Department Spotlight: Adrienne Wakabayashi

The department is pleased to introduce Adrienne Wakabayashi in the role of Postgraduate Academic Program Coordinator. Adrienne graduated from Western University with both BMSc (Honors) and MSc degrees in Microbiology and Immunology. Prior to joining the department, Adrienne worked in research for Public Health Ontario studying L. monocytogenes (bacterial food-borne pathogen) using whole genome sequencing and bioinformatics technologies. She was happy to return to London, and Western, for her current role.

Adrienne recently participated in Western's Alternative Spring Break (ASB) and shares some of her experience below:

How did you first get involved with ASB?
I participated in an ASB experience as an undergraduate student where my team traveled to Costa Rica and worked with underserviced communities in a medical clinic. I credit the team leaders we had for helping to provide such an amazing experience where I learned the importance of community-engaged learning, experiential learning, intercultural competency, civic engagement, and reflective practice.

Your experience as a staff team leader?
I applied for a staff team leader position this year because I knew the value that ASB had for me as a student, and I wanted to help facilitate that learning with other students. I was paired with a fabulous co-leader, Melissa Ostrowski (the Global Experiential Learning Coordinator for Student Experience at Western, who runs the ASB program), and our team of 15 students plus one student team leader traveled to Jamaica for reading week. As team leaders, Melissa and I helped to guide the participants through the ASB experience, a process that included coordination of service site activities and group conduct/safety during the experience, as well as facilitation of reflection exercises. We had an amazing team who made the experience incredible.

Tell us about your week.
We facilitated a medical clinic in at a community centre in May Pen, Clarendon (one hour from Kingston). On the first service day, we were in the community promoting awareness of the clinic, distributing appointments, and setting up the clinic. We then had clinic days, where we interviewed patients and performed basic measurements (height, weight, and blood pressure). Team members then presented the patient and their case to the doctor, and were able to observe the interaction between the doctor and patient, also seeing the decision-making involved in the patient's care. We also visited a long-term care facility for patients with various mental and physical abilities. Each night we spent time reflecting on our experiences from the day and discussing poverty, equality/inequalities, and privilege, as well as health, cultural, economic, and social issues facing different communities. It was a week where we were able to experience and learn about a different culture, connect with community members, and learn something about ourselves in the process.

ASB is coordinated by the Experiential Learning team in the Student Success Centre at Western and works with their partners to engage student participants, student team leaders and staff and faculty team leaders in meaningful opportunities defined by the community, while supporting students’ academic learning, developing their sense of civic engagement, and personal development.