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The Student Public Health Association (SPHA) leadership team are a group of current students at the University of Kentucky College of Public Health (CPH) dedicated to supporting the mission and vision of the College through campus and community events, and activities, that create engagement and connection with their public health peers.

SPHA acts as a liaison between students and faculty, promotes student involvement to develop healthy communities, and represents the needs of students at the College of Public Health.

The 2022/2023 SPHA student leadership team include:

  • Luke Karem, President
  • Raegan Persful, Vice President
  • Kelsey West, Communications Officer
  • Charisma Cornell, Secretary
  • Julia Kollitz, Treasurer

The SPHA team shares why they love public health, CPH, and serving as student leaders. 

Finding a career path, with tools to succeed

“I came to the University of Kentucky undecided and completely lost on what direction I was going to take. The people of the College of Public Health were so inviting and I could tell that they legitimately wanted to make a difference in the health of both the campus and the state. 

They helped me better understand my career goals and how I wanted to use my skills to make an impact. One of the highlights of my time as an officer has been collaborating with the administration and their extreme support of all our goals. They want the best for us and give us the tools we need to succeed,” says Luke Karem, SPHA President.

A place to belong

“Being a student at the College of Public Health has been rewarding in every way. When I was looking for a university, I really wanted to find a school with a college dedicated to public health because I knew I wanted a community dedicated to the profession. As an out-of-state student, CPH faculty gave me one extra space to belong on campus. 

Our professors are great and love to teach, and I am excited to attend class every day. As a student officer, I have learned management and leadership skills that I wouldn’t have learned in the classroom. The SPHA unites students from all colleges across campus, and I have loved meeting new faculty, speakers, and students throughout the year,” says Raegan Persful, SPHA Vice President.

Endless possibilities in public health

“When applying to the University of Kentucky I was scrolling through the major catalog, found the College of Public Health and never looked back. I was skeptical about being a public health major as I had never considered a career in this field. This was until I realized that the possibilities are endless. It’s evident in every class that the faculty are passionate about what they are teaching which makes it fun to partake in discussions. 

As the Communications Chair, this is the first time I’ve ever had to navigate social media for an organization. I enjoy the challenge of finding creative avenues to reach as many students as possible through our platforms. SPHA has given me the ability and courage to pursue new opportunities, navigate my future career, and advocate for healthier communities wherever I go,” says Kelsey West, SPHA Communications Officer

A community, inside of a community

“I love how the College of Public Health feels like a community inside of a community. I grew up in a small town, so I was always used to having the same people in my classes and thankfully, I get to do that here. I also like how our professors are genuinely invested in the students and are willing to help out in any way they can. 

I wanted to become an officer for SPHA because I wanted to show people what our college is all about. I have brought members in from different colleges across campus and I hope our membership continues to grow. Public health is important for everyone and I think SPHA helps people understand the large impact it has. 

Being an officer has given me the opportunity to connect with current professionals in the field and students that will potentially become my colleagues. These connections are invaluable and have helped me understand what I truly want to do and how I can reach my goals,” says Charisma Cornell, SPHA Secretary Officer.

Amazing community and professors

“Coming to the University of Kentucky, the only things that I knew about public health were what I had briefly researched online. Despite this, I quickly fell in love with the field due to the amazing community in the college and my professors who are so passionate about what they do. This college has provided me with many opportunities to get immersed in the field and has helped me find my passions. 

I wanted to become an SPHA officer to become more involved with the college, connect with more people in the field, and help promote public health on campus. Being an SPHA officer has allowed me to share with our university all of the incredible things that public health has to offer,” says Julia Kollitz, SPHA Treasurer

Join/contact the SPHA

Any student at the University of the Kentucky who is interested in public health issues can join regardless of their year in school or specific college they attend. Please contact any of the officers to obtain more information or email them at

Follow the SPHA on social media!

  • Twitter: @UKySPHA
  • Instagram: @ukyspha
  • Facebook: UK Student Public Health Association

To learn more about the Student Public Health Association, visit or on BBNvolved.

National Public Health Week 2023

Centering and Celebrating Cultures in Health during April 3-7

Learn More