By Brianne Brenneman
Attending Goshen College as an undergraduate student studying biochemistry with a minor in business, I struggled to visualize my future post-GC.
As a big picture thinker, the more I learned about our healthcare system, the more I felt like it was missing something. What if I could find a career where I could impact people’s lives before they got sick?
I found public health on Google: sitting at my kitchen table while living in Howell house my junior year, I typed in phrases like, “I want to impact health but don’t want to be a doctor.”
I remember reading an article about public health and suddenly feeling overwhelming clarity. There was a career based in social justice where I could focus on population level health and consider the ways to impact health before someone gets sick.
Without struggling to find public health, I don’t know that I would feel so passionate or lucky to have found it.
University of Michigan, where I attended to receive my Masters in Public Health, was a part of my journey where I learned how to be an effective advocate, teacher and lifelong learner.
Each day I drew on lessons I learned at GC: how to be a compassionate leader, finding joy in difficult times, and seeking opportunities to be in community with others.
Prior to moving back to Goshen, I lived in Cincinnati, and worked as a Community Development Director for a community development corporation.
It was a challenging role. I was learning real estate while using my public health expertise to influence what economic development looked like for our neighborhood.
I found myself seeking out opportunities to learn more about affordable housing finance and best practices for integrating equity into organizational policies and practices.
I didn’t see myself going back into academia for years, and yet I found myself always looking for opportunities to teach. Whether that was applying and receiving a grant to be a project site for first year business students at the University of Cincinnati or managing our interns, I loved working with college students. Old enough to understand the world, and young enough to still get that twinkle in their eye when they learn something new.
I knew Goshen was developing a public health major, and so I reached out to learn more. There were, of course, moments of uncertainty throughout the whole hiring process. Will I be the right fit? Do they think I have enough experience? What if I mess this up and the public health major and therefore my students suffer?
I believe I was meant to question myself and this opportunity along the way. Wrestling with these tough questions prior to starting my role gave me the opportunity to manage expectations for myself, set goals, and lean into a challenging and rewarding experience here at Goshen College.
The novel Coronavirus paired with the Black Lives Matter movement makes for public health to be at the forefront of everyone’s minds. We don’t need made-up case studies for class. We read articles and listen to podcasts about things that happened the week prior. We talk about the fact that BLM is just as much about public health as COVID-19. And we can integrate Goshen’s core values into our daily discussions.
We also reflect on how lucky we are to be at Goshen College: an institution whose leaders have a background in public health and who integrate health into all the college’s policies.
Together, we find joy in these unprecedented times.