The University of Iowa

UI employee biking as sole U.S. representative on 'peace' tour

July 2nd, 2012

By Amy Skarnulis, The Daily Iowan

Michelle Gin

Michelle Gin will soon burn rubber in southern Japan as the sole U.S. representative on the international peace bike tour in August.

Gin — an outreach coordinator in the University of Iowa Study Abroad office — will join more than 40 activists from around the world, and they will cycle 500 kilometers through southern Japan starting in Nagasaki and ending in Hiroshima.

The idea of the tour is for representatives to show solidarity with the victims and survivors of nuclear weapons, nuclear testing, uranium mining, nuclear energy, and nuclear accidents in the past 60 years, according to a press release.

Gin was nominated by Maureen McCue, a UI adjunct assistant professor in International Programs.

"Dr. Maureen McCue is a mentor of mine I've had for years," Gin said. "And she nominated me for this back in February or March, and I was selected by the U.S. for the whole bike tour."

McCue said Gin has helped with activities that focus on renewable resources and jobs as well as threats to human health, climate change, and the environment. Gin also undertook a great deal of global work during her time with the Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility.

"Getting the message out is important to us," McCue said. "She is very good at talking with large audiences because she's young, energetic, and passionate."

McCue said she saw a lot of overlap with the climate and the environment and the threats of the nuclear weapons.

"We're actually quite concerned that there may be an accidental or intentional use [of nuclear weapons]," McCue said. "[The] Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility put out a global alert about the risk of nuclear famine [if even] a small-scale altercation were to occur."

Gin received an undergraduate degree from the UI and works full-time as the outreach coordinator and administration assistant for short-term programs through the UI Study Abroad office.

She also works part time for Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility while she takes a break from school before pursuing a master's degree in the health field.

"For people who are in school, this is a difficult time for them to go abroad for a month, so it lined up for my schedule nicely," she said.

Michelle Gin and friends

John Rachow, former president of the group, said he does not think there has been any other UI student who has participated in the bike tour, which started in 2000.

"It's an international tour with international students," he said. "U.S. students have gone before, [but I don't think any other UI students have]."

Following the tour, which starts Aug. 7, Gin will participate in the Student Congress and the 20th-annual World Congress with the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. Gin said the representatives will get to meet with locals throughout the tour.

"We are going to be doing presentations and sharing information," she said. "The whole point is the activists from around the world will be talking and using that network in our future."  

Gin is raising money to participate in the tour as well as for a biker from a developing country.

She said most of the people on the bike tour are in medical school or are already licensed physicians, and she plans on going into the public-health field rather than the medical field.

"The public-health field is a way to spread awareness and educate communities from a different point of view," she said. "It shows you don't need an M.D. behind your name to make a positive, lasting change on our global community."