Five Questions with Judith Winkler

Judith Winkler loves when her work touches on social justice issues.

Name: Judith Winkler
Position: Communications specialist, Department of Health Behavior
Years at Gillings: 1.5


Judith Winkler enjoys an early-morning walk in the woods.

Judith Winkler enjoys an early-morning walk in the woods.

What I do at Gillings (and why I love it): I do communications work, which includes identifying news stories, writing, managing our website and social media, taking photos and working with staff on communications products. I manage Health Behavior Matters, the department’s e-newsletter. I’m also working with a team in the Department of Epidemiology on an archival project that involves digging through boxes of dusty old documents in Wilson Library in order to piece together more of the department’s history. I have found moving stories and learned about people whose lives inspire me woven throughout the department’s early history.

What I enjoy most about my work is when it touches something I value highly, like social justice issues, human rights and global health. It’s also a great feeling when we create a story and then a student tells me, “Oh, my grandpa read that, and now he understands what I do!” Our students are so smart and on a path to improve our world beginning with the practica, projects and research they do as students. I enjoy getting stories and photos that show the student experience. Those stories are the key to appealing to prospective students. I’d like to get more student voices out there too.


My first job ever: was pumping gas back when stations still had attendants. I was supposed to fill in for a friend for a week. It wasn’t too busy, I was the only person working, and I spent most of my shift gazing out at beautiful Grandfather Mountain from a country gas station in Foscoe, North Carolina. I was 16 and a daydreamer. I forgot to replace so many gas caps before the drivers pulled away that it became clear I couldn’t spend my summer doing that job, even though the view was fantastic! I kept that job for exactly one day.


Something most people don’t know about me is: that my husband and I keep bees. Well, it’s mostly his gig, but I have my role, and I love having the honey!

Most people at Gillings don’t know that I worked in global health for many years, first with Ipas and later with IntraHealth. My introduction to global health was at Ipas, a global nonprofit that works to increase women’s ability to exercise their reproductive rights and improve their access to reproductive health care. Global health became a passion for me quite quickly.

Here’s a random story with a Carolina connection from that time. Ipas sent me to Zimbabwe to work on a family planning training curriculum with a group of nurses. Unfortunately, there was a mix up on the dates. When I showed up, the nurses had been waiting for me, wondering where the heck I was, for two days! I was so embarrassed. Luckily, I had packed a few Carolina tee shirts to give away. I gave them to the nurses, and they quickly forgave me.


If I could wake up tomorrow as an expert in a new skill: I’d want to be able to paint – big, abstract, mixed-media creations, maybe featuring people dancing, or textiles from Guatemala or Africa and definitely inspired by nature.


To describe myself in four words, I’d say: Infinitely curious, easily bored.