Sara stands in a colonnade wearing a graduation gown, smiles at the camera

Class of 2023: Sara Burtner

During her undergraduate studies, Sara was able to explore the intersection of two of her greatest passions: health sciences and dance.

Audrey Breen

Photo by Domenick Fini

As an undergrad, Sara Burtner has able to connect two of her passions: health sciences and the arts. Originally from Virginia Beach, Virginia, Sara will graduate this spring with a major in kinesiology and a minor in dance. 

Q: Why did you choose the UVA School of Education & Human Development for your program of study?

When it came to selecting a school for my kinesiology major, the UVA School of Education & Human Development stood out to me. What drew me to this program was its unique emphasis on expanding the perspectives of movement science beyond the usual scope. Not only does the curriculum cover essential topics like musculoskeletal anatomy and biomechanics, it also explores the social and cultural aspects of kinesiology through courses like Contemporary Health Issues and Kinesiology for Individuals with Disabilities. Along with the ideal major for my interests, after visiting Grounds on a beautiful day, I knew that UVA was the school for me! 

Q. Can you share a little bit about some of the things you have been involved in while at UVA?

During my time at UVA, I've been fortunate enough to participate in a diverse range of activities that have enriched my college experience. One of the highlights of my time here has been my involvement with the Virginia Dance Company, a student-led dance organization that has allowed me to collaborate and perform alongside some of the most gifted dancers on Grounds. As a dance minor within UVA's drama department, I've had the opportunity to choreograph and create dance films, which has been an incredibly fulfilling creative outlet for me.

Beyond the arts, I've also been involved with UVA's Office of Health Promotion, where I began as a Peer Health Educator. Through this role, I was able to connect fellow students with the valuable health resources offered by the university. I also got to work as an assistant in the teaching kitchen at the new Student Health building, which gave me the chance to work directly with UVA's health and wellness staff and feel more connected to the university community.

A little bit off Grounds, I worked as a therapy tech at the UVA Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital. This hands-on opportunity allowed me to work alongside physical therapists and witness firsthand the positive impact that PTs have on people's lives, with special emphasis on connecting with the Charlottesville community. This experience solidified my career path and gave me the confidence to pursue physical therapy with a greater sense of purpose.

Q. What is the most significant thing that has shaped your time while you’ve been here?

During my time at UVA, I was fortunate to discover a close-knit community within the arts, particularly dance. Dance has always been an integral part of my life, and I've found that connecting my love for the arts with my interests in health sciences has led to some of the most rewarding opportunities of my college career. The highlight of my experience was a summer internship at the renowned Joffrey Ballet School in New York City, where I worked in the health and wellness office. I was in my element exploring the intersection between dance and health, supported by my professors and advisors at UVA in pursuing this unique passion. I'm grateful for the guidance I've received from both the kinesiology major and dance minor at UVA, and I encourage everyone to explore the intersections of their passions.

Q. What is one thing you learned during your studies that surprised you most?

During my studies, I was surprised to learn just how important cultivating meaningful connections can be. Over the course of these four years, I ended up dedicating a significant amount of time to building both professional and personal relationships with people who supported me beyond academics and were invested in helping me achieve my short and long-term goals.  I learned that often simply asking for help or opportunities can lead to open doors that you never thought would be available to you. I realized the worst thing that could happen was receiving a "no," and that in fact, it only takes one "yes." By embracing the value of connections and the power of asking, I was able to forge a path forward that was richer and more fulfilling than I ever could have imagined. In the words of my three-year roommate and best friend, "Why don't you just ask!"

Q. What will you be doing next?

Starting in June, I am thrilled to be spending the next three years pursuing a Doctorate in Physical Therapy at VCU. My experiences at UVA have prepared me to bring my interdisciplinary approaches to patient care and rehabilitation. I've gained a unique perspective on how physical therapy intersects with culture and the arts, and I'm excited to explore this intersection further as I advance in my studies. I'm honored and grateful to have the opportunity to pursue my dreams, and I can't wait to see where this journey takes me.

Class of 2023 Graduation Profiles

We invite you to get to know a few members of the UVA EHD Class of 2023 as we celebrate the accomplishments of the entire class.

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