Curiosity about health issues around the globe leads to UW-Eau Claire alum’s world tour

| Julie Poquette

A tour of a Singapore wastewater treatment plant would not be a highlight for most tourists visiting that Southeast Asian country, but it was for Andy Kleist.

Kleist, a 2013 UW-Eau Claire environmental public health graduate, has been on a 364-day trip around the world that began in October 2017 and will end this Oct. 31. That the Singapore water plant would be on his itinerary makes perfect sense when you consider his motivation for making the trip.

“I had been working as an EPA contractor for four years after graduation and felt like I was only seeing a small segment of the environmental issues that are of most importance globally,” Kleist said in a recent email to his former UW-Eau Claire environmental public health professor Dr. Crispin Pierce. “I decided to expand my worldview and see how other countries are facing their issues on that front… Basically, I went on this trip in order to learn how the rest of the world handles environmental concerns differently than we might.”

Kleist and his travel companion, whom he met when they both were interns at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2013, have seen a wide range of environmental issues during their trip, which had taken them to 30 countries as of mid-September. In the email to Pierce, Kleist noted “widely accepted littering in Central America, drinking water problems prevalent throughout Africa, ecotourism exploitation in many parts of Asia, and introduced invasive species concerns in New Zealand” as “just a few examples.”

In another email to Pierce, Kleist shared his excitement over seeing the Singapore NEWater plant, recalling that the facility was a case study they discussed in class at UW-Eau Claire. 

“Their closed loop wastewater-to-drinking-water system is incredible to see,” Kleist wrote to Pierce. “Also to have the public embrace it so wholeheartedly is very cool. I know that was one of the major hurdles you referenced with a system like this.”

Pierce is not surprised that his former student is traveling the world to further his knowledge in his chosen field. 

“Whether competing for Blugold basketball, interning with the CDC, or joining student colleagues in environmental public health field research, Andy demonstrated perseverance,” Pierce said. “His curiosity and desire to address worldwide human environmental issues led to this 31-country tour. Andy used his foundation as an environmental public health program graduate to launch a career as an EPA consultant, and has expanded his horizons to understand health risks around the world.”

Read more about Kleist’s worldwide tour in a recent Eau Claire Leader-Telegram story written by another UW-Eau Claire graduate, Samantha West, and follow along with Kleist's travels on Instagram at KleistAlmighty. 

Photo cutline: Andy Kleist at Tugela Falls, the second tallest waterfall in the world located in South Africa. (Submitted photo)