Community seminar series expands to address additional dimensions of health

10/4/2023 11:52:44 AM Amy Clay-Moore

On Oct. 18, the Community Seminar Series, a partnership between University of Illinois Extension and the Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Institute, kicks off its eleventh series with “Between two worlds: Bicultural emerging adults' experiences of conflict and management among family and friends.”

The topic marks a departure from the standard physical health and nutrition topics that the series has typically covered in the past. The change was a result of audience feedback and a rigorous program evaluation the CSS team conducted with support from the New Technologies for Ag Extension (NTAE) Award the team received in 2022.

While the series has had remarkable success, garnering the attention of more than 9,000 viewers across the United States, the CSS Team identified areas for future growth and development. Maxwell Wallace, who serves as CSS program coordinator, worked with Illinois Extension’s Chelsey Byers and Dee Walls, as well former IHSI research development manager Kelsey Hassevoort, to conduct the program evaluation for the NTAE award. 

“Our goal is to inspire more research dissemination opportunities, refine our program to reach a more diverse audience, and offer professional development skills for graduate students so they can share their expertise with new audiences,” Wallace said.

As part of the evaluation, Wallace analyzed 452 surveys completed by program participants. Participants answered questions about their knowledge of the topic before and after the webinar, whether the webinar topics were relevant to their lives, whether they plan to make behavior changes in response to what they learned, and what topics they might want to learn more about in the future.

Physical health and nutrition topics remain a priority for the CSS audience. Information about hearing loss and processed foods were among the requested topics that will appear in the Fall 2023 series lineup.

The audience also identified mental health and relationship management as areas where they would like to learn more. As a result, the Fall 2023 series will cover such topics as the science of healthy intimate relationships, understanding schizophrenia, and bicultural emerging adults' navigation of interpersonal conflict.

A Multiple Dimensions of Health Approach

To identify gaps and opportunities for expansion, Wallace and the CSS team coded previous webinar topics and requested topics to the eight dimensions of health and wellness: emotional, physical, occupational, social, spiritual, intellectual, environmental, and financial.

This change is also aligned with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Health Innovation Visioning Committee. The committee was charged by Chancellor Robert Jones to establish a new technology-driven academic health research and education model that makes a significant, visible, and sustained impact on multiple dimensions of human health.

IHSI Interim Director Stephen Boppart discussed how the Health Innovation Visioning Committee considered the multiple dimensions, determinants, and expanse of areas that affect human health in his recent interim director’s note.

“Because health is everywhere, affecting all aspects of our lives, Illinois health research, education, innovation, and engagement lives and thrives in every unit across campus,” Boppart explained.

Recruiting new speakers

To expand the breadth of topics the series offers, Wallace took this “health is everywhere” approach to speaker recruitment for the Fall 2023 series. Academic units and research groups responded enthusiastically to his request for presenters, demonstrating that graduate students and postdoctoral researchers are eager for these opportunities.

As a result, the Community Seminar Series teams welcomes five new speakers this fall including:

Esra SahinEsra Sahin, PhD, who recently completed her doctorate in human development and family studies. Esra’s research interests are on experiences of conflict in family and peer relationships of bicultural youth. Esra will present “Between Two Worlds: Bicultural Emerging Adults' Navigation of Interpersonal Conflict.”

Qihao ZhanQihao Zhan, MSW, MPA, a PhD student in the School of Social Work whose research is focused on romantic relationships and dating violence prevention among adolescent and young adult populations. Qihao will present “Dating Matters: The Science of Healthy Intimate Relationships”

Maltesh KambaliMaltesh Kambali, PhD, a postdoctoral research associate in College of Veterinary Medicine’s Department of Comparative Biosciences, where he investigates schizophrenia in mice models in the Rudolph Lab. Maltesh will present “Understanding Schizophrenia: Improvements in Treatment Effectiveness and Precision.”

Vahid DelaramVahid Delaram, a doctoral student in speech and hearing science whose research interests include high-frequency hearing, speech perception, audiology neuroscience, and hearing aids.

Rohit M. AnanthanarayanaRohit M. Ananthanarayana, a PhD Student in speech and hearing science, investigates the human auditory system’s ability to process speech in noisy backgrounds and how it develops in infants.

Vahid and Rohit will co-present “Navigating Noise: Clear Communication and Hearing Conservation.”

The final presenter for the semester, Ruyu LiuRuyu Liu, MS, RD, is returning for her seventh seminar series with the CSS team. Ru, an alumna of the University of Illinois Division of Nutritional Sciences, is pursuing her doctorate in Cornell University’s Division of Nutritional Sciences, where she focuses on evaluating the effectiveness and implementation of food pantry-based nutrition programs, particularly community-supported agriculture and produce prescription programs. Ruyu will present “All About Process: How Ultra-Processed Foods Impact Health.”

The presenters have been working with Illinois Extension educators to develop their presentation content, style, and language. Extension educators, who work throughout the state of Illinois to educate their local communities on a variety of topics, serve as mentors to help the presenters to make sure they are translating their research into a format that is both accessible and engaging to the public.

Wallace sees the expanded focus of the series as a way to engage current and new audiences in important ways. Recruiting new speakers and addressing new topics is an important part of that goal. Coaching the presenters to create accessible and engaging content is also a critical piece of the puzzle.

“Our mission to ‘close the circle’ and translate and disseminate research is supported by welcoming a tapestry of diverse voices and equipping the torchbearers of tomorrow with the skills to illuminate the minds of new audiences.”

Learn more about the community seminar series