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UW-Superior graduate Katie Tarnowski completed an internship at Halvor Inc. in Superior and then accepted a position as the trucking company’s health and wellness assistant.

Students from the University of Wisconsin-Superior are making a difference for businesses and schools throughout Superior and Douglas County – and all across the Twin Ports. In particular, a group of students in the Health and Human Performance (HHP) department have assisted companies looking for ways to improve employee health.

Academic Service-Learning (AS-L) is an educational experience offered through UW-Superior that helps students broaden their course knowledge while also helping to identify and meet community needs. The AS-L program’s goal is to make UW-Superior the regional leader in Academic Service-Learning, which will help further UW-Superior’s liberal arts mission. The AS-L program gives students a unique experience that they would not get elsewhere.

HHP student interns are using the Academic Service-Learning program to coordinate and implement employee wellness programs and health outreach support for local businesses, schools, and non-profit organizations. Currently, HHP has 12 of these mutually beneficial community based learning opportunities including but not limited to: Halvor Lines, the Superior School District, Sansio, Essentia Health and maurices.

Douglas County’s state health ranking is near the bottom at 50 out of 72 counties. These wellness programs, which provide support to people from directly within their workplace, are essential for improving both individual employees and the community’s health as a whole. While it is obvious that this program alone will not completely transform the health landscape of our community, it is one of the most promising and progressive approaches to this issue.

Katie Tarnowski, who graduated in May, implemented a wellness program at Halvor Lines Inc. called “Worksite Wellness.” Tarnowski worked with both office employees and truck drivers of the Superior-based transportation and logistics business during the AS-L program. She believes this program works because of its outside of the box thinking.

“I think that I made an impact on the drivers by showing them trust and communication and dedication to my internship,” said Tarnowski. “I also made an impact at Halvor Lines by showing my supervisor that I wanted to be here and wanted to continue to work for Halvor Lines Inc. My interest in health and wellness shows in my work.”

This program is vital to Halvor Lines for all the employees – but especially to the truck drivers, who lack the everyday options of other workers.  They are on the road continually and do not have access to a stove for cooking, for example.  And going to the grocery store can be a challenge with a massive truck.

Tarnowski worked to implement healthy alternatives for the drivers while they were on the road. Any driver who wants a “stair-stepper”, (a small and practical exercise machine) can have one in their truck. Tarnowski and her supervisor, Becca Matthews, also send weekly workout videos to the drivers to assist them in their training.

Matthews, Halvor Lines’ health and wellness coordinator, said the health and wellness program strives to bring the knowledge and tools to their drivers so that they continue to perform their job safely.

“Katie Tarnowski has brought so much knowledge and enthusiasm to Halvor Lines’ health and wellness program. Katie has learned how to be creative in planning exercise routines and health initiatives for our truck drivers,” Matthews said. “She has assisted the wellness coordinator in planning healthy meals, exercise programs, stress management techniques, and coaching of the professional driver.”

Tarnowski’s hard work has paid off; this internship led to a position as the health and wellness assistant at Halvor Lines.

“I am so glad for this opportunity being in the Health and Wellness department at UW-Superior and also for this great opportunity as an intern – and so fortunate and blessed to officially be a member of the Halvor Lines team,” said Tarnowski, who started her full time position after graduation.

Tarnowski isn’t the only UW-Superior student who has made a difference. Mary Smith, a physical education major with an exercise science concentration, did her Academic Service-Learning program at Impact Sports, the area leader in physical fitness.

Stephanie Cotton, a physical education major with a concentration in community health promotion, completed her project at Sansio, a technology company in Duluth.  Cotton did so well that she accepted a full-time wellness coordinator job with Sansio after graduation last year.  “By taking the tools and information I learned from the HHP program, I have been able to pursue my passion of helping others achieve their health and fitness goals,” said Cotton.  “Employees are starting to realize just how important it is to keep their employees healthy.  I have noticed the employees who work out during their lunch have less stress.”

Kim Lebard-Rankila, one of the HHP professors involved with the program, believes that the internship experience helps students link knowledge gained from their education with real world professional needs, while helping the university extend the service of education beyond its students. This helps the university broaden its mission as not just an educational organization, but a place that works with the community to make the Twin Ports a better, healthier place to live.

“The curriculum of the Community/Public Health program prepares our students to enter into professional job settings in health fields including public health coordinators, human service, employee wellness programs, community outreach programs, county health departments, federal government, and various other health careers,” Lebard-Rankila said.

The Academic Service-Learning program is an invaluable part of UW-Superior’s curriculum. It supports the mission of academic excellence, student-focused learning, intellectual and personal development, continuous improvement, inclusivity, and community partnerships.

News Contact: Tom Hansen | 715-394-8260 | thansen7@uwsuper.edu