UAH alumna Anna Shavers lives her passion every day

Anna Shavers

UAH alumna Anna Shavers teaches a class and conducts a community mapping activity. Community mapping is used to assess the needs of local communities.

Courtesy Photo: Anna Shavers

There is a difference between a career, and being passionate about your work. For Anna Shavers (’13, BSBA MKT), there is nothing more profound than loving what you do — every day.

An alumna of The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) College of Business, Shavers recently left a great management job with unlimited career potential for a "dream" assignment working with the Peace Corps in South Africa.

"I believe individuals who go into social service career fields have a real passion for people and for contributing to the bigger picture," said Shavers. "My one piece of advice is to keep the passion close. I know from experience that sometimes our everyday lives and careers can get off track, or we lose sight of that passionate enthusiasm."

She graduated from Buckhorn High School in 2009, earning top academic honors. After graduating cum laude from UAH, she earned a master’s degree in public health administration from Troy University.

Shavers collegiate plans did not include attending UAH.

"My original plan for college did not include staying in Huntsville. During my senior year of high school, I visited the campus of a university I planned to attend. While visiting the campus, something didn't feel right. I came back to Huntsville and began reconsidering my options.

"I had friends planning to attend UAH, and they encouraged me to explore the programs. Enrolling at a local university seemed the best financial and academic option for me until I decided on a major," she said.

Still, it took Shavers a while to gain her academic footing. "I teetered between journalism, nursing, premedical, sociology, and graphic design. I remember my dad was not 100 percent on board with some of my proposed degree options. As a UAH engineering graduate, he always thought I should pursue a degree in one of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields."

She enrolled in UAH as an undeclared major. Shavers consistently worked two to three jobs at a time to help with academic expenses. For a time, she wrote for the campus newspaper, The Exponent. Shavers also worked as a retail salesperson and office administrator. "My supervisors always complimented me on my ability to handle and conduct detailed office tasks and encouraged me to consider business as a degree option."

UAH alumna Anna Shavers (’13, BSBA MK) in rural South Africa.

Courtesy Photo: Anna Shavers

But Shavers never imagined business as an academic major. Her first thoughts of a business career included "stuffy offices and fancy suits." Wanting to keep all academic options open, she decided to speak to her UAH counselor about various career paths in business.

"I told my counselor that I didn't want an office job crunching numbers all day. She mentioned marketing and explained the ‘people to people’ aspect associated with buying and selling a product or service and the psychology and sociology of creating lasting relationships with customers," said Shavers. "After some schedule shifting, I declared my major as marketing. And, after that first marketing class, I was hooked."

During her time at UAH, Shavers was able to do some in-class assignments and research projects in a group setting. "In my last marketing class we created a real marketing plan for an organization in the community. I also enjoyed working with my peers. If I remember correctly, one of our group assignments involved the UAH College of Business."

Although it took her a while to decide on a major, Shavers always knew social service would be part of her long-term employment plan. Her jobs before and during her time at UAH all had a common theme — working for a business that changed lives every day, but not overly concerned about profit. "My College of Business professors were excellent and knowledgeable in the fields they taught at UAH. The one class that really solidified everything for me was my service marketing class," she said. "I'm not sure if the course is still a part of the curriculum, but it focused on the action and service parts of marketing and not necessarily the physical product.

"My education at the university gave me the groundwork for creating the career that I wanted in life. Having that base of a marketing degree opened a lot of doors for me," Shavers said. "I always knew I wanted a job in the public sector, and sharing my UAH experiences with prospective employers helped me get my foot in the door for a coveted internship with the Arthritis Foundation and my first job out of college at the Boy Scouts of America (BSA)."

During her time at BSA, Shavers decided to go back to school to earn her graduate degree in public health.

"I always loved the health field, so when an opportunity became available at The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) working on fundraising programs at the School of Medicine, I couldn't say no," Shavers said. "Working at UAB, where there is so much diverse medical and healthcare knowledge, was amazing. I worked on projects with the Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Transplant Institute and the School of Public Health. While there, I had great mentors who really helped shape my career path. They encouraged and guided me into a few years focused on annual giving and fundraising."

Two years later, Shavers accepted a job at The University of North Florida (UNF) as director of annual giving. She took a struggling development program and launched a new fundraising campaign. "We had successful and unsuccessful programs, but UNF is where I feel I grew the most in my career. Because I was building an in-house development program, I hit roadblocks and survived challenges that I never really faced before. At UNF, I really got in tune with what I was looking for in a career."

Working with the Peace Corps is a dream goal for Shavers. She began her assignment as Community HIV/AIDS Outreach Coordinator in January. Always enthusiastic about helping others, Shavers said the career change is a "perfect fit" to work in international health development and to support communities.

She was not overly concerned about an international move. "While I had only been out of the country twice before moving to South Africa, this move felt like the right decision. Even though I've felt a little nervous, for the most part, I’ve felt calm and content that I made the right decision to move."

Shavers is responsible for working in a local, rural area focused on providing support and mentorship to a community in the form of health skills, safe sex practices, and HIV/AIDS prevention. "The program partners with PEPFAR (President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief). The goals of the program are to reduce HIV/AIDS transmissions and support the health and wellbeing of orphaned and vulnerable children, youth, caregivers and others living with HIV."

In addition, Shavers said, PEPFAR also addresses societal norms and beliefs that contribute to stigma and discrimination. "I will be in the community for two years following training, which will end on April 1, when I swear in as a Peace Corps volunteer."