April 16, 2020
Robey Champine is an assistant professor in MSU’s online Master of Public Health program. She talks about working for the FBI — how her experiences shaped her understanding of crime and disorder as public health concerns and informed her interests in trauma-informed approaches. Find the full story here.
As a child, my career goal was to become an FBI special agent. From a young age, I was interested in crime and solving mysteries. This interest stemmed, in large part, from hearing about my cousin’s career in counterterrorism as a lead FBI special agent. He was an important mentor figure to me.
Early in my college years, I primarily viewed crime as a public safety concern and was focused on addressing risk factors for criminal behavior. However, my experience while earning my master’s degree in criminology changed my perspective.
My coursework, coupled with ride-alongs with the Philadelphia police through some incredibly low-resource communities, marked a turning point for me.
I began to see crime and disorder as key public health issues linked to deeply rooted systems of oppression and structural and social inequities. With this new focus, I returned to school to earn a master’s degree in public health.
I then realized my childhood dream and worked for the FBI for two years.
Working for the FBI and shifting my perspective
During my time with the FBI, I served as a psychological and behavioral analyst. I realized that I wanted to do more applied research in partnership with communities and families — more specifically, by working with young people to prevent them from engaging in risk behaviors.
So, I went back to school to earn a doctorate in child study and human development with an emphasis on positive youth development and strength-based approaches.
During my postdoctoral training at the Yale School of Medicine Division of Prevention and Community Research, and the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut, I developed a strong interest in adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, and trauma-informed approaches.
ACEs are potentially traumatic events that occur during childhood and adolescence and have the potential to negatively impact an individual’s cognitive, emotional and behavioral functioning. ACEs include poverty, abuse/neglect, racism/discrimination, homelessness and violence.
When considering trauma, strength-based approaches involve embracing and elevating young people’s talents and abilities to nurture their healthy development.
Partnering with communities to address public health needs
What drew me to join the faculty of MSU’s Master of Public Health, or MPH, program is its emphasis on partnering with communities to address their public health needs and priorities in a manner that is culturally responsive and respectful.
I especially value the program’s emphasis on community-based participatory approaches, in which stakeholders are actively engaged as partners in the processes of program development, implementation, evaluation and research dissemination.
This approach is highly consistent with my work, which is focused on partnering with underserved youth and families to develop and implement psychological and behavioral health interventions that are attuned to local, structural and social determinants of health and that empower stakeholders to achieve positive change.
Preparing public health leaders
In the MPH program, I integrate my diverse research experience in both my teaching and mentoring.
One of the things that I have enjoyed most about working with the students in the program is the diverse backgrounds and skills that they bring, which I think helps to enrich the quality of class discussions and the work that they produce.
Our goal is to enhance students’ capacities to serve as leaders in the field of public health through advancing public health research, policy and practice.