RaaShauna Payne

This Pirate is using
her story to encourage students

Public health studies major RaaShauna Payne is using her story to encourage students to keep pressing forward despite setbacks.

Payne credits her determination to a moment she says helped her to take control of her life. During the first semester of her senior year of high school, she received a rejection letter from East Carolina University, the only university she had set her sights on.
She refused to be discouraged. That same year, she applied again – this time after getting serious about her studies and retaking her ACT. And she was accepted.

Now, Payne is a Dean’s List student who earned a spot on the ECU Cheerleading team, helped fellow students as a resident assistant in Tyler Hall, and works in the university admissions office.

Payne’s collegiate success did not come without its challenges. During her sophomore year, she got her first and only C- in chemistry, a class that requires at least a C for admittance into the nursing program, Payne’s career choice.

“It was really tough for me,” said Payne. “When I talked with the academic advisors, my friends and everyone else, they really made me feel secure. You know that time when you don’t know what you’re doing and you wasted like two years? That’s when I really knew that I was meant to be here, when I saw that people supported me no matter what and I saw that the faculty were really good. That’s when I was like, ‘I love ECU. This is the place for me.’”

And without that C-, Payne says she never would have discovered her passion for public health.

“Your parents usually don’t tell you, ‘Be a health educator.’ It’s usually doctor, lawyer or scientist, so when I talked to an advisor, they introduced me to public health and I was like, ‘Oh, I like it! I’ll stick with it.’”

Hoping to make a difference on a bigger scale and reduce health disparity in minority communities, Payne has dreams of opening her own nonprofit. To do so, she plans to obtain a master’s in business with a certificate in health administration. She also hopes to earn a doctorate in epidemiology in order to study diseases.

“My personal mission statement is to always give back to the community and always encourage people no matter their circumstances,” she said.

Payne will begin an internship with the American Heart Association in Los Angeles in May, just 10 days after graduation.

How did you get involved with the ECU Cheerleading squad?

I’ve been cheering since I was 5. I’m 21 now, so a long time. I looked up the information and I tried out. There were 160 girls here for 40 spots so I was nervous just like anybody else, but luckily I got the call back that I made the team.

How do you keep the discipline?

A planner. I have a good GPA. The only C I had was in chemistry. My planner is my best friend. I write everything out and I know that at the end of the day (what) needs to be done like two weeks in advance.

What is some advice you have for incoming freshmen?

I always tell students to get involved. That’s so important. You feel united with the school and you can meet people and also get those recommendations and (build) relationships with faculty. You meet them by getting involved. I would also tell them to be open to diversity. Don’t just be a student who makes great grades. Be a student that can connect with other people. In this world, (employers) are looking for diverse people. I believe being open to diversity can help us come together as a nation.

What is something cool about ECU that you wish you knew during your first year?

I wish I was more aware of the programs at this university that are nationally ranked.




Photography by: Cliff Hollis
Written by: Summer Tillman


College: Health and Human Performance

Major: Public health studies with a concentration in community health

Age: 21

Classification/Year: Senior

Hometown: Winston-Salem, NC

Clubs & Organizations: ECU All Girl cheerleading team

Hobbies & Interests: Traveling


Favorite place to eat: Basil's

Favorite website: Netflix

Favorite place on campus: ECU Mall

Favorite hangout: ECU Recreation Center

Favorite class: Women Studies

Favorite TV show: Anything on BRAVO


Most Influential Professor: Dr. Craig Becker

The one thing you cannot live without: My phone

Role Models: Gabrielle Union 

Dream job: A CEO of a public health facility

Advice for fellow students: Always try to stay involved with the campus and the community to develop not only connections, but also experiences.

Words of Wisdom

"The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones that do."

- RaaShauna Payne