Vanessa Kercher, PhD, ACSM-EP

Clinical Assistant Professor
Indiana University Bloomington
AWIS member since 2021

“Some of my most meaningful and impactful work comes from teaching students and colleagues about the power of autonomy.”

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What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned?

A great leader listens. Although this lesson may sound simple, good listening skills can go a long way to empower team members and achieve collaborative goals. Similarly, when leaders don’t listen well, they will continually undermine their team’s motivation.

Describe an amazing opportunity in your STEM career.

Earning a position in the School or Public Health at IU has been an extremely rewarding opportunity. I am surrounded by world-class colleagues from many different backgrounds who constantly inspire me to do my best work in public health, diversity, equity, and inclusion.

What is your favorite word?


How do you define it?

Autonomy is a psychological need that supports growth and development. Autonomy refers to the feeling people have in choosing their behavior, rather than feeling a sense of pressure to act in a certain way.

How has this word influenced or inspired your career?

Autonomy continues to influence all aspects of my career. I experience it daily as I navigate writing, self-care, time management, and relationships. Some of my most meaningful and impactful work comes from teaching students and colleagues about the power of autonomy.

What are you currently reading?

How to Be an Imperfectionist: The New Way to Self-Acceptance, Fearless Living, and Freedom from Perfectionism by Stephen Guise

What do you consider the best professional or personal advice you’ve ever received?

“All you have to do is get in front of people and be yourself, and you will go far.” — my PhD mentor, Dr. Damon Burton

Vanessa M. Kercher, PhD, ACSM-EP, is a clinical assistant professor in the Kinesiology Department for the School of Public Health at Indiana University (IU). Dr. Kercher’s research passion focuses on helping individuals optimize their physical activity experiences through behavioral strategies to promote sustainable, positive health behaviors. At IU, Dr. Kercher serves as the advisor for Exercise is Medicine® On Campus and partners with a worksite wellness program, Healthy IU, to support the well-being of employees at IU. She also serves on the editorial board for the ACSM Health & Fitness Journal and is a member at large for the National ACSM Certification Committee Review Board. Prior to joining the faculty at IU, Dr. Kercher was a clinical exercise physiologist at a medical fitness center in Kalispell, Montana where she led multidisciplinary projects, including evaluation of clinical wellness interventions in multiple remote rural locations, community health needs assessment in complex health care systems, and psychometric development for clinical wellness coaching and cardiac rehabilitation programming.