Published on July 17, 2020 by Sarah Waller  
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As she approached graduation in May, Katie Brabham ‘20 admitted she was nervous about her pending job search. Graduating with a degree in public health from Samford University’s School of Public Health, she aspired to work for a nonprofit that served members of the military community. Still, in the midst of a global pandemic, the options seemed limited. As she sought advice from family and friends, someone recommended she explore the options available through AmeriCorps VISTA, a national service program designed to serve U.S. communities.

“AmeriCorps VISTA programs tend to look for graduates who are right out of college, allowing them to step into a career field they want to enter,” Brabham said. “I looked more into it and found the placement at Kennesaw State University. I knew I wanted to move to Georgia when I graduated, so I just thought it was a perfect fit.”

She was accepted as an Alcohol and Other Drugs Recovery Program Coordinator for Kennesaw State University’s Center for Young Adult Addiction and Recovery. And while she is not directly working with veterans or active service members currently, she is hoping to incorporate this passion into her work.

“I come into this position with an open mind; I’m ready to do whatever is asked of me. So far, I have worked on initiatives to raise awareness of alcohol and drug abuse among students, but the center is also giving me the opportunity to set my own goals. With this, I’m hoping to work with the university’s Center for Military and Veteran Services, seeing if there are ways in which we can collaborate,” she said. 

Brabham’s passion for serving the military has roots in her family. “Both of my parents served more than 20 years in the Air Force, and a number of other family members have served as well,” she said. “We are a big military family, so this legacy of public service and helping others feels ingrained in who I am. It’s a big deal for me; it has a special place in my heart.” 

This isn’t Brabham’s first experience working with an addiction center. As a student, she completed an internship with the Addiction Prevention Coalition, an organization that works to prevent opioid abuse in the greater Birmingham community. Brabham was attracted to this internship placement because she knew substance abuse is a prevalent issue in the military.

“I wanted to get my feet wet and see what it’s like to run a nonprofit because that is what I ultimately want to do: to start my own nonprofit that offers free substance abuse rehabilitation for veterans and other members of the community,” she said.

While she’s still in the beginning weeks of her placement with AmeriCorps VISTA, working from home, she can already see how her experience at Samford has prepared her well. “Samford did an amazing job, giving me the tools that I need to succeed, especially through research,” Brabham said. “I feel like my research projects prepared me well for the work that I do now. Even though I’ll probably not conduct my own research in this role, I feel confident about inserting my opinion, pointing out factors they need to be looked at more in-depth.”

Beyond the knowledge she gained, Brabham also credits the relationships she developed at Samford, specifically mentioning her relationship with associate professor Ahinee Amamoo.

“I remember one time, specifically when I was going through a series of health issues, Dr. Amamoo noticed what was going on. She pulled me aside and really loved on me. She gave me hope to persevere and get through it,” Brabham said. “When I look back on my Samford story, she really is the biggest thing that I think about—her and the servant heart she has for her students.”

Brabham explained that Dr. Amamoo, along with the other faculty in the Department of Public Health, “knew me as Katie,” which she said made all the difference. 

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.