Christen White

My name Christen White and I am a Sophomore at the University of South Florida studying Mass Communications with a focus in PR. My Mission for this blog is to give a look into what celebrity public relations is all about.
Christen White has written 6 posts for The Digital Bullpen

Report shows college binge drinking occurs among underage students

A recent report shows that binge drinking is high among college-age individuals.

While many colleges such as USF require students to take an alcohol education course online, a study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism showed about 1,700 college students die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, most often due to car crashes.

Dean of the USF College of Public Health Donna Petersen said binge drinking is defined as five or more drinks for men and four or more for women within a two-hour period. About 51 percent of students between the ages of 18-20 binge drink, which is the highest proportion of binge drinking among all drinkers. About 90 percent of the alcohol consumed by youth under the age of 21 is in the form of binge drinking episodes.

She said while underage binge drinking is very prevalent in college, those of the legal age also have high tendencies to engage in binge drinking episodes. The majority of binge drinkers for the legal age group are over 26 years old.

USF students, such as Alyssa Reilly, said college is a time to cut loose and not worry about how much students drink.

“I feel socially accepted when I drink with my friends,” Reilly said. “This is the time to get wasted and not make the best choices with little consequence.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, long-term risks from binge drinking include liver disease, neurologic damage, high blood pressure, stroke and cardiovascular disease.

“Binge drinking is clearly associated with unintentional injuries, including car crashes, falls, burns and drowning, as well as intentional injuries, including firearm injuries, sexual assaults and intimate partner violence,” Petersen said.  “It can cause acute alcohol poisoning, which can lead to death, and create unwanted sexual activity that results in sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies.”

Petersen said for youths, binge drinking, which is the predominant method of underage drinking, also increases the risk of school problems, social problems, legal problems, including arrests for drunk driving or physical assault, memory problems and disruption in brain, growth and sexual development that may have a life long impact.

While most students know the major risks of excessive drinking, USF students like 21-year-old  Ashlee Vaill, still choose to participate because it’s a norm in college.

“What else is there to do on the weekends if you’re not drinking?” she said.

USF seniors get excited to graduate

In Photo: Sarah Campbell, Debra StroudSarah Campbell (left) Debra McLeod (right)

Graduation is right around the corner at the University of South Florida and senior, Sarah Campbell, couldn’t be happier to receive her cap and gown. Graduating with a biological sciences degree within the College of Arts and Sciences and a minor in psychology, Campbell’s five and a half year journey has finally come to an end.

As she waits in line with other future graduates, Campbell contemplates why it took her longer to graduate than the usual four years. “I just couldn’t figure out what to study, that is why it has taken me so long to graduate. I’m so excited to finally be done!”

USF students are looking forward to starting their careers after the fall commencement that will be held on December 9, 2011.

From renowned student to distinguished alumna, Donna Petersen honored by Johns Hopkins

USF College of Public Health Dean Donna Petersen holding her Distinguished Alumna award from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Photo by Christen White

As a newly awarded distinguished alumna from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Donna Petersen, dean of the USF College of Public Health, is an example of why ambition pays off.

Ann DeBaldo, associate dean of the College of Public Health, said, “I think it’s absolutely wonderful she got this award. She has brought all the faculty, staff and students together and pushes everyone to reach their goals.”

Petersen was one of the three recipients to receive the honor this summer for exemplifying excellence in personal and professional achievements. For Petersen, the award was just another step in a life filled with hard work and perseverance to better the field of public health.

“When I went into public health education, it was completely different than it is today. It’s actually kind of remarkable,” said Petersen. “I think I was put up for the award because I was the first student in a brand new program at Johns Hopkins. It was kind of a new experiment.”

Expecting absolute rejection, Petersen applied for a master’s degree at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health. In 1982, the only applicants accepted were physicians, nurses or other clinical based degrees.

Instead, Petersen wasn’t denied right away, her application was forwarded to the Johns Hopkins Maternal and Child Health Department, a program with an even greater clinical focus than what she originally applied for.

“I got a call from the chair of the department saying they had been talking about creating a master’s of health science degree because they need people to run programs who aren’t clinicians,” said Petersen. “They told me I looked like a good candidate and asked if I wanted to take the offer. And of course I said yes.”

After graduating from the program, Petersen was contacted by Johns Hopkins and offered a grant to continue her education to obtain her doctorate degree. They admitted her to the program before she even officially applied.

Upon receiving her doctorate, 29-year-old Petersen got an extraordinary job with the Minnesota Department of Health as head of the state’s program for children with special needs. Petersen’s accomplishments and success in a new program at Johns Hopkins contributed widely to change in the field of public health, which she developed an incredible career from.

Petersen’s colleagues appreciate everything she has done for her community and the university. They strongly believe she deserved this award.

Peggy Smith, assistant to Donna Petersen, said, “I think she should have gotten this award a long time ago. She has done a lot so far in her career to bring public health to the forefront and let people know how important it is. She has definitely grown this college since I have been working here.”

Consumers turned off by cost of healthy fast food alternatives

As the demand for healthier fast food options is growing, restaurants are now offering alternative choices to consumers. Yet, consumers still choose unhealthy foods.

Nearly half of consumers report wanting healthier eating options, but a new study from Technomic shows that just 23 percent of people actually order the new healthier options when dining out.

“I tend to order the cheapest thing on the menu, which is usually the dollar menu,” said USF student Tamarah Suber. “I’m living on a budget. A salad for $7 isn’t worth it to me.”

