April 24, 2015 – This month’s featured alum for the Wildcat Dreams is Dr. Tamara Brown Payne, a licensed therapist, certified counselor and holistic life coach/strategist. She is currently an assistant professor of Rehabilitation Counseling at Fort Valley State University.
Originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., Payne moved to College Park, Georgia, and graduated from Westlake High School in South Fulton County. As an athlete she was offered a basketball scholarship to attend the University of Iowa, but her mother encouraged her to attend an HBCU, so after one visit to Fort Valley, the campus won her heart.
“I fell in love with Fort Valley State’s campus and people” she said. “I always lived in a big city, but loved the feel of the small town. It was like a family.”
As a freshman seeing a college band for the first time, Brown-Payne decided she wanted to dance instead of playing sports.
From 1990 -1994, Payne was a member of the Dancing Dolls for the Blue Machine Marching Band and co-founded the Phases Dance Troup. Payne also volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, and worked as a mentor for at-risk youth in the Reading Is Fundamental program. Other activities included serving as an HIV/AIDS peer educator, and the campus aerobic instructor. She also became a member of the Eta Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
After the death of her mother in 1993, Payne fulfilled her mother’s wish with the encouragement and support from her professors and Fort Valley family and earned her bachelor’s degree in Infant and Child Development in 1994 and remained at Fort Valley to obtain a master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling in 1996.
“When I graduated from FVSU, in my very first job I started working for the Young Adult Guidance Center in Atlanta, a group home,” she said. “I was hired as the Social Service Coordinator from a former student of FVSC, Marion Simpson. He said he saw Fort Valley State on my resume and wanted to give me a chance.”
The job eventually led Payne to work in social services and counseling at the Metro State Prison where she worked as an acute care/crisis stabilization coordinator, counseling female inmates with serious mental and medical issues. She co-developed a behavior modification program and psych educational groups and trained employees on mental health and correctional officers restraining procedures. After two and a half years, Payne began to work for Goodwill Industries of North Georgia in their Welfare-to-Work Program. Right before the program contract ended, she created a new position as the training and development coordinator in Human Resources, where she developed and implemented their Management and Leadership Academy and Employee Development Program.
In October of 2003, Payne received her license as a professional counselor and began serving as the crisis liaison for Goodwill’s employees with mental disorders.
In December 2004, Payne launched her own company, BrownPayne Innovations, which provides training, therapy, life coaching/strategy, and business development and she also started her private practice as a trainer for state agencies and through contract work with Goodwill Industries. The following year, she and her husband, Donald Payne, started a non-profit organization called Cafe Featuring, which promotes diverse independent films and art.
In 2006, Payne earned her doctorate in psychology from Walden University in Minneapolis, Minn.
In 2010, Payne was hired as an FVSU assistant professor. At her alma mater, she also is active in recruitment, program development, and volunteering. Payne has been a Ralph Malone Motivational Task Force consultant since 2008 and has even assisted with the Dancing Dolls. She continues to promote the importance of giving back to Fort Valley financially, volunteering, recruiting, and marketing through sharing their positive experiences and successes.
She has been an article contributor in Essence Magazine on fatigue, a guest life coach on the Atlanta Up Close V-103 and WAOK Radio show, and preface writer in the book, “The System Versus the Law” written by her father.
Payne has been a speaker for AID Atlanta, United Way, Dress for Success, and community programs. She has presented at various national and international conferences focusing on counseling, using psychology to teach life skills, and creative activities for online instruction. Payne and her husband, also a FVSU alum, have two teenaged children, Kenneth and Kamora.
Dr. Payne’s philosophy is “It is what it is, but it doesn’t have to be. An experience is a lesson and the lesson a new experience.”