The Unconventional Life of Jeni Stolow

Do you know anyone who places frozen spoons every morning on her eyes just to wake herself up? Well if you know Jeni Stolow ’14, then you do! If you have not met her, you may have heard her infectious laugh or the “snap, crackle, pop” of her body! Her residents call her a bowl of Rice Krispies because you can hear the effects of her rheumatoid arthritis every time she moves!

Stolow balances four campus jobs with her extensive extracurricular activities and Health Behavior and Society Major, started a Substance Abuse Clinic, and even has a book in the works. On top of work, school, and extracurriculars, Stolow serves as an outreach coordinator for a non-profit organization in Haiti.

She’s “the most interesting person on this planet,” according to Courtney Wagner ’15, co- captain of women’s club soccer with Stolow. “She’ll say anything, whether it’s to make someone laugh or for an intelligent conversation.”

At 21, Stolow has traveled to all 48 continental states and has been proposed to by a stranger in Toronto, but even that doesn’t live up to her most interesting journey. When she was 16, she went on the fairly common trip with her language class over to Europe. Instead of sticking to the itinerary, when she touched down in France, Stolow and two friends embarked on a one month backpacking trip, only going to the necessary checkpoints to get in touch with their parents. The three friends had a joint credit card with an allotted amount for the month. However, one of the girls went on a shopping spree, leaving them with a third of their original budget, and worse still, proceeded to leave her European purchases behind on a train. Stolow, who has the skills to do just about anything she sets her mind to, used atypical means to travel from country to county. She worked in an Italian bakery for money; made it over to France where she waited tables at a café; and, eventually took refuge in Switzerland.

Stolow’s unconventional approach to travel may seem a bit strange, until you hear her family history. Her parents, who met at age 12, recently gave up their home in White Lake, New York (home of the infamous Woodstock) and left behind their pet bear so they could check off an item on their bucket list. Currently, they’ve taken up the pirate life, and are sailing around the Gulf of Mexico treasure hunting. Her parents’ relocation currently leaves Stolow ‘homeless’ but she plans to reside at graduate school following graduation.

One could say that Stolow’s adventures have made her wise beyond her years and helps her maintain a good life perspective. “No one cares about what kind of shirt you wear on a date,” she says, noting that she tries not to dwell on trivial matters. “Don’t take anything seriously, except helping people; that you should care about.”

Spotlight on Social Sciences Alumni: Andrea Stoltz

stoltzName: Andrea Stoltz ’02

Education (UR and additional): BA (Health and Society / certificate in Public Sector Analysis), University of Rochester, 2002; Masters in Public Health (w/ concentration in Health Policy Management), New York Medical College, 2007

Current city/state of residence: Chevy Chase, MD

Job Title:  Full time Mother

Family: Husband Adam, daughter Hannah, and 2nd baby expected in June 2012 


Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester? 

I visited the school and it was love at first sight, especially since I happened to tour on that first spring day when everyone emerges from hiding after a long winter!  I made sure to visit once more during the dead of winter and fortunately the love was still there.  I was accepted early decision and was on my way.

When and how did you choose your major? 

I chose my major pretty early on during freshman year. In fact, it was probably something that drew me to the school initially. I always had an interest in health but wasn’t particularly passionate about the strict science of it.  Health and Society was a great fit for me since it allowed me to follow my interests and explore other non-traditional ways to learn about healthcare.

What resources did you use on campus that you recommend current students use? 

The career center!  When I was an undergrad this was the best kept secret- I still can’t understand why more students didn’t take advantage of it.  The counselors there were fantastic and incredibly helpful.  The resume writing help I received while there was invaluable and I always left the center feeling better about my present and future plans.  I really can’t stress enough how helpful the U of R Career Center is.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

I started my first job exactly 10 days after graduation- talk about a whirlwind month!  I entered the sales professional training program for Merck.  I spent 7 years working for Merck as a sales professional where I covered many different territories and represented many different product lines.  I always knew I wanted to find a way to help make the masses healthier and I believe I was able to do that through pharmaceutical products.  Merck was a fabulous company to work for and the knowledge, confidence, friends, and skills I made while working there are experiences I will have for life.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

After spending 8 years in corporate America I decided to take a break from that life and accept another important job.  Currently I am a full-time mother to my 20 month old daughter and my husband and I are expecting our second child in 2 months.   I love being at home with my daughter- watching her grown, learn, and sharing my experiences with her.  I look forward to continuing this work when our 2nd child is born and then plan to re-enter the paid workforce when the children get older and start school.

What advice do you have for current students? 

Take your studies seriously, but also take your other experiences during your years at U of R seriously- the life you have outside of the classroom during college will be just as important in preparing you for the real world.  And most importantly- enjoy yourself!  You have the rest of your life to be a serious adult so don’t rush it.

Summer Plans Series: Smoking Cessation in the Foothills of the Himalayas

By Blake Silberberg ‘13
University Communications

This past June, four University of Rochester undergraduate students embarked on a month-long project to help reduce smoking in Leh, India. Led by Nancy Chin, an associate professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences, the group included three majors in the health, behavior, and science program—Luke Slipski ‘13, Alice Gao ‘14, and Anisha Gundewar ’14—along with epidemiology major Lily Martyn ’14.

Leh is a remote, but populous town in the North of India near the Himalayas. Due to the popularity of trekking in the region, the town attracts tourists from all over the world, and as a result it has recently begun to undergo “westernization”, explains Slipski.

