KOKOMO, Ind. — Ashanti Clark had a vague idea about working in minority health, but wasn’t sure where to place her focus.

A day-long trip with Indiana University Kokomo’s Department of Allied Health Sciences helped narrow her choices, when she met with Antoniette Holt, director of minority health for the Indiana State Department of Health.

“I feel like I gained a new mentor,” said Ashanti, from Kokomo. “She’s going to guide me more with what I want to do in the future. She helped narrow down my decision making in my career to a specific focus on minorities, chronic health issues, and women.”

Ashanti was one of a half dozen health sciences students who experienced people working in multiple potential careers in their field. The day began by meeting with 14 department heads and representatives from the health department. Afterward, there was a tour and healthy lunch at Duos, a farm-to-table restaurant, followed by exploring Saraga International Grocery and its exotic food selection, then going behind the scenes of game day operations for the Indy Fuel hockey team.

“I think this trip showed students the three concentrations in health sciences are connected,” said David Hancock, assistant professor of health sciences. “Whether you want to do exercise and sport science, nutrition, or health promotion, they’re all related. Having knowledge in one of those areas will absolutely help in other areas.”

At the restaurant, students ordered healthy meals, created with food bought from local producers, sampling fare such as a quinoa bowl, oven-baked salmon, vegan jambalaya, or a skinny burger.

While they ate, they talked to Becky Hostetter, co-owner and executive chef, about the business of running a sustainable restaurant.

Hostetter works with 12-15 local farmers each season to buy their food. She negotiates to buy in volume to sell at a price point of $6 to $8 per entrée, well below what most expect to pay at a farm-to-table eatery. The menu changes often, based on local ingredient availability. Most food waste is composted.

“I feel sustainability and access to quality food is vital to community development,” Hostetter said, “It’s vital for health and well-being, it’s vital for economic development.”

The restaurant tour and talk reinforced what Kim Mossburg teaches in her nutrition classes on campus.

“It was good to see examples of sustainability in action, in addition to menu items which reinforce disease prevention,” she said. “Use of organic products, which decreases both the negative health and environmental impact, was nice to see. Also, the use of vegetarian items on the menu should set an example for us as we strive to improve both our environment and health.”

Mossburg led a tour through the produce department at Saraga International Grocery, pointing out unusual fruits and vegetables, such as dragon fruit, that are not typically seen in a local market.

As someone who is interested in working with sports, Alli Voils appreciated the chance to meet athletic trainers for the Indy Fuel hockey team, and to watch them at work.

“We saw everything that went on behind the scenes,” the Jamestown resident said. “You don’t realize how much has to be done hours, days, and even months before a game.”

Jalyn Windsor noticed the interconnectedness of wellness-related fields at the department of health. After introductions of representatives, students talked to several individually about their roles. She met with Eden Bezy, director of the Office of Public Health Performance Management, who previously worked in nutrition and health and wellness.

“It showed me we don’t have to stay within our current field,” Jalyn said. “I want to be a dietician, and I could do that, but I could also go into a different field if I wanted to later. All of the people there have different roles, but they all work together because health is connected.”

Bezy said she chose public health to make a larger impact, rather than working one-on-one as a nutritionist.

“She can help thousands of people in her job,” Windsor said. “That was interesting to consider.”

The same conversation convinced Kristin May that an office job in exercise and sports science is not for her. She’s considering becoming a strength and conditioning specialist or a personal trainer.

“I want the personal interaction, and to work in a person-to-person basis,” said Kristin. “Seeing that potential career showed me more of what I want to do.

Ashanti was impressed by the number of department of health officials who made time to meet with the students.

“I learned a lot from being there, and asked a lot of questions,” she said. “You see that these directors are just people like you, who worked hard to get where they are, and it’s possible for you, too.”

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.