Sylivia Mupepi, associate professor of nursing, follows the principle, “If you raise a healthy kid, you’ll get a healthy adult.”
Her nursing students are modeling that principle at the Seidman Boys and Girls Club of Grand Rapids, where they teach school-age students nutrition and exercise habits.
“It’s a program that’s proven to prevent childhood obesity,” said Mupepi. “The purpose is to guide children in the community to a more healthy lifestyle.”
Mupepi has long been dedicated to helping people in her community, particularly women and children. She calls Grand Rapids home, but she began her nursing career under very different circumstances.
“I grew up in Zimbabwe,” she said. “Zimbabwe at the time was racially segregated, and girls were not supposed to go to school.”
At that time, Mupepi said, infant mortality was common in Zimbabwe. “My mother was doing a lot of work with women, teaching them to take care of their children. That’s what inspired me to go into nursing: helping people in the community,” she said.
Mupepi studied in England, and came to the U.S. as a Kellogg scholar to earn a doctorate at the University of Michigan.
She chose to work at Grand Valley because the job allowed her to work with the community, teach nursing theory, clinical nursing and conduct research on women’s health issues.
Two years ago, Mupepi earned a Fulbright Scholarship to teach master’s-level nursing classes at the University of Cape Coast in Ghana. She taught classes in Ghana again last summer. Mupepi helped develop the master’s program there, and created a similar program at University of Zimbabwe.
Mupepi’s experiences in Africa and England have given her a global perspective that she instills in her students.
“I believe I’m offering a unique experience, coming from a different background. I can compare a variety of experiences,” she said.