Beth Wall-Bassett ’00 (second from left), associate professor of nutrition and dietetics at WCU, enjoys bringing people together to the fields, gardens, markets, kitchens and dining tables of different cultures as a way to promote health and well-being on a global level. In May, Bassett led three WCU students in an immersive service-learning experience in Cusco, Peru, that focused on the country’s foods, culture, agriculture and health care. The experience was part of a new partnership between WCU and St. Ignatius of Loyola University of Lima. “We had an amazing time working with children and in communities,” said Wall-Bassett.

Despite never having been to Peru or speaking Spanish, the students adapted easily during their eight days in an unfamiliar culture. “The experience helped us overcome language barriers and enhanced our receptiveness to other customs,” said Rachel Hurley (left), a health sciences graduate student. “Study abroad takes you out of your comfort zone, proving you can adapt in an unfamiliar environment. We did all of that.”

Hurley and Christina Boston (third from left), a senior majoring in social work, and Katie Burske (right), a senior hospitality and tourism major, stayed with host families while in Cusco and assisted at a local school, where they helped students plant a garden. They also worked with disabled children at a clinic. “It was a mutually beneficial experience in that the students learned things that will help with their career goals and their understanding of academic materials and they were involved with projects that the community had identified as needs,” said Wall-Bassett.

A former faculty member at East Carolina University, Bassett is a past recipient of the WCU Young Alumna Award for programs and initiatives she has developed that promote nutrition and food security in North Carolina and internationally. She joined the WCU faculty in 2015 and the Peru experience was her first study trip abroad with WCU students. “The desire for the Nutrition and Dietetics Program to become a service learning-designated program and appreciation for students to serve and explore through out-of-the-box experiences were a large motivation for me to come back,” she said. “I’m very dedicated to WCU and honored to be back home.”