Alumni Feature: Samantha Arndt Shares Her Experience Working at the CDC
By Hibah Ahmad
Samantha Arndt graduated with an MA in international and intercultural communication in 2020.
What is your current position, and what responsibilities does it entail?
I am a health communications specialist at the CDC. My job is in the Office of the Director at the Office of Science. There are many different divisions within the CDC that have an Office of Science. The one I work for is not under any centers; we are outside of that. Our office works with science quality, science integrity, genomics, technology and innovation. I like to think of our office like an umbrella because we get to work across the entire agency.
Because of this, I have lots of different roles and responsibilities! This includes creating and editing communication materials, data analytics, collaborative projects across offices, and even elements of graphic design. That is a broad explanation of the many different hats I get to wear. Every day is different!
Considering the COVID-19 pandemic, how important is your position?
For health communication specialists in general, I feel it is important to take different perspectives and views into account. This is especially important because the pandemic has been so heavily politicized. It is about taking politics out of it and focusing on science. How do we give the information in a way that is approachable, understandable and digestible? And how do we make it so it does not offend anyone? With how much of a political topic the pandemic has become, it is important for communicators to recognize their own biases and understand the best way to get information to people.
How has your time at DU prepared you for your current role?
The critical thinking skills I gained from my [graduate program] have been extremely helpful, especially when it comes to media and misinformation. How do we counter misinformation? How do we include different perspectives when those voices are not in the room? How do we address communities that have had negative experiences with health agencies? My time at DU has given me a mindset where I can analyze issues, outline the steps that need to be taken and understand how to implement them successfully. These can involve establishing relationships, rebuilding bridges and making sure everyone is getting the necessary information.
What are your long-term goals?
When it comes to education, I would like to get my PhD in communications. I find how language influences actions and the changes we see from that—whether they be positive or negative—to be incredibly interesting. I have also found my happy place of work. I am doing work that has a positive impact on a wide group of people, which has been a goal of mine since I was a child. I truly enjoy what I do and hope to stay in public health for a long time.
What do you enjoy the most about working at the CDC?
I have the opportunity to attend webinars happening around the CDC. I get to learn about all these interesting topics that I would never have gotten the chance to listen to otherwise. If I do not have any meetings, I will listen to webinars and work on projects at the same time. It is the coolest thing ever! It is like listening to the most awesome podcast.
What advice would you give students going out into the workforce?
Your experiences are normalized to you because you lived them. It is the same for everyone else. That does not make you any less extraordinary. As someone who struggles with imposter syndrome, I often do not see myself on the same playing field as my co-workers. But, after speaking with them, I can say with confidence that most of us feel the same way. Everyone is amazing and has so much to bring to the table. I may just be me, but you are just being you, and each of us has done extraordinary things.