Andrea Brayboy portrait

Alumni You Should Know: Andrea Brayboy ’22, Chief of CalFresh and Nutrition Branch, California Department of Social Services, Inland Empire, Calif.

In 2020, Andrea Brayboy had already built an impressive career in policy analysis and administration through various government positions in the state of California. Serving as the lead policy analyst for the CalFresh program in San Bernadino County, the state’s version of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), she had a unique capacity to influence and shape policy in the largest geographical county in the nation.

Little did she know that her responsibility and influence was about the get bigger, with an added boost from William Woods University.

“The pandemic hit, I was working remotely and my son was also home and taking his college courses remotely,” she recalls. “It made me suddenly have an urge to go back to school myself, and being familiar with William Woods, decided to check it out in terms of an online master’s degree.”

So why would a highly successful working professional in Southern California immediately think of The Woods when considering an advanced degree?

Turns out Brayboy had extensive roots at WWU. More about that later.

Two years later, Brayboy had what could only be described as a banner autumn. First, she landed her first executive position, and it was a big one – Branch Chief of the CalFresh program for the State of California, the single largest SNAP program in the U.S. Suddenly, instead of serving in one county, she was now in the top position running the program for the entire state. CalFresh provides monthly food benefits to low-income individuals and families, as part of the California’s Division of Social Services. And her decision to obtain her master’s from William Woods at that opportune time certainly played a role.

Andrea Brayboy gives a presentation

“I had never been an executive before, or worked in an executive capacity,” Brayboy remembered about applying for the plum position. “During the application process, I let them know that I was finishing up my masters and I know for a fact that if I did not have that on my resume, I never would’ve been considered for this position. So William Woods happened at the perfect time.”

Indeed. In October 2022, Brayboy began her new position as the CalFresh and Nutrition Branch Chief, overseeing 170 employees and providing program oversight to the state’s 58 counties. And two months later, she received her Master of Business Administration from William Woods.

It was an interesting turn of events for Brayboy. Even more interesting is where the story started, more than 50 years ago, and more than 1,700 miles away, in Fulton, Missouri.


Although Brayboy was born in California, both of her parents are Fulton natives and graduates of Fulton High School. The family moved to the Golden State while seven months pregnant with Andrea. Long before that, her own mom Wanda Taylor ‘72 was a trailblazer, one of the first group of four African-American students to attend William Woods beginning in 1968 and graduating four years later.

“I knew about William Woods because it is my mom’s alma mater, where she was part of the co-hort of the first African-American women to attend what was then called William Woods College,” she said. “I also had a grandmother who worked at and retired from the Fulton State Hospital, another who was the first ‘Negro RN’ pinned out of the main hospital in Jefferson City, and a grandfather who worked at the brick plant in Fulton. So my background goes back a long way in Fulton and mid-Missouri.”

And how special was it for her mom to see Andrea end up getting a degree from her alma mater?

“I am still so appreciative of the people that I met, the relationships that I had, and the instructors whom I learned from and supported me, during my experience at William Woods,” said Taylor. “So naturally I was overjoyed when Andrea decided to attend William Woods, it is certainly special for us and her education and degree from there has definitely helped her in the position she has now.”

Brayboy echoes that notion.

“My leadership classes from William Woods helped prepare me for my current executive role, studying subjects like interpersonal relationship techniques, recognizing leadership styles, and government – business relations, among others,” she says. “Literally each class from my William Woods experience prepared me for this role, a role that I did not anticipate coming at the time.”


So now Brayboy is well over a year into her prominent position, where her influence has never been greater.

“I love the responsibility that has been entrusted in me to serve the most vulnerable constituents within our state,” she said of leading CalFresh, which administers approximately $1 billion in benefits to more than three million California households a month. “I love the opportunities I get to inform federal policy through interactions with legislators, and the privilege of leading a team of about 170 professionals who are deeply committed and aligned with the priorities and mission of the California Department of Social Services.”

But of course, navigating the ship of the nation’s largest SNAP program certainly has its challenges, especially in a state as huge and diverse as California.

“We have diverse individuals, families and languages, not to mention varied geography, including rural, urban, desert country, coastal and mountain communities, it’s all here,” she said. “So how do you meet the needs of everyone who needs us in a state that is just so vast?”

“In a nutshell, the biggest challenge is how to take a program, with in some case outdated regulations, and adjust them to meet the ever-changing, dynamic state that California is.”

So yes, serving in such a position in a place like California, which is bigger than most of the world’s other nations, will always be a major challenge. But if anyone is fit to lead, it is Andrea Brayboy ’22. As you would certainly expect, as the proud daughter of a William Woods trailblazer and leader in her own right.