- Associated Press - Sunday, October 25, 2015

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (AP) - Swim team, Boy Scouts, church, taking care of three kids as well as a kitten and a puppy, and making a new home livable - all while mentoring and teaching journalism and public relations, developing the new public relations major and starting an on-campus chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America at Olivet Nazarene University.

Oh, she’s also working on her doctorate degree. And, she took her oldest son to see Pope Francis in Philadelphia during the weekend. Elizabeth Kerns is a very busy lady.

“She’s a firecracker,” said Rachel Schramm, a sophomore public relations and corporate communication major. “Her life is like a buffet. She’s constantly adding to her plate.”

Kerns recently was hired as faculty in Olivet Nazarene University’s Communications department. She has been tasked with heading-up the university’s new public relations major.

Coming from the Pacific Northwest, Kerns has some adapting to do to the smaller, more conservative lifestyle - though she explains she fits right in.

Admittedly, she still is acclimating to the openness of religion at Olivet. A Roman Catholic, Kerns referred to herself as an “in-the-closet-Christian,” while working at the secular Washington school.

“I have more freedom to be who I am here; I can show my faith,” Kerns said. “I can’t use any word but blessed.”

Kerns has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Arkansas State University, a master’s degree in communication from University of Illinois Springfield and is working on her doctorate in education at Concordia University of Portland through its online program. She also has experience working in the professional world and as a professor at Central Washington University from 2010 to 2015.

At Central Washington University, Kerns was in charge of more than 100 public relations majors. She even started a student-run public relations agency that took on community accounts.

It was hard for Kerns, an avid planner, to let go of the legacy she built at CWU and move out to Illinois and seemingly start from scratch. When they made the decision, her husband did not have a job lined up, and they did not have a house to move into.

“I was terrified,” Kerns explained. “It was the first time I really let go of the reigns. I truly believe that God places us where we are supposed to be.”

In the midst of everything, Kerns said she remembers distinctly feeling there was an angel sitting on her shoulder - just like a cartoon - screaming into her ear that she had accomplished all she was meant to at Central.

Kerns has great plans for the public relations program at Olivet. The short-term plans include establishing a local chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America, which was just initiated this past Tuesday. One of her long-term goals is to create a student-led public relations firm at Olivet to help local business with PR - but also to give her students hands-on experience.

“Students love her enthusiasm toward and expertise in her subject matter,” said Dr. Jay Martinson, Communication Department chair. “She has already started the first-ever student PR club on campus, which will eventually become a student chapter of the national Public Relations Society of America.”

“Liz is a tornado of energy. She’s the kind of person who operates best if turned loose and allowed to lead - and she’s doing just that,” Martinson said.

As for her home life, Kerns is busy with swim meets, Boy Scouts, church activities and raising a family.

With three kids at home, ages 4, 6 and 8, she said she considers her kids at Olivet to be like siblings, effectively making her a full-time mom and sister.

“I like to think of myself as their big sister; I’m not old enough to be their mother yet,” she said.

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Source: The (Kankakee) Daily Journal, https://bit.ly/1P57BbM

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Information from: The Daily Journal, https://www.daily-journal.com


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