Field Experiences Shape Career Paths for HES Students

Field experiences through the Health and Exercise Sciences department allow students to apply career-oriented skills in an off-campus internship during the summer months.

Some students have interned in their home communities and throughout the U.S., while others have interned as far away as Africa, Ireland, Australia, Mexico and England.

Chris Lantz, HES department chair and one of the coordinators for HES field experiences, said many students completing internships abroad, and even locally, report satisfaction with the program.

“The students consistently evaluate the field experience as the top experiential opportunity they have in our department,” Lantz said.

Two of the three programs within the HES department require practical fieldwork, and some students complete as many as 320 hours. Lantz said the requirements help students make decisions about what they want to do in their future careers.

“In many ways, those field experiences either reaffirm their interest in a particular area or shed light on the fact that this might not be the best fit for them professionally,” Lantz said.

Students generally search for and select their own internships, but Lantz and four of his colleagues help find work sites, give approval and take care of problems and other issues.

Once students begin their experiences, Lantz and other faculty visit all students’ work sites within a 200-mile radius.

Lantz said field experiences, especially those abroad, help round out the entire Truman experience.

“In order to consider oneself to be truly benefitting from a liberal arts and sciences education, you’ve got to immerse yourself in a foreign culture,” he said.

A field experience through the HES Department last summer allowed Sara Wissmann, a senior health science major, to explore her passion for mission work when she traveled to Malawi, Africa to teach HIV education seminars to youth and adults.

“I’ve only been in America my whole life, and so I don’t know what the rest of the world is like," Wissmann said. “There are so many others to consider and serve and help,” she said, expressing her desire to acknowledge and help fill the needs of others throughout the world.

For five weeks, Wissmann lived in the New Jersey-sized country, working with HIV Hope, a program that works to encourage and support those afflicted with HIV. The program is a facet of New Mission Systems International, an agency that coordinates Christian missions globally.

During her time in Africa, Wissmann and her companions primarily stayed in Malawi’s modernized capital city, Lilongwe. However, the group conducted most of their seminars in small villages.

Wissmann said her field experience is one she wouldn’t trade. In fact, her life has been so shaped by her experience in Africa that she plans to affiliate with NMSI, the organization through which she worked last summer, to continue mission work after she graduates in May.

Wissmann is just one example of the nearly 90 students who participate each summer in the HES field experience program.  

“It’s definitely an invaluable experience,” she said. “I wish everybody would go out and step out of our borders and see what life is like in other countries.”

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