s much like beauty—it’s in the eye of the beholder.
That’s what I love about this issue of Wabash Magazine. In it, we asked a couple hundred alumni (and even a few of their spouses) their opinions on the matter, and of the 50 or so that replied we got a myriad of responses.
So turn the page. Hear their stories. Be inspired. And ask yourself, “How do I define well-being?”
And in the spirit of men who think critically, act responsibly, lead effectively, and live humanely, ask yourself, “What am I going to do to achieve it?”
Happy reading and be well!
Kim Johnson | Co-Editor