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Phi Kappa Phi Awards Help Students to Study Abroad

RELEASED: May 12, 2008

Heather Nichols Laurie Agrimson
Heather Nichols
Laurie Agrimson
Wendy Weimerskirch
Wendy Weimerskirch, far left, on a previous trip to Uganda. (Submitted photos)

EAU CLAIRE — Three members of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire chapter of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi will travel internationally this summer or fall with the help of awards from their honor society.

Junior nursing major Heather Nichols, Pittsville, and junior sociology major Wendy Weimerskirch, Plymouth, Minn., received $1,000 Phi Kappa Phi study abroad travel grants from the national organization. Nichols will spend eight weeks in Costa Rica this summer, while Weimerskirch will travel to Nicaragua and Costa Rica for the fall semester.

A third student, Keri Van Rossum, Greenleaf, also received a travel grant from the national organization but turned it down after the university she planned to visit in Scotland canceled the program she was scheduled to attend.

Nichols will attend an eight-week study abroad program in Costa Rica offered through UW-Eau Claire's Center for International Education. Her program, "Costa Rica Nursing and Health Care Professionals" will take place primarily in Tibas, Costa Rica, a suburb of San Jose. The program includes medical Spanish and an introduction to the Costa Rican medical system.

"One week will be spent in a rural village called Miramar, where I will interact and provide care to patients in the rural clinic along with the clinic staff and 10 other UW-Eau Claire students," Nichols said. "During my stays in Tibas and Miramar, I will stay with a host family. It will be a great opportunity to learn Spanish, apply it directly to providing patient care, and simultaneously submerge myself in this Central American culture."

Nichols said nursing instructor Jayne Bielecki influenced her decision to study abroad by encouraging students to get involved in global health and providing support and resources to students who show an interest in her passion. Nichols also said instructor Gail Hanson, adviser to the Student Nurses Association, encouraged and supported student nurses' involvement at the local, state and national levels.

When Weimerskirch goes to Central America in the fall, she will take courses in Spanish, history and sociology, and complete an independent study project that includes service-learning.

"I have been working hard on writing grants for this service learning part before I go," Weimerskirch said. "We would like to treat the people in the village we work with for parasites and do some other public health teaching."

Weimerskirch said Oak Ridge Hall director Linda Pratt and nursing professor Dr. Lois Taft supported her efforts.

Weimerskirch also received a $500 award from the local Phi Kappa Phi chapter at UW-Eau Claire. She will use the grant to buy and distribute mosquito nets as protection from malaria-carrying mosquitoes when she travels to Uganda this summer. She will travel with her mother, who is a physician, her grandparents and several friends. It will be her fourth trip to Uganda.

"People in Uganda know that mosquito nets work; they simply don't have money to afford them," she wrote in her grant application." I will give bed nets to the poorest in society: the widows, orphans, children and those with disabilities. They are often the most vulnerable people in the community."

Another $500 local grant was awarded to graduate nursing student Laurie Agrimson, West St. Paul, Minn. She will use the grant to help pay expenses when she attends the 19th International Nursing Research Congress Focusing on Evidence-Based Practice in Singapore July 7-11. She will then conduct independent research in Hiroshima, Japan, July 11-17.

Agrimson will photograph historic sites and interview people to learn about the long-term health effects related to radiation exposure following the dropping of the atomic bomb on that city at the end of World War II. She also will spend time with a professor from the Hiroshima Peace University.

For more information on Phi Kappa Phi awards, visit the national Web site.



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