Making Strides

Students in NCLC 410 doing advocacy work in support of breast cancer research
Students in NCLC 410 doing advocacy work in support of breast cancer research

Students in Professor Kristen Vlaun’s course NCLC 410: Contemporary Health Issues study everything from nutrition to fitness to domestic and international health care policy. To help students understand the different aspects of health care initiatives, Vlaun has added another component to the course: advocacy. The students are hitting the streets to experience the triumphs and challenges around raising awareness for cancer research. 

In addition to course readings, presentations and papers, Vlaun’s 25 students selected a public health issue for which they, as a group, wanted to raise awareness. All agreed to work in support of breast cancer research and will use the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Washington DC walk on October 18, the focal point of their advocacy.

Vlaun said, “The decision to support breast cancer research was unanimously reached, and I’ve been impressed by the students’ organization and dedication to spreading the message, both on campus and off.”

Students formed the GMU Pink Patriots Team, created committees to carry out advocacy work at Mason and in the larger community. Students stand outside in shopping centers, distributing information about cancer research and raising funds for their chosen non-profit organization, the American Cancer Society. These efforts have ranged from email campaigns to a public service announcement to grassroots meet-and-greet sessions at common gathering spots where students provide literature and resources for those who would like to learn more.

Jacky Tran (Integrative Studies with a concentration in Life Sciences) has learned about cancer while refining his own communication skills. He said, “This has been a hands-on learning experience. We consider how to involve people and create community. Before this, I didn’t know much about speaking to people in public, but this has helped me to gain confidence and stretch myself to speak with each person I saw.”

Sarmad Butt (Integrative Studies with concentration in Life Sciences) also commented on what he has gained through the project. He said, “This has made me think about how much work goes into planning and getting the word out for these causes. I’m really enjoying this and making connections with people I’ve never met before.”

As part of their outreach, Vlaun’s class will participate in the Making Strides 5K walk to be held in Washington DC on Sunday, October 18th.