Before arriving at the University of Redlands, Sera Gearhart ’19 knew her college experience would take her around the world. She couldn’t have been more right.
A double major in public policy and French with a math minor, during her freshman year Gearhart received a grant for a travel course in eSwatini (formerly Swaziland), where she was embedded in the country’s ministry of health as it managed the HIV crisis. “I’ve always been interested in public health,” shares Gearhart. “Health is the biggest predictor of happiness … it’s something we all share.”
Not long after the eSwatini experience, Gearhart pursued studies in Europe at the School for International Training’s Switzerland Global Health and Development Policy program, thanks to a Smith Family Study Abroad Travel Grant and George Slusser French Award. Living with a host family in a Swiss mountain village called Saint George during the fall of 2017, she was immersed in French and enjoyed the proximity to nearby Geneva and the World Health Organization.
“For the first time, I was with people who were interested in the same things I was,” says Gearhart, whose projects included researching the availability of abortion and sex education throughout Switzerland.
Gearhart returned to Geneva this past summer as a Hall Public Policy Intern, working at an nonprofit that supports health promotion for North African and Middle Eastern migrants.
After graduation, Gearhart plans to earn a Ph.D. in public health with an emphasis in policy analysis. She is confident that her interdisciplinary Redlands education has set her on the right course. “After each of these impactful experiences, I returned with a renewed sense of what I needed to learn,” she says.
Gearhart is grateful to those who funded her education. “At least four sets of donors have directly supported me, and that doesn’t count those who generally support the University,” she says. “Their investment has made such a difference for me, and I want them to know their giving matters.”