Kimberly Butterfield, MPH ('14)
Before pursuing my MPH, I completed undergraduate work in anthropology and international studies. I did a year of AmeriCorps service after college and then worked for a national non-profit. I would always ask people with jobs I was interested in about their education background and many times, their answer was “I have a masters of public health.” I didn’t know a lot about the program before applying but I knew that my interests kept aligning with the public health arena so it seemed like a natural fit.
There were two things. I’m originally from southwest Virginia and have lived in the southwestern region of the state most of my life. I liked that faculty in the program had opportunities for students to do work in the local community and throughout the Appalachian region, especially since there are so many pressing health issues that affect our families and neighbors. I also felt extremely welcomed and supported by the faculty and staff. They seemed eager to help me pursue my interests and to work with them as I learned.
I was very fortunate to work on a research project with the Appalachian Community Cancer Network, which gave me a lot of hands on program management and health education experience. I love working with my participants and the energy I got from seeing their health improved solidified my career choice. I also loved my practicum project, which focused on local food systems in Roanoke, where I currently live.
I work for the Virginia Cooperative Extension as the Family and Consumer Science agent in Roanoke and Salem, the same office where I completed my practicum work. I spend most of my days teaching classes to people from all walks of life on topics such as healthy eating, physical activity, food safety and water quality, financial management, and human development. Every day is different and exciting. I’m constantly challenged to learn more and help people in new and unexpected ways.
I feel confident that my MPH is a huge part of how I came into my current position. My practicum helped me understand and appreciate the work of Extension in our communities and allowed me to meet many people working in health education. When I learned that my preceptor was retiring, I knew I had to jump at the opportunity to follow in her footsteps. I use the knowledge from my MPH classes on a daily basis, especially related to implementing and evaluating my programs.
Graduate school is like anything else in life – you will get out of it whatever you put into it. Use every opportunity to learn, talk to people, and ask questions. Always put your best foot forward because your fellow students and those you interact with in the community will so be your colleagues, even if you move – it’s a small community!