Alumnae Voices: On and Off the Beaten Path
Featured Alumna: Mikisha Browm
Since her graduation from Dartmouth in 2000, Mikisha Brown has been constantly on the go. Having
recently completed the Emerging Leaders Program of the US Department of Health and Human Services,
she currently works in Washington DC as a Public Health Analyst. When she’s not tackling national
projects involving child and adolescent mental health, she is actively involved in her church, serves as a
youth mentor, takes dance classes, and recently became engaged to Dartmouth alum Desmond Nation '02.
More importantly (for us), she also made time to discuss her science career with WISP. The road she took
to discovering a job she loves in a field she’s passionate about is simply inspiring…enjoy!
While growing up in Bridgeport, Connecticut, I attended the Horizons summer program which combined
enrichment classes with sports, camping, and swimming. I went on to spend two summers working with
Horizon summer programs before 9th and 10th grade, serving as a teacher’s assistant in basic science to
7th and 8th graders. After that program was completed, I spent the rest of my summer as an assistant
instructor for a Maritime Education program at the Norwalk Seaport for 3rd and 4th graders. What I enjoyed
most about this experience was seeing enthusiasm for science in the eyes of young children as they
conducted experiments in chemistry lab or examined the sea life in the Long Island Sound.
During high school my academic activities related to science included participating for three years on
Central High’s Junior Engineering Technical Society (JETS) team and attending the Connecticut Scholars
summer program at Choate Rosemary Hall. Both activities were the result of my teachers encouraging me
to seek out opportunities to explore math and science. Coming from an innercity public school I did feel
blessed with excellent teachers and challenging classes. However, during my two summers at Choate I
had access to state of the art technology that was not available at my school. I really enjoyed my anatomy
and physiology course and my experimental physics class.
EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND - The College Years
I majored in psychology and I was one course short of a minor in
I picked my major based on what fascinated me, human behavior.
Psychology was the major where I found a common ground for
exploring both the biological and environmental factors that influence
behavior. While studying at Dartmouth I discovered that psychology
was very interdisciplinary. I liked the idea of majoring in an area that
connected to other subjects like biology, sociology, and education.
During my freshman year, the Women in Science Program played a
pivotal role in my exposure to sciences at Dartmouth. Through the
first-year internship program, I worked as a research assistant in
the neuropsychiatry department at DMHC. Through this experience I
learned a great deal about the anatomy of the brain, the neurological
influence on disorders like Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s
Disease, schizophrenia and the various methods of cognitive/psychological testing and assessment.
Because of my experience in the WISP program I went on to work in the DHMC Child Psychiatry
department for two years. WISP had a very inclusive definition of "careers in science". I was able to
consider exploring opportunities in science that were more representative of the spectrum of career
possibilities (i.e. not just chemist, researcher, or doctor). This was pivotal to my development because I
chose to pursue a master's degree in public health; a topic that was not discussed in detail in my
While at Dartmouth I participated in the Peer Education Action
Corps (PEAC). I really enjoyed coordinating programs that
addressed the challenges of eating disorders, depression, sexual
assault, and substance abuse in the Dartmouth community. The
training I received from the PEAC programs as well as my
experience with providing outreach was my first exposure to
health education. I was doing public health but at that time I did not
even know there was such a field of study.
As much as I wanted to be home during my sophomore summer, I really enjoyed that term because it
helped shape my decision to pursue a career in the behavioral sciences. During that summer I took Child
Development with Professor John Pfister and I also cajoled him into being my advisor for an independent
study project on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Trauma in Youth. I was also assisting a faculty
member with a cognitive neuroscience project related to visual memory. I purposely set out to challenge
myself with these two seemingly different projects because I wanted to find out where my true interest
and focus resided. I quickly realized that I was willing to trade the stimuli-response type of controlled
experiments in cognitive labs for the messy and complicated world of child development and psychology. I
was particularly interested in the factors that contribute to the health, academic performance, and
psychological well-being of children and adolescents. I think my experience as a WISP intern and the
subsequent research opportunities that followed helped cultivate that interest. They also gave me
confidence in my ability to take on any challenge. There were so many things I did in graduate school that
people thought were "impossible" or "unheard of", but I always asked “why not?” In grad school I was in
the research track of my program, I completed a minor in another subject, I worked for two different
research projects, all while taking full course loads and participating in student leadership. My Dartmouth
experience gave me the skills, confidence, and attitude to look at the impossible as possible. For this I am
THE NEXT STEPS – Out Into The Real World
I had no idea what I was going to do after graduation. I knew I wanted to do something related to
psychology that would influence the lives of young people.
