Life experience fuels passion for community engagement

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Amelia Vaughan

Life experience fuels passion for community engagement

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Meet Health Hero Amelia Vaughan, ’07

What inspired you to study public health?

Growing up, I always knew I wanted a career that made a positive impact on my community. When I first started attending OSU as a freshman in 2000, I wasn’t sure exactly how I would make that happen, but I discovered the public health program and found the right fit.

A healthy community benefits every person in it, and I know that the work I do to bring programs and services to my community has a positive impact.

Tell us about your time at Oregon State and in the college. Is there someone or something who/that helped you be successful?

I was inspired by my professors who were all passionate about health promotion and health care access and equity. Their enthusiasm definitely sparked my own.

In addition to my classes, I also had two part-time jobs. One was on campus, working events at the OSU Alumni Center, and the other was on Monroe Ave. at a long-defunct coffee shop called Piazza. I kept both of those jobs for the four years I was a full-time student at OSU, and I learned a lot about working with the public which carried over into my future work in community engagement and outreach. There is no substitute for real-world experience!

What challenges did you overcome along your academic journey?

The biggest challenge was just to stay focused on my studies. I got distracted a few times by other opportunities, and it took longer than it needed to for me to finish my undergraduate work.

Were you involved in any organizations or clubs when on campus?

I spent most of my free time working; I worked at summer camps in Oregon and then in Pennsylvania. I didn’t have time for other clubs, but my two school-year jobs kept me very involved in school culture. I got the job at the summer camp in Pennsylvania because I went to a meeting with a recruiter that OSU hosted for students!

What is your current position, and what was your career progression? What do you enjoy most about your career?

I am currently the coordinator for two commercial fishing safety projects that are funded by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.

Since coming back to OSU in 2015, I have coordinated a variety of federally funded workplace safety grants primarily working with commercial fishermen in Oregon and Washington.

From 2004-2012, I worked as a summer camp instructor and outdoor educator at camps and outdoor schools in Oregon, California, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. During this time, I would spend my winters traveling and doing work exchanges on farms in various parts of the world. It was an incredible experience, and if you like working in the outdoors and with children I highly recommend it.

This experience really prepared me to be flexible and to meet people where they are. It also prepared me to solve problems on the fly in all sorts of situations. All of these skills are applicable in my current role.

In 2011, I decided to go to graduate school and enrolled in an online master’s program in information science. Simultaneously, my boyfriend, now husband, was in graduate school at Florida State University and we were living in Tallahassee.

FSU had just received a large multi-institution grant to study the effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the Gulf of Mexico and was looking for someone with a background in education and outreach to engage coastal communities and school kids in their research. I was lucky enough to be hired into this position and dove into research.

In this role, I learned a ton about managing and implementing multi-million-dollar grants, as well as how to communicate science and research findings back to the public.

Around the time my husband was graduating from FSU and our first daughter was born, we found out that the funding for the group I worked with was not renewed, and that allowed us to move back to Oregon.

I responded to a job posting from Laurel Kincl, currently an associate dean, who was an assistant professor at the time with many research projects on her plate. She was looking for someone with experience with research and engaging coastal communities to help her coordinate commercial fishing safety projects. We now have nine years of working together and putting our all into projects we believe in.

I live in Newport, Oregon’s largest fishing port, where fishing families are an important part of our community and our local economy. I feel good knowing that the work I do often leads to a direct positive impact in the community that I live in and that my family and I are a part of.

Besides this, my favorite part of my job is that it is so dynamic and always changing. I’m always teaching myself new skills to better do my job and serve my community, and that keeps it exciting.

I also love working with all the dedicated and skilled faculty, staff and students at OSU!

If you could deliver a message to future students, what would you say?

There are so many opportunities that are just available for students, so take advantage of as many of them as you can!

Keep an open mind and follow your curiosity wherever it takes you, because you just never know what kinds of experiences and possibilities will cross your path.