Alumni Spotlight

UM Grad’s Work Impacts COVID-19 Response

Michelle Pennington Alumni

I serve as a Special Projects Intern with the Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency, working on a variety of projects that feed into the planning, logistics, and public information operations of the Agency’s COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.

Most notably, I am engaged in data gathering for the purposes of constructing a series of graphs. One of these graphs tracks the number of COVID-19 cases in Baldwin County on a cumulative basis, another compares cumulative cases in Baldwin County with cumulative cases in the state of Alabama, and another compares the number of new cases per day between Baldwin County and the state of Alabama. The two cumulative graphs are narrated with key decisions that have been made on national, state, and local levels. All of this information is presented in a variety of ways to county commissioners, mayors, the healthcare community, and others who are trying to make decisions regarding COVID-19 response. This information is also being used to gauge Baldwin County’s response to the pandemic and for historical documentation.

So, how does my time at UM impact how and why I serve others the way I do during this pandemic?

I struggle answering this question because any answer I give could never do it justice. There is so much. My tenure of seven years at UM is longer than that of some students, and it spans two different seasons of my life. The first time through, I was a traditional right-out-of-high-school, full-time student. The second time through, I was a full-time working adult going to school part-time.

Regardless of whether I was pursuing my art major or my biology major, self-discipline, strong attention to detail, and persistence were required. Sure, I learned the skills of the trade that my professors were tirelessly trying to teach me. I kept chipping away, they hung in there with me, and we all eventually got through it.

But there was something else, something deeper. I learned the value of being part of a team for the greater good – in a life sense, not just a sports sense. I developed the courage to own my decisions in a different way than I had before. And I began to understand the fulfillment that comes with the daily searching for, discovering, and living one’s purpose; with accomplishing the good things we were made to accomplish day by day.

About the Author

Michelle Pennington

Syble Michelle Pennington earned a Bachelor of Art in art (2000) and a Bachelor of Science in biology (2005) at the University of Mobile. She went on to earn a Master of Environmental Management at Duke University (2009). After 13 years in science education, Michelle left the teaching profession in early July to transition into the emergency management profession. She is currently a Special Projects Intern with the Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency. Her goal is to help protect lives and the environment.