A University of Wisconsin Oshkosh alumna has been making a big impact while serving communities in all corners of the world. Kelly Genskow ’13, of Suring, has begun service in Fairbanks, Alaska, following service work in Africa and Puerto Rico.
Genskow was a first generation college student after graduating from Suring High School in a class of 47 students. She earned undergraduate degrees in biology and chemistry from UW Oshkosh and a master of public health from Emory University in Atlanta.
She returned to UW Oshkosh last semester to speak to students about her service with the U.S. Peace Corps and American Red Cross.
Genskow spent two years with the Peace Corps in Botswana, Africa—an experience that changed her outlook on life. She worked on curbing malaria and noted Botswana has the second highest prevalence of HIV in the world.
She followed that effort with two months of hurricane disaster relief in Puerto Rico, with the American Red Cross. She spent the first few weeks of her time in Puerto Rico helping to reconnect families separated when Hurricane Maria struck the island Sept. 20, 2017. The natural disaster created a humanitarian crisis for 3.4 million residents.
Genskow learned about a strong work ethic growing up on her family’s farm. She is service-driven and believes there is a great deal to see and do in the world.
“I want to be on the ground, doing that,” she said.
Home in Suring, for a few months this spring, Genskow applied and was accepted into the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. She received placement in Alaska—a location she had sought with the corps. She said she made the long drive to Fairbanks a couple weeks ago.
“I’m just getting started, but am working at Tanana Chiefs Conference through Indian Health Service (the federal agency she’s under for the placement) as an environmental health specialist,” Genskow said. “I’m still learning the scope of my work here, but I’ll be providing environmental health services to a number of rural villages across interior Alaska, including clinic inspections, assistance and inspections of their water and wastewater systems and support and education related to other environmental health issues they might have.”
Sky’s the limit
Genskow encourages students—especially those from small towns—to “think big” and take advantage of opportunities.
She recalls wondering if she was out of her league when considering some top graduate programs.
She decided to press forward, applying to schools, including Emory University, which she said is considered a Top 5 school in the country for its master of public health degree program.
“That was just huge for me,” she said, of her acceptance into a program she had dreamed about.
She was thrilled to have the chance to intern with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.
“This has been cumulative for me,” she said about her time since starting college at UW Oshkosh. “Every experience I’ve had helps me get to the next thing.”