HBCU Alumni

At  NCIPC, CDC’s Injury Center, we recognize the value of diversity and inclusion in our workforce, including the importance of acknowledging and partnering with HBCUs. Through the initiative, “NCIPC HBCU Alumni: Excellence Then & Now,” we are pleased to spotlight our very own HBCU alumni and the excellence they bring to our NCIPC workforce.

Alabama A&M University

Ketra Rice

Ketra Rice, PhD
Economist, DIP

Why an HBCU? My family’s legacy led me to Alabama A & M. My parents, uncles and aunts, siblings, and many cousins went there.

How did it shape you? The campus felt like home to me, and faculty and staff often treated me as family. I was able to learn and grow in a nurturing and welcoming environment.

Most significant memory? My fondest are of freshman orientation week, when I met lifelong friends, leading the campus NAACP chapter, serving on the SGA, and pledging Delta Sigma Theta. Also, sharing homecoming with my parents and their classmates was truly special.

Bethune-Cookman University

Jerrel McBride Thomas

Jerrel McBride Thomas, MPH, CHES
Health Communication Specialist, DOP

Why an HBCU? HBCUs provide a diverse and inclusive community of scholarship that celebrates the richness of the entire American experience and a safe and nurturing environment for everyone.

How did it shape you? My HBCU allowed me to grow, develop, flourish, and lead in an inclusive and supportive environment.

Most significant memory?Establishing lifelong relationships with people who embody the school motto – “Enter to Learn, Depart to Serve,” winning a team golf title, being Miss Senior, and meeting my extraordinary husband are my best memories.

Bethune-Cookman University

Fred Thomas, III

Fred Thomas, III, MPA
Management Officer, NCIPC

Why an HBCU? My love for music, HBCU marching bands, and my respect for Mary McLeod Bethune led me to BCU.

How did it shape you? Going to an HBCU gave me an immense sense of pride in my heritage—an opportunity that was not offered at many other schools, and an unmatched sense of community.

Most significant memory? Meeting my wife and the school motto, “Enter to Learn, Depart to Serve,” are my most important memories. The latter drives my current community involvement and career as a public servant.

Clark Atlanta University

Angela Banks

Angela Banks, MPH
Associate Deputy Director, OI

Why an HBCU? I loved the culture of the campus and legacy of great influential leaders that attended Clark Atlanta University.

How did it shape you? It taught me the tenets of leadership and being a voice of change in my community.

Most significant memory? I’ll always remember being in the presence of African American greatness and hearing in-person readings and motivational messages from the likes of August Wilson, Ambassador Andrew Young, and Coretta Scott King.

Clark Atlanta University

Derrick Gervin

Derrick Gervin, PhD
Acting Deputy Director, NCIPC

Why an HBCU? I went for the marching band, but also to get a quality education close to home.

How did it shape you? I continue to use and apply the CAU motto, “I’ll find a way or make one,” and the values I learned: perseverance, dedication, excellence, faith, and honor.

Most significant memory? The friendships and relationships. I’d never been around so many scholars in my life. Black excellence is real!

Clark Atlanta University

Phinda Hillman

Phinda Hillmon, MPA
Public Health Advisor, DVP

Why an HBCU? I wanted to experience African American heritage as a part of American history.

How did it shape you? Attending an HBCU taught me my greater purpose in life, which is to help advocate for the needs of underrepresented populations.

Most significant memory? My most significant memories are the ones that I am making today. The contributions that I make in my community as a public servant are because of the things that I was exposed to during my matriculation at an HBCU.

Clark Atlanta University

Shannon Middleton

Shannon Middleton, MPH
Workforce Development Specialist, OPMO

Why an HBCU? I wanted to go to an HBCU because of its history and to be in a learning environment with people that looked like me with similar aspirations.

How did it shape you? CAU’s motto, “I’ll find a way or make one,” gave me the permission to lead and serve confidently, knowing that there is always a way even if I have to create it.

Most significant memory? I will always remember freshman orientation class, where I learned about social determinants of health. It introduced me to public health, which gave me an opportunity to merge my career and desire to serve my community.

