ETSU College of Public Health dean: Niswonger VILLAGE to 'Produce answers to global problems'

Tony Casey • Updated Apr 29, 2017 at 6:28 AM

Minutes after the sign to “The Niswonger VILLAGE” was unveiled above his head at the Eastman Valleybrook campus, Scott Niswonger handed East Tennessee State University College of Public Health Dean Dr. Randy Wykoff a $50,000 check — and said it was going to be “the first of many.”

Niswonger’s financial support through the Niswonger Foundation is one of the many reasons why ETSU now has a public health simulation lab, where students will be able to team up and act out real-life scenarios they might encounter in their work.

“They’ll be able to create exact kinds of environments,” Wykoff told a crowd of several dozen Friday morning at the launch, revealing his mission for what might be in the future. “This campus will become the go-to place for the entire country.”

VILLAGE stands for “Virtual International Living: Learning Across Global Environments.”

Dr. Michael Stoots, undergraduate coordinator for the College of Public Health, was the man to unveil the sign leading up to the actual village, where these projects are carried out on a life-sized scale. Each section of the village is dedicated to represent what can be found in less fortunate parts of the globe, all with the help of Stoots, Wykoff and the college’s faculty members.

Niswonger, the chairman of ETSU’s Board of Trustees, was joined in the audience with other trustees Fred Alsop, David Golden and ETSU President Brian Noland. Wislie Bishop, vice president for health affairs and chief operating officer, Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge and other civic and business leaders filled out the event’s crowd with College of Public Health students.

“The Niswonger Foundation has a long and successful history of working with ETSU overall and with the college of public health,” Niswonger said. “The Niswonger Scholars have received training from the College of Public Health here on the Valleybrook Campus and I was privileged to be able to contribute thoughts and ideas about the VILLAGE as it was being conceived.”

Noland spoke about how this development for the College of Public Health will continue with the focus on ETSU’s mission to serve the region that surrounds the school.

“ETSU shares with Mr. Niswonger a commitment to improving this region, whether it’s improving education or health outcomes,” the ETSU president said. “We’re trying to prepare students who can make a difference wherever they go in the world.”

Some of the College of Public Health students offered a look at exactly what those preparations look like.

Several showed how less fortunate people in some countries use normal household goods to make footwear when they didn’t have any other options. The privilege of having shoes allows a person a way to take care of their families and work, thus becoming a part of their local economies. The students said this is happening near and far away, from rural places in the U.S. to places in Africa across the globe.

Other simulations include making clean drinking water; how tortillas come into existence through cultivation and farming all the way to the way they’re cooked and served to families; and teaching about investigating possible outbreaks and making homes safer for toddlers and the elderly.

During these various experiences, students — graduate and undergraduate level — discuss health systems and challenges, both domestic and international, and then develop interventions and programming to improve health outcomes and change environments and policies.

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