Nancy DeVault, director of communications for the American Heart Association, says that the few extra dollars for the healthier choice are worth it in the long run. An individual’s life is directly impacted by choices in nutrition and exercise.

“Medical bills for poor health choices are a lot more expensive than a seven dollar salad at a fast food joint,” said DeVault.

According to Tamara Sims-Dorway, nutritionist at Florida Hospital in Orlando, people should eat at home as much as possible, because fast food is still processed food.

“People tend to go to these places due to a lack of time, which means stuffing the foods down quickly and not enjoying the meal,” said Sims-Dorway. “When you know every Wednesday is church or every Thursday is soccer, then plan ahead.”

Ultimately, it is not about the taste of the healthier food. It boils down to pricing. While many consumers are choosing quick, unhealthy options, Technomic’s research shows only 19 percent of consumers feel that food described as healthy on the menu does not taste as good as other unhealthier options.

“People may like the idea of eating healthier when going through a fast food place, but the dollar menu is a lot more appealing to more people than spending money on a salad,” said Sims-Dorway. “You have to be careful though.  Sometimes the salads have more calories than a cheeseburger, so it’s important to look at the nutritional guide before ordering.”

Rumored side-effects scare students from flu vaccine

With flu season right around the corner, University of South Florida student Amanda Cole contemplates the rumored risks and benefits of the influenza vaccine.

“I was thinking about getting one, but I have heard about some weird side effects that make me a little nervous,” said Cole.

According to, Anti-flu shot groups point to supposed ties to autism and a mercury substance in the vaccines as reasons not to take them.

But Donna Petersen, dean of the USF College of Public Health, disputes rumors about the dangers of a flu shot and says the vaccine is crucial at this time of year.

“This flu vaccine is important to get because it prevents other strands of the flu, like avian or swine, from combining with the human flu strand and creating a new form of the flu that could cause a worldwide pandemic,” says Petersen.

USF student Kristen Fox is still not convinced about getting her flu shot. She does not believe a flu shot is necessary after watching a frightening YouTube video about a cheerleader who developed a rare neurological disorder after receiving the flu vaccine. The disorder was triggered 10 days after she received the vaccine. Fox began to have spastic, jerky movements when walking forward but could walk backward just fine.

“I just don’t feel like this vaccine is necessary, especially if it is surrounded by any sort of controversy. Our bodies have an immune system and antibodies to defend against stuff as simple as the flu,” said Fox. “Then after seeing that video, why take the chance?”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the only side effects are soreness and redness where the shot was given, fever and aches.

Peterson said these possible side effects prohibit young adults from being vaccinated while the elderly population understands the risks of not receiving the shot.

“What people need to understand is that the flu vaccine is one of the greatest achievements in public health and a lot of places give them out for free,” said Peterson. “The elderly population understands how highly susceptible they and other people are, and everyone needs to follow their example.”

According to Peterson, the flu carries a high mortality rate, depending on the strand, and it is not a disease to be messed with. “The more people who are immunized against human flu, the less likely a new strand of flu will surface.”

According to, children should start receiving this shot every year starting at six months old, and everyone should continue to get a flu shot every year, well past 50 and into the elderly years. Many young adults remember receiving flu shots when they were younger, but as they begin living on their own, they often put it off.

“I used to get the flu shot when I was younger but haven’t had the time or even thought of getting one lately,” said Rachel Celico, USF student.

There are many places to receive the flu vaccine. Local drug stores like CVS and Walgreens have clinics that make it easy to get your yearly shot.

“It is pre-flu season right now so this is the time to get the flu shot,” said Peterson, “There are lots of places that give them out and even though we are late this year, the Department of Public Health is giving away some later this month.”

The Department of Public Health is having its 15th Annual Free Flu Shot Drive on Oct. 21, 2011 and will be administering shots from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. or until supplies run out.

For more information regarding the flu drive please visit,

Two companies, Geico and NexTech, stoked to hire USF students at job fair

As an estimated 1,900 University of South Florida students and graduates visited the fall 2011 Career Networking Fair last week, job applicants had a reason to be hopeful: two major employers seem to be paying special attention to candidates from USF.

The USF Career Center hosted the Fall 2011 Career Networking Fair featuring national companies such as Dillard’s and Raymond James & Associates. But two were especially interested in talking with USF students.

“NexTech Systems and GEICO are hiring more students from USF nationwide than from any other college campus,” said Dr. Drema Howard, director of the USF Career Center.

Howard said that companies pursue USF students for their strong work ethic and leadership abilities from their career related experiences and co-curricular activities.

“Although the economy has hit the job market hard, companies like Enterprise have around 40 internships to offer this year,” Howard said.

Eric Styles, an intern at the fair, said the turnout for accounting, science, technical and engineering jobs was very high.

Students said they are seeking networking opportunities to make connections and find jobs or internships down the road.

Caitlin Dauscher, a USF senior criminology major, said she understands the employment prospects the fair directly brings to students.

“I was really excited to see what these companies have to offer me and what I could offer them,” Dauscher said. “Although it is very competitive, I hope to find an internship with the government for this year.”

Howard said students should not fear the job market but should seek to stand out.

“The main difference that I see with this economy is that employers in the past may have had 15 to 20 jobs to offer, and now they have about four or five jobs at a given time,” Howard said. “Students will need to have good networking and interviewing skills to find a job in this difficult economy.”

For more information on internships and career advice, visit

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