Student Pursues Master’s to Expand Senior Care in Black Communities

Kris Brannon wants to level the playing field in long-term care in Black communities. Her experience in women’s tackle football is going to help her do that.

Kris Brannon won’t let anything or anyone stand in her way. Whether she’s tackling opponents on the football field or taking on big assignments in the classroom, she knows what she wants and works hard to get it.

Brannon’s love of football started when she was a child, playing helmet-to-helmet with her brothers in the backyard. After being placed in foster care and then eventually having her own child, it would be many years before she played again. At age 30, she returned to her football roots and tried out for a women’s tackle football team. With great determination, she made the team and went on to play for eight years. After retiring at age 38, she also spent time as part owner of a Women’s National Football Conference team, the Los Angeles Bobcats.

Brannon now seeks to level the playing field in another arena. She has her sights set on a master of arts in Long-Term Care Administration and plans to open her own long-term care facility to serve low-income Black communities.

Whether challenging the status quo in sports or in the business world — she also owns a tax preparation company — Brannon is poised to make positive changes.

Addressing disparities in long-term care

Brannon’s interest in gerontology started with her grandmother, whom she helped care for and watched decline. Wanting to learn more about caregiving, she received her certified nursing assistant license in 2012.

Since then, she’s worked in home care and long-term facilities. Brannon says, “I have skin in the game. I’ve changed briefs, pureed food and gone through the grit of what it takes to care for someone.”

Between 2016 and 2020, she looked after Melanie, an older woman who inspired her to go back to school. When Brannon met Melanie at age 89, she was frail and alone. “I saw the lack of long-term care, adult daycare and hospice services for older adults in our Black community. I felt like I needed to change that,” she says.

Online, Brannon found the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. “I already had experience with older adults,” she says. “I started from the bottom, and it was time for me to elevate.” In 2020, Brannon finally decided to apply and was accepted.

Training for leadership in long-term care

According to longtermcare.gov, individuals age 65 and up have a nearly 70% chance of needing long-term care services. The Master of Arts in Long-Term Care Administration prepares students for leadership roles in supportive senior living environments. USC Leonard Davis students who can step into leadership roles in this field are in high demand.

Brannon’s vision is to make sure the seniors she serves are living in an environment catered to them. She’s been looking into the Atlanta area as a potential location and options for grants and loans. Atlanta has a highly concentrated Black population and lower property costs than LA, she says.

“This program is preparing me for leadership. The courses that I’ve chosen so far have brought awareness to how to plan, organize, evaluate and brand a business,” Brannon explains. “I never made those connections before USC. But as I’m taking the courses, it just kind of clicks. This program is preparing me to influence people who can help me achieve my vision.”

Confidence to pursue “the life I’ve dreamed of”

Brannon says, “Of all the schools I’ve been to, I don’t think I’ve had as much support as at USC Leonard Davis. I’ve been able to talk to my professors outside of class and just have regular conversations. They’ve created an environment where I feel very included.”

Brannon credits her professors, especially Associate Professor Caroline Cicero and Professor Kathleen Wilbur, for opening her eyes to things she’s never thought of before. They’ve given her the courage to think about pursuing a doctorate. Brannon says, “If I do want to develop this long-term care community, the doctorate program may help me do that.”

“When I started, I thought I wasn’t smart enough. My experience at USC Leonard Davis has given me the confidence to know that I will be successful,” Brannon says. After tackling so many other challenges in her life, there’s no doubt she can achieve anything she sets her mind to. “This program is going to provide me the life that I that I’ve dreamed of. This is where it’s going to start.”

To learn more about the Master of Arts in Long-Term Care Administration program at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, call us at (213) 740-5156.