One of the many ways that Wittenberg University excels in developing leaders is by allowing students to start their own campus events or organizations. Justin Unternaher, class of 2019, did just that, and his efforts have paid off in ways that have earned national recognition for Wittenberg’s Union Board student group.
A biochemistry and molecular biology major and a Tiger Health Educator, Unternaher created a unique campus event called “Springing Out of Insecurities Week,” during the week of Valentine’s Day 2018. The week featured such events as Condom Trivia Bingo and a “Love Your Body” mini-run on campus followed by a social hour. Unternaher was the primary planner for this week with help from the other Tiger Health Educators and with support from Union Board, a volunteer student organization that provides educational, recreational, and social events for the Wittenberg community.
The Condom Trivia Bingo event along with “Springing Out of Insecurities Week” were recently named the National Association of Campus Activities Mid-America Educational Program of the Year by the National Association of College Activities (NACA).
“At Wittenberg, we do a great job of educating students on sexual assault, depression, adjusting to college life, etc., but we haven’t always consistently focused on the pressure that society has placed on people when it comes to the ‘ideal’ body,’” said Unternaher, who also serves as faculty/student coordinator with Student Senate, as Union’s Board’s vice president of external relations, as a fundraising co-chair with the Lesotho Nutrition Initiative, a Tiger Health Educator with Planned Parenthood, and a teaching assistant and student worker in the chemistry department.
“From student leaders, athletes, Greeks, and all our students, body image is something that everyone thinks about,” he added. “This is why I thought that this would be something of importance for our campus to start recognizing, and that is how “Springing Out of Insecurities Week” began. Condom Bingo was a specific program hosted by Union Board and Tiger Health Educators to discuss safe practices of sexual intercourse, external condom demonstrations, and facts about STIs.”
Unternaher applied for the award through NACA using the assessments and flyers that organization members Carter Pierce, a sophomore from Stow, Ohio, and Alexandra Mowery, a senior from Toledo, Ohio, made for use on social media and around campus. Erica Klang, health educator, Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region, where Unternaher served as a Tiger Health Educator (THE), wrote a recommendation for the application. This is the first time in the past 10 years that Union Board has received an award from NACA.
“Justin is passionate about making a change at Wittenberg,” Klang said. “His involvement with UAB and THE is helping to change the culture of consent and healthy sexuality on campus. I am so glad that he is on our team! Getting the conversation started with talking about condoms and sex openly will decrease the taboo of these subjects and will lead to healthy students.”
“This event is extremely powerful because sex is so stigmatized, and people are afraid to talk about it, but we allowed for a safe place for people to talk about it and ask questions,” Unternaher said. “Talking more freely about sex allows for individuals to feel more comfortable to talk about it with their partners to determine boundaries and have consensual intercourse. I would like to add that this event would not be possible without the assistance and encouragement of Kevin Carey as our Union Board advisor.”
“I am continually impressed with the level of dedication Union Board places on the four tenants of their mission: educational, recreational, cultural, and social,” said Kevin Carey, associate director of student involvement and Union Board advisor. “When Justin shared his vision of the week and this event with the board, they immediately recognized the need for campus to experience it. I believe it to be unique for a campus activities board to support education around sexual-related topics. They make me proud each and every day with what they do, and they deserve this award!”