Astronaut to College Leader
Courtney N. Haun, Ph.D., M.P.H., Samford University / / June 15, 2021
When I was a child, I remember frequently being asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I recall responding with zeal, “I want to be an astronaut!”
This yearning was so strong that my parents branded my room in a space theme, bought any children’s book that mentioned planets, and even found a space suit costume for me to wear. As I got older, I realized that hurdling off into the galaxy was not as appealing as I first thought. Instead, what I began to realize during my educational journey was that what I really wanted was to become a leader–in higher education, specifically.
Growing up in Greene County, Tennessee, the percent of residents earning a bachelor’s degree or higher was only around 10% - 15%. As such, going to college was not the norm, something that seemed “light years away” and difficult to do.
I grew up in a low-income household, was a first-generation college student, and knew that the responsibility of paying for college would rest on my shoulders. I worked tirelessly to apply for as many scholarships as possible and had a part-time job from the time I could drive a vehicle onward. I ended up becoming my high school’s class valedictorian, something I am still proud of today. The outcome from these endeavors allowed me to cover my education expenses for college, plus some.
Through my college journey, I earned a Bachelor’s of Science (2014) in two degrees, one in healthcare administration and one in community health with a minor in marketing and a Master’s of Public Health (2016) degree with a concentration in healthcare administration from East Tennessee State University. I then went on to receive a Ph.D. in public administration and public policy (2019) from Auburn University.
There are a million reasons that you can quit, give up, or settle. I want to encourage and remind you that you are called to so much more.
I now serve as an assistant professor and the director of the healthcare administration undergraduate program at Samford University. My goal is to eventually become a leader in higher education as a university president or another executive-level position where I can impact the lives of students.
I hope that I can make a positive impact on our youth and encourage them to seek a college education, especially first-generation students. I want to be a role model for others who may not have the support or resources to attend college. If you are truly willing to put in the effort, the possibilities are limitless. I am driven to help our youth by teaching them as a professor, mentoring them as a coach, and encouraging them as a friend.
Whatever your dream is, whether it is to become an astronaut, college leader, or something completely different–you can accomplish it. There are a million reasons that you can quit, give up, or settle. I want to encourage and remind you that you are called to so much more.
My best piece of advice–if you want to become an astronaut, become one.
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