Growing up in a small Georgia town where she attended segregated schools from first to sixth grades means, says Debnam, “that my passion for underrepresented populations has roots in my own life.” At the University of Georgia, where she earned her bachelor’s degree, she was deeply discouraged by the absence of administrators or faculty of color. “So, as an adult, I have immense compassion for students navigating a university environment in the face of known and unknown barriers,” she explains.
Debnam has held varied roles at IU, but the role of career coach suits her best. “I love it so much,” she says. “In my heart of hearts, I’m really student-centered. I come from a family of public school teachers, so helping students seems to be in my DNA.” Like every Walter Center career coach, she works with students across the College and its three schools, though her focus is students in biology, microbiology, molecular life science, and animal behavior.
Because she knows exactly what it can be like for a student to be tormented by career anxiety at 2:00 a.m., Debnam is proud that the Walter Center offers a wide range of online resources for 24/7 help. And she’s especially proud that the Center is seeing increased engagement with underrepresented students. “A lot of that has to do with our becoming a trusted source and a trusted voice,” she concludes.
Story by Julie Gray