“With the tourists comes an increase in tobacco advertising and exposure,” explains Slipski. “High income countries like the U.S. have actually been doing a great job at battling big tobacco companies, so these companies are trying to exploit previously untapped markets in low-income countries. Because developing countries often lack the necessary public health infrastructure to control the epidemic of tobacco addiction, our goal is to help this particular town with its efforts to prevent adolescent tobacco use.”

lehwalkingChin has led three trips to Leh, starting in May 2011, each year taking a small group of students. This year’s project initially planned to check on the progress of an anti-smoking program that had been designed for the town in earlier trips. But arriving in Leh, the group discovered that those public heath initiatives had stalled. “Our new goal was to understand why the intervention didn’t work and what materials or support was needed to make another attempt,” explains Martyn. Another facet of this year’s trip involved training local leaders to conduct focus groups to identify improvements needed in the town’s health infrastructure. The group also shared the findings from a survey conducted last year in the community.

The group worked to rebuild relationships with the community that had faltered over the past year, vising the health department and meeting residents. Ultimately their goal was to generate community support for an anti-tobacco program in Leh’s schools. For Slipski, this was his second trip, and he took on additional responsibilities as team coordinator, working to organize meetings with community leaders, teachers, and students in Leh.

“Working in Leh is unique. They have an incredible existing infrastructure for community activism and collaboration between local organizations,” explains Slipski, “Other rural towns that we’ve visited certainly have a sense of community largely unseen in the U.S., but I think the support system between organizations in Leh and the collaboration between them is something special. Last year we got there and they were having an oratory competition for the local schools,” Slipski recounts.“ Students spoke about how detrimental pollution has been to Leh’s ecology. After the competition, they had a march through the main street in town to raise awareness.”

lehlilyBoth Martyn and Slipski describe the trip as a fantastic experience. “I loved working in the field on a project where I was able to translate my scholarly knowledge into action and intervention,” explains Martyn. “I find that hands on learning is the best way to get a full understanding of what you are taught. I am grateful I got the opportunity to go.”

Adds Slipski: “With a small group, we got loads of quality time with Chin, a highly trained field worker, to learn how the full process works. We do readings and have discussions before departure, and we continue to discuss and critique our work the entire time. We’re working with real communities and vulnerable populations, so she is careful to teach students how to make that relationship mutually beneficial. Her motto is ‘we never inflict the unprepared on the unsuspecting,’ and after two summers with her, I’m confident that her students never will.”

For those interested in reading more about the project, Luke Slipski maintained a blog during his time in Leh.

This story is part of the Summer Plans Series, a collection of stories about how undergrads at the University of Rochester are spending their summer. Know of someone doing something cool over break? Email The Buzz (thebuzz@rochester.edu) and tell us all about it!

lehsteps

Undergrad’s Thesis Looks to Evaluate RCSD’s School Meal Program

Univ. Communications – Dan Cohn’s honors thesis is going to help change lunchtime around Rochester city schools.  Cohn, a senior majoring in health, behavior, and society, was invited to the honors program this summer and accepted because he wanted to give back to the community.  His interests in childhood obesity and community organizing led him to the Healthi Kids Coalition, a part of the Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency, and the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Center for Community Health.  It was here that he developed the aim of his honor’s thesis, “to evaluate the new school meal program in Rochester City School District” implemented in 2009.

“Elementary school students worked with faculty, staff, parents, and Healthi Kids to implement the “Lunch is Gross” campaign,” explained Cohn.  The campaign, which launched in 2007, involved writing letters, petitions, and finally students appearing before the Board of Education to discuss the poor quality of lunchroom food in Rochester city schools.  This campaign “facilitated the school board shifting nearly $2 million toward new school food.”

Using research, Healthi Kids established 13 criteria for healthy meals and began a search for a new food management service.  This position was taken by ARAMARK in 2009.  “Since ARAMARK has entered the system, no formal evaluation has been executed,” according to Cohn, an issue his honor’s thesis aims to correct.

Cohn, working with Healthi Kids, is serving, in his words, as a “neutral evaluatory body.”  His job is to evaluate how well Healthi Kids 13 criteria for healthy meals are being kept and how this impacts the staff, faculty, and students.

Cohn is providing his evaluation based upon 3 main criteria.  The first is multiplicity, support, and context which gauges socially, culturally, and physically what choices students are making regarding food.  The second is accountability, which examines how the choices are perceived.  Lastly is satisfaction, which looks at how happy individuals are with both the food as well as the programs surrounding the food.

The data for these evaluations will be done primarily through qualitative not quantitative analysis.  Cohn begins his field research next Friday, November 18th, by conducting interviews with staff and students, participation in lunchroom activities such as eating with the children, observing how the food is prepared, and even looking into garbage cans to see what kids are throwing away.

“My work will be complete by March, at which point my data and analysis will be presented to the Board of Education,” said Cohn.  “By April, the recommendations I submit to the school board will be deliberated and by May will be voted on if necessary to implement for next school year.”

Working with his adviser, Nancy Chin, an associate professor of Community and  Preventive Medicine at the Medical Center, and Healthi Kids, Cohn’s evaluation will help make sure that Rochester city students are receiving both quality food and encouragement to make healthy life decisions regarding food.  This is important according to Cohn because, while the national childhood obesity rate is around 32 percent, Rochester lingers, considerably higher, around 40 percent.  A disturbing figure according to Cohn, who says current research shows that “80 percent of obese children stay so for their whole life.”

Article written by Daniel Baroff, a senior at the University of Rochester and an intern at University Communications.  He is majoring in religion with a minor in Jewish studies.  His main area of study is the involvement of Jews in the American comic book industry, for which he keeps an infrequently updated blog (http://theamazingspiderdan.wordpress.com).