By Ashley Jost
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Sarah Nussbaum said she got lucky when she threw in her resume for a potential legislative assistant job last year after graduating from University of Missouri — Columbia, and got a call back. She said she was even luckier when the call she received was from Rep. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur.
“I love what I do mainly because of Jill,” Nussbaum said. “She’s exactly who, if I were a representative or politician, I would want to be.”
Politics is not necessarily on the list of things Nussbaum intends to pursue down the road though, she added.
Currently, she is enrolled in 15 graduate hours at Mizzou where she is seeking her dual Master’s degrees in Public Affairs and Public Health — two areas that are of the utmost importance to her.
“They tie into each other really well because a lot of health care is policy,” Nussbaum said. “I’m not wanting to be a practicing public health worker, though it would be fun. I’m more interested in public health issues and am really active with mental health advocacy.”
Nussbaum said she became interested in mental health awareness and advocacy after years of living with obsessive-compulsive disorder. She said her OCD is something she is very open about, but that it has really impacted her life since she was diagnosed at age seven.
“Educating people about mental illnesses and how it affects someone’s life is really important,” she added. “From the insurance to the treatment to the stigma associated with it. Breaking down that stigma is especially important to me.”
While she said she copes really well with her OCD, depending on her stress level, she said not all people have the same accessibility to great doctors or specialists. While about one-in-three people have a mental illness, she said said those who do not can’t always understand what those that do are dealing with.
“When people [make comments] like ‘oh, I’m so OCD about that,’ I’m always like ‘no, you’re really not,’” she said.
Her mental health advocacy experience ranges from working for multiple suicide prevention coalitions in Boone County and on campus, attending and speaking at conferences, and being the former president of the Active Minds organization at the university during her time as an undergraduate.
In addition to her pursuit of dual Master’s degrees, Nussbaum has two Bachelor’s degrees in Biology and Political Science, and she also had a minor in Agricultural Economics. She said she has not ruled out the possibility of pursuing her Doctorate in Public Health or potentially Developing Economies.
“Right now, I’m really happy and content here with Jill,” she said. “I think I’ll stick with Jill and whatever she does down the road.”
When she’s not at work or studying for her classes, Nussbaum said she coaches track, teaches piano lessons, works with a refugee group, writes grants for Collaboration Innovation Leadership for Missouri Business, and teaches English in Columbia.
She said she also spends what free time she has collecting cookbooks and learning how to turn regular recipes into gluten-free dishes, but still making them taste good. She said she has started compiling some of her success stories on a blog, but is not quite ready to release that yet.
At the end of the day, she said everything she is doing makes her happy, including — if not especially — her job.
“I’m never bored,” she said. “The person you are before you come here isn’t the same person you are once you’re here,” she said. “You meet so many great people, the constituents and everyone else, and they really impact you. It’s great.”
To contact Ashley Jost, email firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @ajost.