“I Wanted to Run This Race Until it Was Finished”

Emily Campbell
Emily Campbell

Her family taught her compassion. Her professors at Arkansas Tech University provided her with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in emergency management.

But it was a triumph over a life-threatening medical condition that proved Emily Campbell has the grit and determination to achieve her goals.

Now, she is a member of the ATU Class of 2020 and employed at the Arkansas Department of Health as an emergency communication specialist.

“It’s like being on a mountain top,” said Campbell. “It’s like I climbed a 14,000-foot mountain.”

Campbell grew up in Bauxite. She watched her mother, Jackie, serve as an American Red Cross volunteer. If there was a house fire in the Saline County region, there’s a good chance Jackie was there to comfort and provide assistance to the victims.

There were 86 members of the Bauxite High School Class of 2011. Campbell was one of them, and one of 13 Miners who traded their black and silver for green and gold the following fall. She immediately felt at home at Arkansas Tech.

“I didn’t feel like I was lost amongst everyone else,” said Campbell. “There were people there who knew who I was. Rather than just being another student wandering around campus, the professors knew who I was. I wasn’t lost in the crowd.”

Then the migraines started. Campbell couldn’t attend class. She left ATU and returned home to Bauxite, but the pain continued. She soon learned the cause: a brain tumor.

Campbell endured eight months of radiation and chemotherapy. She lost the ability to walk for a time, but through it all she remained steadfast in her determination to return to ATU and finish what she had started. That process resumed in fall 2017.

“Once I got back into college, I realized I wasn’t as young as I once was,” said Campbell. “Things had changed…it had been three years…so it was really difficult that first semester. But God gave me the strength to push through. I had a goal to see this through to completion. I wanted to run this race until it was finished, and I wanted to be able to hang a degree on my wall.”

Campbell chipped away at her degree requirements, the last of which was a 400-hour internship during the spring 2020 semester. The ATU Department of Emergency Management helped her gain an opportunity at the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH).

“They use their connections to help get you where you need to be,” said Campbell when asked about her ATU emergency management professors. “We had so many guest speakers, and that’s how I found my internship.”

The plan was for Campbell to work on a project assisting the U.S. Postal Service in improving its anthrax detection methods as the focus of her internship.

Soon after the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in March, she was instead assisting the ADH emergency operations center by receiving and responding to phone calls from concerned citizens. Through hard work and networking, she converted that opportunity into her full-time position as an emergency communication specialist.

“I kept saying, ‘hi, my name is Emily, I can do this,’” said Campbell. “Also, knowing the jargon has really helped. Not everyone in the emergency operations center has an emergency management background, so I’ve been able to help explain some things along the way. You also have to have some kindness.”

In the long term, Campbell is interested in pursuing emergency management career opportunities within the health care industry, particularly in rural areas like her hometown.

“I want to make sure these smaller hospitals that are being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients are able to be prepared, too,” said Campbell. “Every person is worth something. Every person deserves to have help in some way. I want to love everybody regardless of social status or race. That’s how I want to live my life…helping people.”