Nutrition Major Gao Serves on Student Panel at WUN Conference

Irene Gao
Irene Gao

Nutrition major Irene Gao recently served as panelist in a special topic workshop on student mental health during the 2019 Worldwide Universities Network (WUN) annual meeting held in Dublin, Ireland in May.

“I have had personal experiences with and peers who were impacted by mental health problems,” says Gao, a rising junior who spent her spring 2019 semester studying abroad at the University College Dublin. “So I jumped at the chance to participate.”

The workshop provided a forum for the wider WUN community to engage with the WUN Working Group on Student Mental Health, as it completes its study of student mental health across the network and prepares to report on its findings.

“Collaborating with and meeting people from a diversity of backgrounds encouraged me to look at problems from multiple angles and be more flexible,” says Gao. “For instance, one of our student panelists was unable to attend due to visa problems. We had to adapt our presentation to suit a different student delegate who joined at the last minute. This change actually greatly improved our section of the panel as we were able to introduce a practice method of encouraging community engagement.”

Adds Gao, “Being in an international setting made me curious how I can apply what I learn from my nutrition coursework at UMass Amherst to other cultural or geographical settings. As a result, I think I would like to do research connected to nutrition on a global level.”

The WUN is a leading global higher education and research network made up of 23 universities, spanning 13 countries on six continents. It provides support to establish collaborative research that falls within four globally significant themes, such as responding to climate change, public health in non-communicable disease and understanding cultures. The University of Massachusetts Amherst is one of its member institutions.