Written by: Charles McNair
Christina Swoope Carrere (BS ’11) first stood on the 50-yard line in Sanford Stadium in the fall of 2004. The nervous teen from Alpharetta, Georgia was only a junior in high school.
It was halftime during a University of Georgia football game, and she was conducting the Redcoat Marching Band as it spelled out G–E–O–R–G–I–A on the gridiron. She had earned this opportunity after winning the UGA Summer Marching Band Camp Drum Major Conducting Competition, representing Atlanta’s Johns Creek High School.
Christina dreamed of one day leading the splendid UGA troupe, even though she didn’t match the typical profile of a Redcoat Drum Major. “Most notably,” she recalls, “I was not a music major.”
Three years later her dream came true. She raised both arms at midfield at the head of that same Redcoat Band – the first Black female drum major in UGA’s history.
In 2009, she once again stood at midfield in Sanford Stadium. This time, she raised a rose bouquet as one of the first Black homecoming queens in UGA history. Christina’s 100-watt smile shone through tears. The Redcoat Band – her Redcoat Band – erupted in celebration.
“That was the moment I realized how much of my life has been changed because of this university,” Christina says. “Some of the most special moments in my life took place on that field.”
Marching into a bright career
Christina’s 50-yard line has now moved north, to Washington, D.C.
At graduation, she was named a Barbara Jordan Health Policy Scholar, working in the office of then U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe. The Jordan program brings talented young scholars to Washington, D.C., to work in congressional offices and learn health policy. Christina showed an aptitude for health policy analysis, with a focus on issues affecting underserved populations. She went on to earn a Master of Science in public health at Johns Hopkins University, then became a policy analyst at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
Today she works in the White House Office of Management and Budget, focused on Medicare and the 60 million Americans it serves. She’s tasked with informing views on complex and sensitive policy areas like Medicare eligibility and prescription drugs.
It’s meaningful work. Christina led the development of a Medicare prescription drug reform package that produced nearly $90 billion in savings to the Medicare trust funds, reduced drug prices and modernized drug benefits. She also earned recognition for her pivotal role in developing a balanced government policy to reduce the supply and demand of addictive opioids.
Christina brings the same boundless energy to government work that she brought to UGA.
“Some people burn the candle at both ends,” she says. “I’m the kind who just throws the whole candle in the fire.”
This kind of zeal marked her years at UGA. She was Student Alumni Council vice president and Events Committee chair, Omicron Delta Kappa secretary, a 2009 Presidential Scholar, UGA Outstanding Senior Leader, INROADS Rising Star (and Intern of the Year), UGA EXCEL Award recipient, and UGA Choice Award recipient.
And her UGA honors still haven’t stopped.
In 2020, Christina received UGA’s Young Alumni Award, given to those who attended the university in the past 10 years, and who have embodied the Pillars of the Arch—wisdom, justice and moderation–and provided notable service to UGA.
View from a bridge
Christina loves a quote from former United States First Lady Michelle Obama:
“When you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.”
“I like to expand on that,” Christina laughs. “Not only do you not slam the door, but you also open all the emergency exits and windows and get a bigger table and pull up chairs.”
“As a trailblazer, it’s my responsibility to make sure I am not the last. A path is only useful if others know it exists, and I’m committed to reaching back to help others find it.”
She’s as good as her word. She stays close to UGA as the immediate past president of the Redcoat Band Alumni Association Board of Directors, the founder and chair of the Redcoat Young Alumni Council, and a 40 Under 40 Class of 2016 honoree. She returns regularly to speak to UGA students and alumni, building new bridges to her alma mater.
And on the subject of bridges, “Some of my favorite UGA memories are of walking across campus with friends and standing on the bridge looking into Sanford Stadium,” Christina says.
From there, Christina can see the 50-yard line.
“It’s a really special place,” she says. “So much happened there that made me who I am.”
Our Georgia trailblazer series profiles Black students at UGA who took the first brave steps to create the diverse and inclusive university we are today. Want to know more about other pioneers?
Charlayne Hunter (ABJ ’63) and Hamilton Holmes (BS ’63) were the first Black students to enroll at UGA.
- Read their accomplishments here: desegregation.uga.edu
Mary Frances Early (MMED ’62, EDS ’67) was the first Black student to graduate from UGA. The College of Education is named for her. Learn more at: