Fort Valley State Alumna Nominates Master of Public Health Program Coordinator for Diversity, Inclusion Award

by ChaNae` Bradley

Posted on Oct 12, 2023

Seeing her students succeed in their field of study is the hallmark of Dr. Oreta Samples’ teaching career. One recent graduate is now praising her for the impact she has made in her life while studying at Fort Valley State University (FVSU) in the Master of Public Health (MPH) Program. 

Alumna Caroline Obi nominated Samples, FVSU assistant professor and MPH Program coordinator, for the National Environmental Health Association’s (NEHA) Dr. Bailus Walker Jr. Diversity and Inclusion Awareness Award. NEHA is the accrediting body for FVSU’s MPH Program. 

This prestigious award honors faculty members involved in environmental health sciences who have made significant achievements in the development and enhancement of a more culturally diverse, inclusive and competent environment. 

“During my studies at FVSU, I had the honor of working with Dr. Samples as a graduate assistant. She left a lasting impact on me, much like a ‘good teacher’ as defined by my parents. Not only did she focus on academics, but she also recognized and nurtured my strengths, challenging me to grow beyond my academic and background limitations,” Obi said, describing her mentor. 

She is grateful for Samples’ positive influence on her professional development. Obi said as her graduate supervisor, Samples provided her with the first opportunity to professionally challenge herself as an international student. 

“As program coordinator, she demonstrated an unwavering commitment to all students, ensuring that they received equal support in their personal, academic and professional pursuits,” Obi added. “Thanks to her efforts, I was able to secure my first internship through a mass email she regularly sent out about opportunities. This experience proved to be a significant milestone in my public health career.” 

Because of Samples’ impact, the 2023 FVSU graduate said it was a fulfilling moment in her career when NEHA notified her of nominations for the Dr. Bailus Walker Jr. Diversity and Inclusion Awareness Award. 

“I am delighted to hear that Dr. Samples has received a well-deserved recognition for her dedication and tireless work ethic,” Obi expressed. “I remain grateful for her positive influence on my life and career.” 

For Samples, who is a triple FVSU graduate, Obi is a testament of her purpose as an educator. To receive an award for what she enjoys doing every day since 1995 and to be nominated by an esteemed student brought tears to her eyes. 

“My faculty and I try to put our best foot forward and give our students the best that we can give them,” Samples said. “But, how do you know if your best is what they needed to get ahead?” 

She declared that Obi is a perfect example. Obi was hired six months before graduation in 2023 to work as a lead specialist with the Georgia Department of Public Health’s North Central Health District in Macon, Georgia, examining lead in water for the safety of children. The Wildcat now serves as the district lead and healthy homes coordinator. Samples is proud of her former student’s success. 

“The fact that she has done so well so quickly and is so well thought of, that is what makes this job fun. It’s for the success stories and the people who can be a success if you just give them a little help,” she said. 

As a historically Black university, FVSU is serving diverse students from around the world. Samples noted approximately 60 students are enrolled in the MPH Program with a 10% international student body from Nigeria. 

“We are so proud of our international students, which they promote the program mainly through word of mouth. We have built a good community here at FVSU. My name may be on the plaque, but the program won,” she said, referring to her award. “We have a good program, and it is growing by leaps and bounds.” 

For more information about FVSU’s MPH Program, visit 

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