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K-State Research and Extension
123 Umberger Hall
Manhattan, KS 66506-3401

May 23, 2023

“Why I Vax” Project Created Engaged Learning Experiences to K-State Students

Submitted by Mirna Bonilla Salazar

A collaborative effort between Immunize Kansas Coalition, K-State Research and Extension, and K-State students created engaged learning experiences as students create vaccine confidence among Kansas families and communities through stories and unified efforts.

The Vaccinate with Confidence: Why I Vax project is a collaborative effort between Immunize Kansas Coalition (IKC), K-State Research and Extension (KSRE), and K-State students to bring vaccine confidence to Kansas communities through student storytelling. But equally important is the engaged learning experiences K-State students are gained throughout the project.

Sakshi Bhati, project lead and Ph.D. candidate in the leadership communication doctoral program, described how through this engagement, student interns were exposed to various opportunities.

“Student interns worked with various stakeholders to promote vaccine use on campus and in the community. They are explored communicative opportunities to build and sustain stakeholder relationships along with creating vaccine outreach that resonates with students.”

Johnna Tumberger, a senior in mass communications and Strategic Communication intern, was one of two students who worked on developing social media and campus presence to encourage vaccine use among families and communities through the lens of K-State students.

“Being a student at K-State has taught me so much about the importance of community and with IKC, community health is at the forefront. [Through the partnership with IKC and KSRE] I have learned that communication is key whether it is in the way we communicate as a group or how we are able to get our messages across to students” stated Tumberger.

Bhati and her team are provided opportunities for K-State students to share their vaccine stories through tabling events, a teaching module, and participated in influencer engagement to become a part of the project.

Janvi Aggarwal, graduate student in Mass Communications and Strategic Communication Volunteer, stated “The collaboration has allowed for access to research, funding, and expertise from both organizations, which has been instrumental in the success of the project. I have gained insights into the importance of community engagement, the value of storytelling, and the impact of public health initiatives. The partnership has demonstrated the power of teamwork and how it can lead to positive outcomes for the community.”

Through this project, the K-State community participated in conversations that aim to create impact and change. “This health communication initiative is exemplary of the collaborative efforts in promoting public health and improving health outcomes. We are engaging our students in sharing and understanding how vaccines keep our families and communities safe” states Bhati.

Thank you to IKC, Stephanie Gutierrez, extension program coordinator in K-State’s College of Health and Human Sciences; and Dr. Elaine Johannes, extension specialist and associate professor of Health and Human Services; for providing opportunities for K-State students to grow in their respective fields.

As part of the K-State Research and Extension system, are you interested in connecting with university faculty, staff, or students to build upon your community engagement work? Contact the Office of Engagement for opportunities to begin or grow your scholarly work.