First Generation College Graduate’s Ambitions Are Sky High

Brandon Bond, Master’s Student in Health Behavior and Health Education and Global Social Work Practice, University of Michigan School of Public Health

Brandon Bond

Master’s Student in Health Behavior and Health Education and Global Social Work Practice, PHSAD Alumni Scholar

“Adventurous” might be the best word to describe Brandon Bond.

He’s a first-generation college grad whose very first flight was to a foreign country where he then lived for two months. Needless to say, fear is on the backburner for Bond.

First Gen

Bond was the first in his family to earn a college degree, and he went full throttle by pursuing dual master’s degrees in Public Health and Social Work.

“I wanted to find a way to incorporate both fields,” muses Bond. “Both programs provide unique skills and perspectives that I wanted to develop, and I recognized that, in many ways, the two can't be successful without each other. I couldn’t see myself leading projects without utilizing the input of community members and I couldn’t work with community members without understanding the programs and policies that impact them.”

Not only was he the first to get a college degree in his family, but working in health is not exactly a family tradition. “Both my parents work in banking. No one in my family really does anything health-related,” says Bond.

“I've always been interested in health. Almost everyone wants to be a doctor at some point, but luckily for me, I dropped the whole doctor phase in high school after AP Bio. I knew I wanted to learn more about the capacity of the human mind and how social issues influence people’s health. And I didn't feel like that was the focus of a medical doctor,” Bond recounts.

The Michigan native went on to double major in Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience and International Studies at Michigan. “Before my freshman year started, I was part of the Summer Bridge Scholars Program here at Michigan. That was an eye-opening experience in terms of the resources, the community, and getting me prepared for college in general,” says Bond.

“I give a lot of props to the Bridge program, as it empowered me and fostered my personal development,” says Bond. He did an Alternative Spring Break trip to Detroit freshman year where he was able to do LGBTQ awareness and advocacy work, which led to his minor in Community Action Social Change.

Bond grew up 15 minutes from Ann Arbor—in Belleville, Michigan—so staying at Michigan for graduate school felt very comfortable. “All of my close family is in Michigan, and based on my undergrad experience, I knew Michigan had a lot to offer opportunity-wise,” explains Bond. “It made the transition a lot easier, especially as a first-generation student. I wanted to make sure I didn’t mess things up or get into a crazy amount of debt.”

Freedom of Flight

It was in undergrad that Bond discovered the joy of flight. Connections to the Center for Global and Intercultural Study and the Residential College nudged him toward International Studies, specifically in global health.

“My family didn’t travel, especially not outside of the country. Until last year, I was the only one in my entire family to have a passport,” shares Bond. “After freshman year, I studied abroad in the UK and then Mexico the same summer. It’s wild that my first plane ride was to London. Being on a plane in the first place, and then going across the ocean when I can't swim, landing in a country where I didn't know a single person—those trips changed me for the better.”

Bond has also traveled to Brazil, Spain, and Columbia University in New York City for further studies.

His grad school interests (and the pandemic), have kept him much closer to home. Bond is a Wellness Coach with Wolverine Wellness, which he describes as an internship and a class rolled into one. “We get trained in different health subjects, but all of us do alcohol and other substance coaching. We also get coaching training for sleep, relationships, sexual health, COVID, academic support, and identity-based care. Last year I conducted a group for Black graduate students to create a space that typically isn't provided on campus for Black students to connect and practice investing in our well-being.”

As far as the future, Bond hopes to earn fellowships focused on global health and leadership development. “I intend to return to school for my doctorate in public health, concentrating in global health leadership and humanitarian aid.”