Public Health Major Selected to Work With Higher Educational COVID-19 Community of Practice

U of A student and Air Force Sgt. Dallion Richards with his wife, Cassie.
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U of A student and Air Force Sgt. Dallion Richards with his wife, Cassie.

Dallion Richards, an Air Force sergeant and public health major at the U of A, was recently selected by the Higher Education COVID-19 Community of Practice to help develop a toolkit focused on reducing the spread of the disease on college campuses.

The American College Health Association is working with the Centers for Disease Control on the COVID-19 initiative, which will activate college students to help solve problems associated with the pandemic.

Richards will work on the toolkit for the next six months with a small group of students across the nation. The toolkit will be shared with designated "ambassadors" among college faculty, staff and students with the goal of educating people about the COVID-19 vaccine and to help increase the use of masks, handwashing and physical distancing.

Richards, who has three sons with his wife, Cassie, said he looks forward to seeing how a national health agency functions.

"I know it's going to be a formative experience that will help me build valuable skills," he said.

He's also excited about the opportunity to influence perception among college students about the pandemic and vaccinations. "There's a fair amount of confusion, blatant disregard and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 within the young adult community," he said. "I believe the campus toolkit working group will be important for providing evidence-based information and clear action items to college students across the nation."

Richards plans to remain in the Air Force after he graduates from the U of A in December 2021. After retiring from the military, he'll seek a research-focused position within the health sciences. He also wants to earn a master's degree and a doctorate in a specialized field. Biology and neuroscience are particularly intriguing, he said.

Dr. M.A. Wyandt-Hiebert, director of the U of A Campus Sexual and Relationship Violence Center and a public health professor, shared the opportunity with Richards and his classmates. She said the American College Health Association shaped her career path as an undergraduate student. She's now a Fellow in the organization.

"ACHA is an incredible organization. I have had the opportunity to serve with so many amazing college health professionals," she said. "I am so happy for Dallion to have this opportunity. What incredible connections will be made and what a great chance to put all that he has learned to date into action while engaging and learning from some of the country's best college health professionals."

Wyandt-Hiebert is excited to see how the group's incredible work will ultimately benefit the public.

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