Sarah Kershner, assistant professor of public health and director of healthcare administration, has only been at FMU for two years and loves making an impact in student’s lives.
Kershner said she knew she wanted to be a professor because her advisor in graduate school inspired her to be one.
“She helped me with everything, from getting a parking pass to helping me finish my dissertation,” Kershner said. “She knew how to give me space and I think every young person needs that.”
She soon discovered she wanted to be that special person for someone else. Her favorite part of working at FMU is the students and the environment that she gets to work in..
“I feel absolutely honored to go to work every day because I love the faculty and students,” Kershner said. “I love getting to know them. I feel very lucky to be a part of their journey. It makes me feel connected. It makes me feel grateful that they come into my office and talk about anything. I still keep up with my graduates.”
Another part of Kershner’s job is being the director of the healthcare administration program. She has secured partnerships with several free medical clinics and federally qualified health centers to add competitive internship opportunities for graduating seniors to gain supplemental knowledge in addition to their capstone course.
Prior to Kershner taking the position, the program did not offer any internships for healthcare administration students.
After seeing an article in the newspaper announcing Ruth Wittmann-Price as the new dean of the school of health sciences, Kershner emailed Wittman-Price and they instantly connected. She emailed Wittman-Price for about nine or ten months before she got the job. She began working for FMU in January 2017.
Prior to coming to FMU, Kershner lived in Columbia, SC, for about nine years while working at FACT Forward (formerly known as the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy), a non-profit organization aimed to improve reproductive health outcomes for young people. She worked her way up from being a graduate assistant to managing a $1.8 million federal grant, and she still serves as a board member for the organization.
Kershner met a faculty member in her undergraduate years at Clemson University who had a background in public health, which she had no idea was a major. She then became interested in that field.
Ultimately, Kershner volunteered with pregnant and parenting teens in Liberty, SC, and saw how a lack of education and access to reproductive healthcare can lead to risky sexual behaviors.
Her doctoral research was titled “Support for Comprehensive Sex Education in Schools,” because this topic inspired her to work with young people to equip them with the knowledge and skills needed to make safe and healthy decisions.
She used to train P.E. teachers to teach about sex education and how to talk to their students. She said a lot of people don’t naturally know how to talk to people about uncomfortable topics.
“It’s harder to talk to other people about it than your own kids,” Kershner said. “Research shows most kids don’t know correct terminology. It’s like giving someone keys to a car without driving lessons.”
Kershner said that she’s learned a lot through her experiences, and that even the bad things that happen will go away. She also said that while working there were several things that she has had to learn how to let go of.
“I wish that I had a better ability to understand that most tough times are just a season,” Kershner said. “I remember crying on the floor trying to finish my dissertation and trying to manage a newborn. I spent a lot of time dwelling on my abilities instead of just stepping back and telling myself to breathe. Every tough time is just a season, it will pass.”
Outside of being a professor and director of healthcare administration, Kershner loves spending time with her family, reading and thrifting. She said her family is very important to her. She married her high school sweetheart, whom she’s known for the past 20 years, and has a five-year-old son named Mac.