Make The Connection

June 17, 2019 | By Cole Hatcher

Abby Bowman ’20 visits Vatican City during an OWU Connection experience in Italy studying Blue Zones, regions where people seem to live much longer than average. (Photo courtesy of Abby Bowman)

Nourishing Body and Mind

Ohio Wesleyan Students Dig into Food, Physical Activity Issues in Italy, Ohio

Name: Abby Bowman ’20
Hometown: Pickerington, Ohio
Majors: Psychology and Nutrition
Minor: Spanish
OWU Connection Experience: Theory-to-Practice Grant, “An Exploration of Selected Blue Zones Concepts in Community Food and Physical Activity Settings in Umbria, Italy, and Central Ohio”

Bowman and Emily Sheridan ’21 of North Smithfield, Rhode Island, traveled to Italy for nearly two weeks in May with Christopher Fink, Ph.D., associate professor of health and human kinetics, to “utilize qualitative research methods, as well as health promotion and community theory to explore selected Blue Zones concepts, and how they appear in the lived experiences of individual actors in food and physical activity settings.” Blue Zones are regions of the world where it is claimed that people live much longer than average.

Bowman shares her reflections of their OWU Connection experience:

With the help of a translator, Emily Sheridan ’21 and Abby Bowman ’20 interview the director of an Italian farmers market as part of their OWU Connection grant-sponsored experience. (Photo by Christopher Fink)

Lessons learned

“This experience allowed me to address questions that I had after reading ‘The Blue Zones Solution’ by Dan Buettner. …

“While addressing the sense of purpose and community related to food, this experience also drew attention to the differences in accessibility and effect of food and place between these two locations. In Food, Culture, and Society, we discussed the importance of food on culture and identity; these ideas were prominent throughout our trip.

“This trip also ties to our future plans to continue researching oral histories of food and migration throughout the Delaware community.

“Experiences like these are important because they allow students to conduct international research and to apply classroom information to real people and places. I was able to practice interviewing, recording information, and drawing conclusions while also noticing connections from classes that were not directly related to the project.

“These experiences allow students to see the vast differences between Delaware and other communities and to execute projects based on their individual passions.”

My favorite moment

“My favorite part of this experience was using our Farmers Market products to cook dinner at the Umbria Institute kitchen. I enjoyed applying what we’ve learned through the nutrition curriculum to prepare traditional Umbrian meals with locally sourced ingredients.”

Why I chose OWU

“I originally chose to attend Ohio Wesleyan because it was relatively close to home and I would be able to continue my lacrosse career. However, Ohio Wesleyan continuously gives me reasons to stay. My first year at OWU gave me three of my best friends, plus 50 new sisters.

“My new friends and the women of Tri Delta have been by my side through the roller coaster that is college. They had already sold me on the fact that Ohio Wesleyan was where I was meant to be, but the proof kept coming after I declared my second major in nutrition. Dr. Fink has gone above and beyond to help me pursue my passions and to conduct meaningful research that will help me when applying for graduate school and when taking the first steps in my career. Most evidently, his support and help with this Theory-to-Practice Grant.

“This experience showed me exactly why I chose OWU; I was able to engage in a project directly targeting my interests that I would not have had the resources to do without Ohio Wesleyan. I would not have had this same experience or faculty support at a larger school, or even at other small schools.

“The faculty at Ohio Wesleyan, specifically professors Christopher Fink, Andrew Busch, Vicki DiLillo, Richard LaFountain, Dan Vogt, Lee Fratantuono, and Kira Bailey, have showed me exactly why I chose OWU. I am not just a number here, and I can’t imagine getting this experience and support at any other university.”

My plans after graduation

“I am planning to apply to Master of Social Work and Master of Public Health programs for after graduation. After hopefully earning my Master’s, I would love to work with expecting mothers or at a Hispanic Coalition to promote health and to provide services to local women in need.”