Volunteer Profile: Samara Mbugua (GPH ’14)
March 15, 2021
“As an alumni volunteer, I get to witness firsthand how an alumni community can help serve communities in need, expand one’s global perspective, and expand one’s network,” says Samara Mbugua (GPH ’14).
Samara, president of the NYU School of Global Public Health’s (GPH) newly formed Alumni Association, is assuming leadership of the GPH alumni network at a time when public health professionals are at the forefront of much of our daily discourse and tackling immense challenges, including the Covid-19 pandemic and social justice. As president, Samara intends to strengthen the engagement of GPH’s global alumni network while demonstrating to students the diversity of career trajectories and opportunities within public health.
Samara graduated from GPH with a Masters of Public Health in Community & International Health in 2014 and currently serves as a Global Health Analyst at Becton, Dickinson & Company (BD), a global medical technology company.
Tell me about the newly formed School of Global Public Health Alumni Board?
The mission of the inaugural School of Global Public Health (GPH) Alumni Association is to support the vision and legacy of the school by creating opportunities to foster the academic and professional development of current students and alumni, as well as strengthen the relationship between alumni and their alma mater. The GPH alumni community is a highly diverse, passionate international group that will grow even more connected through the Alumni Association's work. Our programming centers on creating learning and networking opportunities for the GPH alumni body, current students, and campus as a whole. To date, we have launched a book club focusing on public health-related literature, highlighted the achievements of alumni via interviews shared on multiple media platforms, and created a community where alumni can connect and share programming ideas through a newly launched committee structure. The next big initiative underway is a mentorship program aimed to develop, empower, and advance the careers of early-stage public health professionals.
How did you first become involved as or interested in becoming an NYU alumni volunteer?
When I first relocated back to the tri-state area, I wanted to become more connected to the NYU alumni community beyond attending lectures and social events as I had done in the past. My first experience as an NYU alumni volunteer was the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, where I worked with my local NYU alumni club to create activities for students and write thank you letters to teachers at an elementary school.
Why do you stay involved with NYU? Why would you encourage other alumni to get involved?
I stay involved at NYU because I value giving back. My passion for helping people is one of the core reasons I entered the field of public health. As President of the GPH Alumni Board and an NYUAA Board member, I am able to deepen my commitment to service and public health. I also recognize that representation is important, and I want to showcase the rich diversity at NYU by staying connected. NYU’s global community of alumni clubs enable me to tap in wherever I am. NYU unites alumni and creates a baseline connection among new contacts.
What’s your proudest (or most fun) moment from serving on the Board so far?
My proudest moment to date was the release of the Alumni Board's welcome letter, which was our official unveiling. This was our first task as the inaugural board and our introduction to alumni, students, faculty, and staff. The letter captured our vision and garnered support for the board, resulting in new volunteers for GPH board committees.
Did you have any NYU classes or instructors who inspired or impacted you?
My favorite course at NYU was Program Development and Management for International Organizations with Professor Charles Downs. Professor Downs had extensive practical expertise and knowledge in this subject matter and shared it in a digestible way. He used stories from his field experience to bring to life principles and concepts from our text. His approach made the class that much more practical. Additionally, Professor Danielle Ompad impacted me during my time as a student. As a BIPOC professor, she inspired me to show-up as my authentic self and remained unapologetic, especially when discussing challenging issues related to racial disparities in health. I appreciated her candor and ability to relate to the class.
What is your favorite NYU memory?
Graduation! Walking around the city in my cap and gown was such an amazing experience. My classmates and I received so much love from strangers on the train on the way to graduation, during graduation, and afterwards—it was truly unforgettable. I felt such a strong sense of community that day. The Violet pride was strong!
What is your favorite:
- Food? My Mom's pasta Bolognese.
- Book? Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely and How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. Both are informative and invaluable reads.
- TV Show and/or Movie? I can watch The Count of Montecristo no matter how far along the movie is; the beginning, middle or end—I stop everything to watch it! Queen & Slim is another favorite. It was so moving I had to watch it twice in theaters!
- Song and/or Musical Artist? Favorite song: Shai, “If I Ever Fall in Love.” I love ’90s R&B.
- Podcast? Totally biased, but it would have to be the I Am GPH podcast by NYU GPH! I love learning about the amazing work of my fellow alumni, GPH faculty, and other public health practitioners.
- Place in New York City? Central Park for bike rides and Harlem for its rich arts and culture scene.
- Social distancing activity? Group video calls with family and friends.