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Staff Spotlight: Samantha Hansford

December 7, 2023 | Erin Bluvas,

“There is something about Columbia that brings you back,” Samantha Hansford says of returning to her hometown after her only departure to study at Queens University.

The Graduate Student Services Coordinator has been at the Arnold School for two years, but she has been passionate about higher education since getting her start in admissions and student affairs at South University’s School of Pharmacy. During her seven years with South, she completed a Master’s of Leadership and really connected with the students.

“I loved watching them start the program and watch their progression to graduation,” Hansford says. “They became my ‘kids’ and I felt so proud of their accomplishments and were there to lend a shoulder to cry on.”

During this time, Hansford had her own kid, Elise, who was diagnosed with Atrial Septum Defect at four months. She underwent open heart surgery in 2019 at the age of five. Now ten years old, Elise has been cleared to resume all activities since she was six, but the ordeal made a major impact on Hansford.

Samantha Hansford
Samantha Hansford is the Graduate Student Services Coordinator for the Arnold School of Public Health. 

“This experience lit a passion in me to spread awareness about congenital heart defects as one in 100 children are born with one,” says Hansford, who became involved with the American Heart Association, which named Elise Heart Hero for 2020. “We got to share Elise’s story with attendees at the Heart Ball in 2020, and then the world stopped with COVID. Since then, Elise has been living life to the fullest, telling her friends about her ‘zipper’ scar and her journey. I couldn’t be prouder of her.”

With a background and a passion for higher education and health, Hansford knew that the Arnold School offered a path back to her first love. She recently marked her two-year anniversary with the Office of Graduate Student Services.

“It’s been a match made in heaven,” Hansford says. “I am proud to work at the Arnold School where I feel supported by my boss and the deans, and I love working with our students and being able to answer important questions for them.”

A typical day involves a lot of multitasking – processing applications, reviewing and approving students for courses each semester, planning and holding the annual Hooding ceremony, hiring students for graduate and teaching assistantships, supporting the Dean’s Student Advisory Council, and visiting schools and graduate fairs. This last activity includes traveling to the annual American Public Health Association Conferences – one of her favorite events each year.

“I’ve gotten to travel to Boston and Atlanta, promoting our school, visiting students participating in poster presentations, and helping with our annual social,” Hansford says. “Planning events is something that I love to do. I was so proud to be entrusted to plan and execute this event, and I cannot wait until next year in Minneapolis.”

I am proud to work at the Arnold School where I feel supported by my boss and the deans, and I love working with our students and being able to answer important questions for them.

Samantha Hansford

Another favorite activity for Hansford, is the Families Helping Families fundraiser that her office leads with DSAC each year. She loves seeing the school come together to help a family during the holiday season. This season, their team has selected a family with disabled child, and Hansford understands first-hand what it’s like to face hospital bills, medications, doctor appointments and other challenges.

Well past the hardest parts of their own health challenges, Hansford and her family are focused on enjoying life. In addition to being a big Broadway fan, Hansford is involved with local theater (favorites include Elf, The Wedding Singer and Little Shop of Horrors) and is part of a Dinner Detective Cast that entertains audiences with Murder Mystery Dinners.

"Samantha’s outgoing personality makes her the perfect fit for student services and the first point of contact for potential students," says Christy Smith, director of graduate student services. "She does a wonderful job with recruitment and processing admissions, but where she truly shines is with student activities and special events. She was instrumental in the success of our annual Hooding ceremony and recent reception during the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting. Samantha is always willing to pitch in and help where needed and is invaluable to the Office of Graduate Student Services and the Arnold School of Public Health!"

The Staff Spotlight Series is sponsored by the Arnold School's Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.


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