It felt like a stroke of luck.
In 1991, after graduating from the English program on a Friday, Windt left the following Monday to Poland, ready to teach high school English as a Peace Corps Volunteer. His secondary assignment was to support local environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs). With strong marketing and event-planning skills from his time at Fresno State, he shared everything he knew with the grassroots groups. The result was a large-scale Earth Day Celebration in the capital Warsaw’s Central Park.
Windt didn’t know that their efforts would be noticed by Vice President Al Gore, who visited Poland at the time. He met Al Gore, a thrilling highlight, and the acknowledgement from the Vice President was “highly gratifying.”
After Peace Corps, Windt decided on a different career path. The success of the celebration fueled his new passion: “I was hooked on the sociology and persuasion theories that underpin good marketing strategy. When you combine these elements with popular culture, creativity and technology, you get an exciting career in advertising.”
Windt didn’t stop at making advertisements for big brands like Procter & Gamble, Clorox, and Toyota. Eight years later, he became curious about public health, which he described as allowing him to apply his marketing skills to social issues. Windt admitted that he seemed lucky “to discover public health is behavior change, and changing behavior is marketing.” It was perfect timing that this area of interest needed his skills.
He went back to school and attended The Johns Hopkins University, School of Public Health to build his fluency in the field. Upon graduation, he went to work on projects funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, equipping people in Africa and the former Soviet Union with ways to prevent malaria, HIV/AIDS, family planning and other issues.
His winding path led him to the FDA. He has been with them for almost a decade and is a Lead Health Communication Specialist.
“I work in strategic health communication helping explain Agency decisions to industry, academia, patient groups and the public. Because 25 cents of every dollar spent in the U.S. economy is regulated by the FDA, there is a lot of work to be done. We try to keep unsafe or ineffective commodities from harming Americans.”
Windt recalled his time at Fresno State fondly, speaking of English professors who “exposed me to the great writers of the world and helped me comprehend why those stories and characters are relevant today. Peter Everwine taught me to hear the beauty of silence in a drop of rainwater.”
He especially enjoyed working in the Student Union as the Lecture Series Coordinator, which as fate would have it, taught him those same marketing and event-planning skills he taught the NGOs in Poland.
In 1990, by chance, when he heard that the Art Department was completing a statue of Mohandas Gandhi, he didn’t hesitate to help. Using his position, he brought in Dr. Arun Gandhi, socio-political activist, and the fifth grandson of Mohandas Gandhi to speak at the dedication ceremony.
With such an important figure in Fresno, Windt recalled how “[Dr. Arun Gandhi] added gravitas and meaning to the Peace Garden ceremony while also inspiring Fresno’s large Indian community to support the event.”
Being there for the inauguration was a proud moment in his life.
“It was a tangible moment for me as a student to participate in something sustainable and meaningful for the campus. After all these years, I’m delighted the garden is still a source of reflection and inspiration.”
Like many others, Windt believed strongly in Mohandas Gandhi’s legacy and impact.
“Nonviolent demonstration is a right all humans should have. M Gandhi’s efforts to transform the politics of his day through peaceful public demonstrations are as important today as at anytime in history.”
Furthermore, Gandhi reminded Windt to “remember the struggles of those who came before us, because Gandhi’s struggle is still our struggle.”
In celebration of Gandhi’s 150 birthday, Fresno State is hosting a series of events:
- Oct. 2 – Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th Birthday Celebration
- Oct. 10, 11 – Gandhi’s Global Legacy International Conference
- Oct. 14 – Ela Gandhi – “Gandhian legacy and challenges ahead in 21st century: personal perspectives”
Visit fresnostate.edu/gandhi150 for more information.