Fisk University

Brenton Guy

Brenton Guy, MS
Public Health Advisor, DOP

Why an HBCU? My parents immersed my brother and me in the HBCU culture and love on the campuses of Virginia State, Hampton, and Virginia Union universities. That led me to Fisk University in Nashville.

How did it shape you? The experience of being the majority population for four years reminded me that while Black people are not a monolith, we are strongly united by unique experiences and traditions.

Most significant memory? Exploring our special collection, archives and two art galleries full of historic recordings, books, and paintings – the same ones visited by tourists, historians, and collectors from across the world – is one of my favorite memories.

Florida A&M University

Apreal Bailey

Apreal Bailey, MPA
Public Health Advisor, OS

Why an HBCU? I went to FAMU for its competitive, diverse programs, especially the School of Business, which is ranked as one of the best MBA programs.

How did it shape you? My HBCU experience provided me with a very strong foundation for the workforce and life.

Most significant memory? Being Miss FAMU and serving as a student ambassador/recruiter and earning the President’s Student Leadership Award are experiences I’ll never forget.

Hampton University

Shane Jack

Shane P. Davis Jack, PhD
Behavioral Scientist, DVP

Why an HBCU? I wanted the unmatched, unique opportunity to be in an environment of concentrated Black excellence, Black culture, and Black diversity.

How did it shape you? Hampton helped me to know who I am as a Black woman and to be unapologetically proud.

Most significant memory? The waterfront, with sailboats passing by, hanging on the yard, our band, and homecomings.

Hampton University

Jenelle Mellerson

Jenelle L. Mellerson, MPH
Behavioral Scientist, DOP

Why an HBCU? I wanted to feel at home by being able to take classes with students that looked like me. When I first visited the campus, the energy and culture drew me in, and I knew Hampton was the school for me.

How did it shape you? Attending an HBCU has given me a sense of pride in my culture, my community, and myself.

Most significant memory? The passion and commitment of the professors at Hampton. They provided genuine care and support and made sure that I received a sound education.

Howard University

Pia Forbes

Pia Forbes, MS
Health Communication Specialist, OC

Why an HBCU? I wanted to study in an environment where my race and culture were assets to my growth and success.

How did it shape you? In addition to an unrivaled academic foundation, Howard gave me a network of friends/professionals who are as close as family.

Most significant memory? Every opportunity to connect with my HU fam is a lovefest, but homecomings are absolutely the golden time of year!

Howard University

Shannon Woodward

Shannon Woodward, PharmD
Health Communication Specialist, DVP

Why an HBCU? For the majority of my life, I matriculated through predominantly White academic settings. I wanted what I saw on A Different World and in the lives of my family members who went to an HBCU. I wanted community.

How did it shape you? It allowed me to feel secure and confident in who I am and how I present myself to the world.

Most significant memory? The investment of my professors stands out the most. They prayed for me, helped me find my first job, and called me out for not being my best. They really cared about my future.

Jackson State University

Jamila Jones

Jamila Jones, PhD
Health Communication Specialist, DVP (Detailed to OADC)

Why an HBCU? The HBCU environment is designed to uplift, boldly teach Black history, and provide the skills students need for success. Having attended a PWI for my undergraduate studies, I also chose an HBCU for my graduate studies to build a stronger connection with my culture.

How did it shape you? JSU illustrated the power of social connections. I was part of a strong community and always felt valued and supported. Today, I strive to foster a sense of community whenever I can.

Most significant memory? A JSU professor attended my first presentation at APHA. I was terrified, and having him there made me feel like my entire department was rooting for me.

Johnson C. Smith University

Kameron Sheats

Kameron Sheats, PhD
Behavioral Scientist, DVP

Why an HBCU? I chose it for the culture, kinship, and tradition.

How did it shape you? It solidified my identity as a powerful, capable, and worthy Black woman.

Most significant memory? Participating in an HBCU marching band is a unique and fun cultural experience within the already rich context of HBCUs.

Mississippi Valley State University

Images of Brandi Smith as a graduate of Mississippi Valley State University and as a CDC employee

Brandi Smith, PhD, MS
Prevention Effectiveness Fellow, OSI

Why an HBCU? As a junior in high school, I attended a math and science summer program at MVSU. I met talented, supportive and warmhearted people who became my college professors and career mentors. I attended Valley because I knew I would be more than just a number; I knew I would have the support I needed to be successful.

