The perfect match
Human services grad Amanda Ayers goes from wellness internship to Harvard
She found her answer freshman year when she enrolled in a workshop called, “Majorly Undeclared.” During the workshop, she learned about an undergraduate degree called family and community services (FCS), now known as human services, in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies.
“As an FCS major, I could develop tangible skills to help people,” said Ayers. “It offered a full time internship your senior year, similar to student teaching, which most other majors didn’t let you do. I was able to work a semester at UD’s Student Wellness and Health Promotion (formerly called Wellspring). That internship wound up being, hands down, the most important thing I did while at UD.”
In 2013, Ayers was hired as Harvard University’s first general health educator. Working in the Department of Health Promotion and Education, she provides workshops about vital health issues including sexual health, mindfulness and meditation, sleep and self-care.
She supervises two student groups, Sexual Health and Relationship Counselors (SHARC) and Health Peer Advisors and Liaisons (HealthPALs), and collaborates with numerous partners to develop programming and health initiatives targeting different communities and audiences at Harvard.
“I truly love my job,” Ayers said. “I know in this day in age not many people can say that wholeheartedly. But I get to work with amazing, motivated, intelligent college students every day, providing programming around topics that are so necessary for them to become healthy adults. Seeing them grow up during their time here is such a pleasure. They change, grow, fail, succeed. It’s brilliant to watch.”
The path to Harvard
Ayers had not planned on having a career in higher education, teaching about sex. She had expected to become a high school guidance counselor. That was until she took a human sexuality course with Julie Wilgen, professor of human development and family studies.
“Dr. Wilgen taught me about independence, strength, and doing things because you love them, not because you ‘should’ do them. I am forever grateful for the life lessons I learned from her.”
Her dedication to her field and her studies earned her several awards at UD, including the 2006 Theodore S. Beck Scholarship, the 2007 CEHD Panel of Outstanding Seniors and the Rebecca W. McTernan Presidential Achievement Scholarship.
But best of all, Ayers says she developed a solid network of support at UD.
“I met some really great women through my experiences. I have stayed in contact with Nancy, calling her when I’ve struggled with decisions about picking a graduate school. I even found my first apartment in California thanks to contacts I made at UD.”
“I met my husband the same time I started working at Harvard and just got married in January 2016. My husband has been in the fitness and health field for over 10 years, so we were naturally a perfect match,” she said.
Her advice to students is to take chances and explore your options. “Network, meet people, learn what other people are doing that you’re interested in. Learn how they got theirs. Most people’s career paths aren’t straight — so know that you don’t have to follow someone else’s path to find your own.”