Valuing education: Sarah Fosnaugh, senior social work major

Sarah Fosnaugh spent most of her growing-up years overseas, the daughter of Church of the Nazarene missionaries.

July 20, 2017 Academics, Behavioral Science

Sarah Fosnaugh spent most of her growing-up years overseas, the daughter of Church of the Nazarene missionaries. Fosnaugh was born in Papua New Guinea where she spent most of her early years, followed by three years with her family in the Philippines and one year in Haiti, while she was in high school.

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Her father, Lane, was a pastor working in leadership development, and her mother, Janelle, reached out to people living in mountainous areas of Papua New Guinea through a radio ministry. Her childhood experiences were formative in Fosnaugh’s life, leading her to pursue a degree in social work at Olivet Nazarene University.

Though she went to college unsure of a possible major and career, Fosnaugh found her calling through an introductory class in social work. Now, she thinks about possible careers, including “working in the foster care system with the aging population, working with homeless population and helping them rebuild their lives, and also working with refugees,” she says. “I’d love to work with refugees.”

Fosnaugh is a junior at Olivet Nazarene. She chose the school because it was nearby at the time she began college, plus her parents went there and so did her two older sisters. Being able to visit the school while her sisters were students there made a difference, and so did the quality of the community and the Christian atmosphere, she says.

Fosnaugh’s social work classes are small, and students get to know professors through constant interaction and discussion. Students in the social work program work several hours in the community with groups such as secondary school students and nursing home residents. “This past semester, I was in a class about social work with the aging. We went to a nursing home in the area, and we worked one-on-one with residents in nursing homes,” Fosnaugh says. “We get really great experience by getting out there. Social work is such a broad field, and we can explore different areas.”

When she began her college experience, Fosnaugh wasn’t so sure she’d be able to stay. Her mother had died tragically in a car accident when Fosnaugh was a senior in high school. Her family struggled. “It was a financially, emotionally and physically taxing situation,” Fosnaugh recalls. “At one point, I assumed I wouldn’t be able to go to school. My dad talked to Olivet, and they helped us with extra funds through the ACI scholarship.”

Since then, Fosnaugh has been on the dean’s list at Olivet Nazarene. She is a member of Olivet Nazarene’s Orpheus Choir, an elite choir of the university’s music program. Fosnaugh has also participated in MuKappa, an international club for students from international missionary and military homes, been a camp counselor and was an intern at an equine therapy ranch.

Fosnaugh says her dad was very determined that she would attend college. “My parents always valued the college experience. The ACI funds made a huge difference in reducing stress on my family, as I was trying to figure out how I would come up with the money for school,” she says.

To learn more about the educational and scholarship opportunities Olivet offers, contact the Office of Admissions at or 800-648-1463.

Student on main campus wearing pink sweater and holding water bottle.

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