Cathleen Cornish, Student

What would you like to do for a career upon graduation?

I’ve done the first career and have a lot of pride with that.  My career goals now are to complete the process of opening a small non-profit spiritual center working in the greater North Port, Port Charlotte, Englewood, and Venice areas to facilitate Spiritual Retreats for life enrichment.  We are currently in our fourth year with our signature series-Woman to Woman-and hope to expand the day-long retreats into weekend-long events.  With my education at USFSM, I can introduce new workshops to the Center focusing on educational subjects such as Sleep Deprivation, Motivation, and Happiness (using some of my psychology tools), as well as various Religious practices (introduced through my religious studies.)

In the Fall of 2013, I will be enrolling in the Funeral Services curriculum at St. Pete College to obtain the license as a Funeral Director.   This may sound like a strange pursuit; but my religious studies education at USF sparked a new desire in me which was to honor life!    All life; even those whose stories do not get told until their final arrangements.  I want to be a part of those stories and counsel the families through this very difficult time in their lives.

Why did you choose the major that you choose?

Originally I wanted to pursue Licensed Mental Health Counselor and to ordain in a non-denominational ministry.  Hence, the ISS program was a perfect fit for me and I could tailor my education to be specifically for these areas.

During my educational path, I knew my heart was not really into the LMHC area, but counseling others, especially religiously and spiritually definitely was.  Then, after the Death and Dying class (at Eckerd) and Life After Death (USF online), I knew the better direction for me was Funeral Director.

Why did you choose USF Sarasota-Manatee?

Honestly, USF has been able to keep tuition costs down and that was a big factor for me as I paid for my education completely out-of-pocket!  No student loans for me!  But even more than that, I was able to direct my education to the fields that specifically interested me through the Interdisciplinary program.  USF offered, through a blend of in-class and on-line courses that allowed me to select very specific fields of study.  That was very important to me.

Would you recommend USFSM to someone else?

 Oh – YES – Absolutely!

It is a university large enough to offer career specific AND interest-driven courses; yet small enough that course instruction is personal and student oriented.  The faculty and staff truly care about student achievement!  Plus, USFSM is diverse; so I was confident I could receive an unbiased, yet comprehensive education-especially in the religious studies field.

How has USFSM prepared you for your career goals?

Not only did I appreciate my education in the psychology cognate; but I was also able to use it right away!  I enjoyed the Sleep and Dreams class so much; I put together a few notes and submitted them to Ilana Marks for her “What Matters” radio show airing on Friday mornings on WENG.  She invited me on and I aired a program with her on the topic of Sleep Deprivation in March 2012 (  This will definitely be a workshop I will facilitate in the future.

My experience at USFSM has provided me with a much clearer direction on the paths I want to move forward on such as facilitating workshops, leading prayer and meditation circles, and eventually providing funerary services.

What was your favorite class at USFSM and why?

It is hard to pick . . . but I would say for a web class it was definitely Life After Death (REL 3191) with Don Saunders.  This class was fascinating to me and it was the deciding factor on the pursuit of funeral director.  My favorite in-class would have to be Women in Lit (LIT3383) with Dr. Florence Hesler.  I took this class to meet my women’s studies requirement, but it was one of the most challenging and enlightening courses I had.  Dr. Hesler has a talent for breaking down stories and underlining the images they create.  She helped me so much in truly appreciating the art of story telling.

What is the best part of USFSM?

Outside of their career-specific curriculum  I would say the best part of USFSM is the excellent faculty and staff – from the support of the advisers to the professors, the student government senators and their excellent involvement with student activities, and the assistance that is available for every need.  The writing center, the libraries, the service personnel, and even Ms. Barbara Thomas at the lobby information desk – were all excellent people to work with and so supportive   I am very grateful that at USFSM you are NOT a student number; you are a person and the university knows that.  This is what helped me to succeed and not get lost in a system of numbers and statistics.  Thanks USFSM!