First, I made a note of the things that I definitely knew I did not want to do (i.e. corporate recruiting). I
started by discussing career ideas with my major advisor Professor Pfister, and also made a visit to
Career Services. I decided to seek out career opportunities related to psychology, children and/or
education. I applied to the Teach for America program and started an application for the Peace Corps.
While applying to the Peace Corps, I stumbled across a program in the Corps related to a master’s degree
in public health. Truthfully, I did not know anyone who had a career in public health and I did not know
what public health folks did. After hours of Internet research, the Peace Corps application fell by the
wayside and I decided to seriously consider a masters-level graduate program in public health.
So, my path took an interesting and fulfilling turn. I attended the
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School for Public Health. I
majored in Health Behavior and Health Education with a minor in
Epidemiology. While at grad school I completed a research
fellowship with the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease
Prevention. I also helped design the psychosocial component of an
obesity prevention project for preadolescent African-American
girls. Also, while working at North Carolina Institute for Public
Health, I worked on a project related to the psychological impact of
TODAY - Developing Careers
Following my graduate studies, I was selected for the US Department of Health and Human Services
(HHS) Emerging Leaders Program (ELP). This is a two year career/leadership development program
intended to recruit and train future leaders for HHS. I am a member of the first class of sixty people, and
we just had a graduation ceremony on July 15th.
During the last two years I have been actively involved in the sciences. HHS’ mission centers on
preserving the health and well-being of the nation. During my rotations I had the opportunity to experience
first-hand major initiatives addressing the challenges of bioterrorism, violence prevention, the
psychological impact of disasters and terrorism, and the co-occurrence of mental and physical health
disorders in children and adolescents.
I currently work as a Public Health Analyst for HHS at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services
Administration, at the Center for Mental Health Services, in the Emergency Mental Health and Trauma
Stress Programs Branch. My major responsibilities at SAMHSA are related to the child trauma and disaster
mental health programs. My professional career is giving me a chance to develop and fine-tune my skills
while also learning how to navigate complex government processes. I currently work on projects related
to child and adolescent mental health and trauma, as well
as the psychosocial impacts of disasters and terrorism
on communities. I am very interested in the benefits that
can be gained in child and adolescent mental health
through effective treatment, the development of new
interventions, and prevention efforts. Therefore, a major
focus of my responsibilities at SAMHSA will be related to
Mental Health program evaluations, as well as exploring
opportunities for enhanced collaboration between Public
Health and Mental Health.
FINDING A BALANCE
My top priorities today are God, my family/friends, and my career. These priorities have not changed much
since my graduation from college. While I was in college community service was something that I really
enjoyed but it was an extracurricular activity in the background of my educational experience. I tried to
participate in organizations that made a meaningful contribution to the Dartmouth community by increasing
student participation in service projects and creating
opportunities for dialogue around culture, race, and
diversity, such as Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Green Key,
the Afro-American Society, and PEAC. I am currently very
passionate about public service, even more so than when I
was involved in service organizations at Dartmouth.
Through the Emerging Leaders Program and my
opportunities at HHS I have come to realize that it is possible
to merge my love of public service with important health
issues to form a meaningful and fulfilling career.
I try to strike a balance by making time for the things I enjoy and by spending quality time with my family
and friends. I try to exercise regularly because physical activity is a great stress-reduction tactic for me.
When time permits, I take dance classes at a studio in DC. This really helps me relax and express my
creativity in a way I cannot in my work world. I talk with my family at least three times a week on the
phone to stay connected, catch up on major events, or to get/give advice. I make time to go to the movies
with my girlfriends, to go dancing, or read a book at least once or twice a month. The two most important
things that have helped me to stay balanced over the last two years were learning to say no (to avoid
being over-committed) and to become better at articulating what I need in order to have a balanced
TENDING TO YOUR EMOTIONAL AND SPIRITUAL WELL-BEING
I find that I doubt my capabilities most either immediately after a difficult academic or career experience OR
when my motivation/drive is waning. To overcome self-doubts I often pray about challenging projects and
I pray to reduce my worry and anxiety. I also draw on support from my family and friends. They help me
keep things in perspective.
ADVICE TO SHARE
Science is more than just studying biology or becoming a doctor. There is a vast array of career
opportunities in science and health-related professions. Feel free to explore areas beyond what others
are doing. As much as possible, you should try to get exposure to the practical application of science.
Science subjects that you liked in college or even the topics you “tested well” in may not be the best
indicator of what a professional career in science is like. Try to vary your internships, work experiences,
and research projects to give you a flavor for what it is like to work in a particular field.
If you are interested in talking to Mikisha about her Dartmouth experience, or her medical school
experiences, you can contact her via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org). Take advantage of
wonderful Dartmouth resources such as successful alumni who have been through it and are there to