CPHHS alumna, MPH Internship Coordinator and Instructor Faith Vawter began her career at Oregon State in 2010 as an academic advisor. Before working in the CPHHS, she held positions as a project coordinator at both the Oregon Center for Applied Science and Strengthening Rural Families and served as a tobacco prevention coordinator at Linn County Public Health Department and as an independent contractor at the Oregon Department of Human Services. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Health Promotion and Education and an MPH in Health Promotion at Oregon State.
What made you decide to get into this field? Is there one specific moment that inspired your career path?
“The field of public health is so inspiring. I remember the exact moment I changed my major to public health. I was sitting in a Bacc Core public health class – doodling – and I heard my professor say ‘health is not a moral issue.’ I wrote it in caps across the top of my notebook. I think by being a young mom at 17 I had some personal experiences that made that statement resonate with me, and I was hooked ever since. I started working with organizations such as the Parent Enhancement Program and Strengthening Rural Families, where I have the pleasure of sitting on the board of directors for now, and that really cemented my dedication to the field. Now, I have the pleasure of helping graduate students find their passion and niche in the field. Our students are amazing, and I love getting to know them individually. I also get to keep my foot in industry and maintain the relationships I’ve built, so my job is a perfect fit for me.”
Why did you choose to work at Oregon State?
“I can’t seem to pull myself away! Honestly, I love this campus, the faculty, the students, and I love what I do. Visitors repeatedly comment that our campus is so friendly, and I have to agree! There are lots of reasons to love Oregon State. Also, my husband is the biggest Beaver fan I know, and I can’t imagine him wearing anything other than orange and black.”
What is your favorite part about teaching/researching public health?
“Before I came to Oregon State I worked for a research firm in Eugene on a program to help educate midlife women on contraceptive use and negotiation. I loved being able to take the data from our work and transform it into a usable program that the community could benefit from.”
What do you believe is your greatest accomplishment in the field?
“I hope this moment is still yet to come, but I’m loving my journey so far!”
How are you going to change people’s lives with your work?
“If at the end of the day I’ve provided support to a student, helped them identify a skill, showcased their talent or encouraged them to step outside their comfort zone, then I’ve been successful. I know how important my mentors were during my education, and I hope I can provide that kind of support to our students. My students are going out into the world and making it a better place, and I’m helping them do that – that’s enough for me.”
What is the best advice you ever received, and who gave it?
“’When you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything.’ My mom used to say this and I can’t tell you how many times it’s helped me solve problems. Sometimes you just have to take a step back, let the dust settle and wait until you have more information to make a decision.”
What advice would you like to give to students and young alums?
“Each and every one of you has a special gift to share, and don’t let anyone tell you different. I wouldn’t have enough fingers to count the number of times influential people in my life told me having a baby at 17 meant I wouldn’t be able to have the life I dreamed of. If I listened to them, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today. You determine your own self-worth and your own destiny, and there’s immense power in believing that.”
What is one surprising thing about you that not many people know?
“I can shoot a fly with a rubber band! It’s an important talent.”
What are your favorite activities to do outside of work?
“I have three beautiful, silly daughters and a husband I adore, so spending time with them trumps everything else. We love to travel and vacation together, but we spend most nights just baking, watching hockey – Go Hawks! – and playing games!”