Bachelor's in Social Work (University of Southern Indiana)
Master's in Social Work (IUB 2022)
Hometown: Richland, Indiana
Current Position: Victim Advocate/Social Worker at the IU Police Department
Where were you from originally? What was it like growing up there? I am from a small town called Richland, Indiana. It’s a rural farm community, with around 250 people, so it wasn’t very diverse. There weren’t tons of opportunities to get involved.
Where did you go for undergrad and what made you decide to major in what you did? For my undergrad, I went to the University of Southern Indiana. My first major was psychology. I had a great case manager that was also involved in social work. I knew I wanted to help people, and funny enough, after I watched an episode of Frasier and saw he was a counselor, my decision to switch was solidified. I did this coming out of my sophomore year, and it felt like a big deal, with a big application process.
How did the 21st Century Scholars Program help you? I wouldn’t have been able to attend college if it wasn’t for the program. My mom was a single mom and was on disability. I would’ve gone into a trade had my grandma not enrolled me in the 21st Century. It allowed me to get into a TRIO program, gain a mentor, and have some work published. Additionally, I got the opportunity to travel abroad on an immersion trip to China that was 10 days long. I came from a rural white community, so it was daunting but eye-opening. Despite not being an IUB 21st Century Scholar, it is easy to recognize why being a part of this program here is incredibly beneficial. Access to special programs, events, opportunities, and mentors is a significant challenge, but with the IUB 21CS program, that is all available. Additionally, a devoted team of caring individuals guides the way. This program builds the bridge for 21st Century Scholars to be empowered to create their path on the other side. IUB is also a spectacular place for scholars because of its abundance of resources partnered with 21st Century Scholars or a part of the university. If you are ever feeling lost, there is support here!
What was your experience like at IU for grad school? Any favorite memories? Before moving to Bloomington, during the beginning of the pandemic, I was in classes virtually and worked part-time at Lowes during the evening. I lived with my mother and did not have easy access to the internet so, I spent many days at my grandparents or the outside local library to do my classwork. I moved to Bloomington after I successfully obtained a role as a Graduate Supervisor in Residential Programs and Services. My favorite memory was when the campus was opening again, and I, unplanned, saw a concert in Dunn Meadow.
Was there anything you had to overcome during your college experience?If so, how did you overcome it? The biggest thing I had to overcome was the feeling that I had to figure it out on my own. I was the first person in my family to graduate high school, so I had to do the application process by myself. It was a big transition to go to school. I was working part-time to help at home. In college, I had to learn to say no. I had a bunch of things I was doing, vice-president of my fraternity, an RA, a mentor, and working. Eventually, I found relying on my support network helped me. Also, getting counseling and asking for help was so important. The final semester of my undergraduate program and the first year of my master's being online due to the pandemic was difficult, but I received the support and skills necessary to endure this challenging time from my experience as a 21SC.
What was your post-grad journey? How did you end up working at IU? I was speaking with a person involved in social work within the city, and I found out about a developing program and role at the Bloomington Police Department that would change policing and how it approached social work. Around the time I received my master’s, IUPD opened applications for a role like the BPD position and it felt like a great fit since I knew I didn't want to leave Bloomington and my goal is to help others. I was terrified about the prospect of it because this was after what happened to George Floyd. One, my family history with the justice system wasn’t a very happy one, but I am also a white man, and I understood the weight of my working in the police department. After conversations with some people, like the admin of social work, among others, it felt like the right fit. I’ve helped create a model for IUPD to help to create new responses to different crises, more focused on understanding mental health concerns. I have my own dispatch policy and am working on diverting from the criminalization of mental health, like the goals of the Stride Center. I’ve seen growth within the position, but it is a lot at times. I’m checking in on officers, and I’m the only social worker for all nine campuses, so there’s always a lot to do.
How do you deal with all the tough experiences you encounter within your work? I use my time off and am mindful of my time and well-being. I am not afraid to talk about my issues or what I’m going through. I make time to do the things I enjoy, like spending time in nature.
Is there any advice you have for current 21st Century Scholars, maybe those going into the workforce? I would say don’t be afraid to market yourself as a 21st Century Scholar. A lot of people know about it, and It’s an outstanding achievement to have. Being a low-income or a first-generation student with a diverse background shows your perseverance. Plus, you can put it on your resume. In general, just be authentic and show up as yourself.
Favorite Bloomington spot? A tough question. I would say Siam House, and I get the drunken noodles at spice level four.