When the COVID-19 pandemic took the world by storm, many people felt lost as businesses and schools closed and death rates began to rise. However, Mia Brabham, a JMU alumna (’16), found a way to give back during quarantine through her passion for writing.
Brabham majored in media arts and design with a concentration in digital video and cinema and earned a minor in creative writing. Since leaving Harrisonburg, she’s used her degree in both corporate and freelance settings while maintaining an active social media presence on Instagram and Twitter.
After graduating from JMU, she worked in Washington D.C. with Monumental Sports and Entertainment for a year. Brabham was then accepted into the NBC page program where she worked in a variety of roles for a year in LA.
After completing the program, Brabham joined the marketing team of a small documentary company. However, she soon discovered a desire to produce content for herself and shifted to freelance work.
“I didn’t want to spend my whole life creating content for other people,” Brabham said. “I went to school for creative writing because it was something I could do freelance while building my own content. So I started freelance writing and now I am on this freelance journey. I’ve picked up odd jobs like designing websites for people, and I’m really putting my degree to use in every single way possible.”
When the pandemic hit, Brabham lost some of her freelance gigs and decided to pursue one of her lifelong dreams: writing a book. She drew inspiration from a note started on her phone back when she was a student in 2013.
“I was a sophomore at JMU when I started a note on my phone that was brief life lesson sentences,” Brabham said. “I wouldn’t force it, but as I would walk to class or down the street and have realizations, I would write them down, little clips that came to my head.”
Her book, “Notes to Self,” was released in June 2020. On her website, Brabham describes it as “a private diary of moments in time, a collection of personal lessons, an assemblage of knowledge from a girl who knows nothing, really, but might know a thing or two.”
While the book was a passion project for Brabham, she also wanted to use it as an opportunity to give back. She conducted research on nonprofits and came across Girls For A Change, an organization based in Richmond, Virginia that empowers young women of color in middle and high schools.
“I spoke with the founder and said I wanted to give them the first week of profits from my book,” Brabham said. “I am developing a scholarship with them that will be awarded to some of the girls next year.”
Two of Brabham’s former professors, Alexander Leidholdt and Jay Varner, said they reflect fondly on their experiences with her and are amazed by her accomplishments both in school and after graduating.
Leidholt said he recalled that as a freshman, Brabham lobbied to be in a section of his SMAD 150 course when it was full. She presented a strong argument that ultimately persuaded him to grant the override.
“I tried to discourage her from taking the class because it was full, but her will was very strong, stronger than mine,” Leidholdt said. “I do not regret my decision [to let her into my SMAD 150 class]. I think it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made because I had the opportunity to get to know Mia.”
Leidholt praised Brabham’s writing skills and communication abilities, citing her talents at working with a variety of mediums and technologies.
“She’s terrific with new communication technologies and social media,” Leidholt said. “She’s a really talented writer and producer and she’s great on camera, too. I have a really high opinion of what her future will amount to.”
Varner recalled Brabham’s active participation in class as well as her compassion for her fellow Dukes.
“The first memory that comes to mind when I think of Mia in class was how dynamic she was as a student,” Varner said. “Other students were so drawn to her because she is someone who is so passionate and caring and empathetic to others.”
Varner said he’s amazed at how much Brabham has accomplished since graduating only a few years ago.
“She’s like the queen of media,” Varner said. “You look at all of the things Mia has undertaken in terms of mediums, and it’s really impressive. To be as young as she is and to have accomplished so much, she’s just getting started. I can’t wait to see what happens after this.”
Contact Sydney Dudley at email@example.com.