Commencement 2020 profile: Bre’zhe Brooks

Binghamton's MPH program graduates first cohort

Bre’zhe Brooks is the first person in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree, and in May 2020 she became the first one to earn both undergraduate and graduate degrees when she completed the Master of Public Health (MPH) program at Binghamton University.

“I couldn’t have done it without the help of my family and friends,” Brooks said.

After graduating in 2018 with a bachelor of arts degree in psychology from Harpur College of Arts and Sciences, Brooks was ready to continue her education and chose to remain at Binghamton.

“During my undergraduate career, I was fascinated by the social and behavioral aspects of health,” Brooks said. “Over the years, my knowledge and understanding of the various factors that influence an individual’s physical and mental health expanded. Through this, I learned about the different health disparities among underserved communities and wanted to aid in efforts to improve their quality of life.

“This ultimately led me to the field of public health. Having an MPH will provide me with the knowledge and skills needed to make a long-lasting impact on our communities,” she added.

This first-generation college student is also first in another category: She is one of the first six students to graduate from Binghamton’s MPH program, which launched in 2017.

“Being a part of the inaugural MPH cohort means creating the foundation for future MPH students,” Brooks said.

“As the first African-American woman to graduate from the Master of Public Health program at Binghamton University, I hope my experiences will encourage others from diverse backgrounds to pursue a career of interest despite their circumstances.”

Brooks said students in this cohort formed close-knit relationships and provided a strong support system for each other. But it’s not just the students with whom she connected.

“From the moment I attended orientation, it was clear to me that the faculty genuinely cared about every single student and went above and beyond to ensure that they provided a space for optimal learning,” she said.

During the 2019-20 academic year, Brooks was a graduate assistant for the REACH (Real Education About College Health) program, part of the University’s Health Promotion and Prevention Services office.

REACH is a peer-education internship that aims to educate students about college health topics such as cold/flu prevention, proper nutrition, the benefits of physical activity, party safety tips, sexual risk reduction and the importance of sleep. Brooks’ role as a graduate assistant was to oversee and help REACH Peers with program planning and implementation.

“Bre’zhe collaborated with undergraduate REACH Peers to create sexual-health programming to meet the needs of diverse students. She also planned to present [but wasn’t able to carry out due to the pandemic] safe sex presentations using the health belief model to demonstrate the role that self-efficacy can play to incorporate safe sexual practices into one’s relationships,” said Sharon Bryant, associate professor of public health and Brooks’ academic advisor. “She is committed to how public health addresses and provides services to vulnerable populations.”

According to Divine Sebuharara, health promotion coordinator and Brooks’ supervisor during the graduate assistantship, “Bre is a hardworking student who has a lot on her plate and also expects a lot of herself. She always strives to produce high-quality work while also taking care of those around her, both personally and professionally.

“One of the greatest pleasures working with Bre is her ability to stay calm during stressful situations,” Sebuharara added. “The REACH Peer Education Program has many moving parts, and I could always count on her to remain calm no matter what the situation; keep others calm; and make quick, rational decisions. These qualities will bode well for her as a future public-health professional.”

And what does Brooks’ future look like?

“Following graduation, I plan to pursue a career in health services management and administration,” Brooks said. “With my unique classroom experiences coupled with my leadership and advocacy roles as a past Binghamton University NAACP chapter president and current youth council advisor, I look forward to applying my competencies within the healthcare sector.”

Sebuharara believes this industrious and determined student will succeed.

“Bre has a bright future ahead of her,” she said.

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