How did it shape you? Valley gave me a sense of community, encouraged me to chase and achieve my goals, and instilled in me the importance of helping others along life’s journey.

Most significant memory? In addition to ALL the late night study sessions, one of my most important memories is the mantra of one of my mentors, Dr. Constance G. Bland: “Four years of hard work for a lifetime of pleasure.”

Morehouse University

Corey Lumpkin

Corey Lumpkin, MPH
Project Officer/Public Health Advisor, DVP

Why an HBCU? I wanted an institution that was created for me that also had a long tradition of producing outstanding male leaders. Morehouse was both.

How did it shape you? Every day, I strive to uphold the five tenets of being a Morehouse Man: academic excellence, elocutionary skills, high moral values, social commitment, and belief in a higher power.

Most significant memory? My fondest memories are of the time I spent working at my alma mater as a recent graduate and post graduate school, mentoring young men and shaping their career trajectory.

Spelman College

Kendell Cephas

Kendell Childers Cephas, BA
Deputy Branch Chief, DVP

Why an HBCU? Continuing my family tradition of attending an HBCU was a no-brainer. I, too, wanted the unique opportunity to be surrounded by people who look like me with similar backgrounds, cultural experiences, and desires for the future.

How did it shape you? So much of who I am – my confidence, my pride in being a Black woman, and knowing that I can overcome any obstacle put in front of me – is shaped by my HBCU experience.

Most significant memory? There are too many wonderful memories to count, but the many homecomings and reunions I have attended are very memorable. I look forward every year to creating more memories with my fellow alumnae.

Spelman College

Asha Ivey-Stephenson

Asha Z. Ivey-Stephenson, PhD
Behavioral Scientist / Epidemiologist, DIP

Why an HBCU? My dad went to North Carolina A&T. He and my mom instilled in me an immense pride in Black culture, and for me, the opportunity to go to an HBCU was the icing on the cake!

How did it shape you? The experiences, education, and lifelong sisterhood I received at Spelman shaped me into who I am today.

Most significant memory? Taking the mandatory course, African Diaspora and the World (ADW), my freshman year was an amazing, life-changing experience! ADW focused on sharpening the awareness of diverse cultural and historical experiences.

Spelman College

Kwin Jolly

Kwinettaion (Kwin) Jolly, MS
IT Project Manager, OI

Why an HBCU? I wanted to be challenged academically and intellectually and be among other African American women with the same desires.

How did it shape you? All that I am today—the confidence, the perseverance, and the can-do mentality—is owed to my alma mater.

Most significant memory? Nothing is more memorable than homecomings and socializing with my friends and sorors of Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) Sorority, Inc.

Spelman College

Alexis Kaigler

Alexis Kaigler, MPP
Policy and Partnerships Team Lead, DVP

Why an HBCU? My parents both went to HBCUs so I grew up hearing about the unique HBCU experience.

How did it shape you? Being surrounded by amazing Black women every day gave me confidence, pride, and a lifetime network to lean on.

Most significant memory? My first week on campus and participating in all of the Spelman traditions still stand out.

Spelman College

Tia Rogers

Tia Rogers, PhD
Epidemiologist, DVP

Why an HBCU? I wanted to focus my college years on scholarship, sisterhood, and service – the cornerstones of Spelman College and HBCU education.

How did it shape you? My HBCU experience provided me with a network of mentors who have become my family. My commitment to excellence in leadership and service to the world was solidified at Spelman and continues to be fueled by my desire to ensure that other women receive the same support that I did.

Most significant memory? The Spelman College Founders’ Day will forever be my most significant memory. It is a celebration of our alumnae past, an honoring of our collective present, and a commitment to our bright future.

Spelman College

Natasha Underwood

Natasha Underwood, PhD
Acting Health Equity Officer, OD

Why an HBCU? I wanted to get out of Boston and experience a new place.

How did it shape you? It helped me grow and gain confidence as a Black woman and see other Black women excelling in sciences.

Most significant memory? Founders Day and commencement are always special because of the opportunity to pause and reflect on the generations of women who have gone through the same traditions.

NCIPC DEBIA Council: Loretta Jackson-Brown, Chair