Brooks Ragsdale, BSW ‘18

Hometown: I consider Austin to be home, I moved here when I was 11 years-old and graduated from high school here.

Why social work? I have some personal experiences in mental health, and so I felt a calling to alleviate suffering for other people. I have a pretty big success story in my own recovery, and I want to give that gift to other people. I have bipolar disorder. It started happening to me when I was 19, and through therapy and medicine, I’ve regained my health. Then I decided to go back to school. People who have a history with serious mental health issues really get a lot of personal experience and political knowledge to better help other people.

Favorite experience at UT Austin? I love my cohort, and particularly my Social Work Practice for Groups Class. It was really impactful because everyone got so close. We did a mock group session one class and just became very close and I feel like I know my peers really well now. It’s cool to see everybody graduating and going on to do great things.

Most challenging time on the Forty Acres? I have been working with my brain tied behind my back. I have been on various medications to try and treat my mental health condition, and there have been some really rough times for me. I’m still graduating with honors, which is pretty amazing. I’m really proud of that, but it was really difficult to do. Also, one of my friends died by suicide about a year and a half ago. He was Trans, and because I’m Queer, it really hit home and shocked me. I feel like the more open I am about my own struggles, while being careful to not trigger others, I can provide hope and show people that with the right help, there is a way to recover and to be healthy and to even thrive.

Best social work internship moment? My field placement has been the most formative experience. I worked for Main Street Renewal in the social work CARES team, which focuses on eviction prevention. It’s good, crisis intervention work. People come to us in the middle of a crisis and we walk them through the stages of grief and denial, and move them to action to take care of the situation. I have a client that had a health diagnosis whose AC went out. The client and her family had to stay at a hotel for a number of weeks, and it cost them a lot of money and caused them to fall behind on rent. Main Street Renewal advocated for the client to receive a major concession for the maintenance issue. That helped her get out of debt. Her child also faced mental health issues related to the eviction notice, and I helped the child get into a hospital and provided telephonic grief counseling to the mother because she’s was distressed by her child doing poorly. I feel like students in the Steve Hicks School of Social Work really live the motto, “What starts here, changes the world.” We really take that to heart.

Favorite professor? Shane Whalley takes a lot of care for hirs students, and Shane was there for me when my friend died. Shane also taught social justice for me and was an amazing teacher and professor for that class. I think, in particular, Shane is really well-suited because of hir particular experience to teach social justice. I learned a lot in that class, learned about how to best advocate, and deconstructed some of my own understandings.

Plans for the future: I’m moving to Seattle to work as a behavioral healthcare coordinator and mental health case manager for the Kitsap County Mental Health Services. It’s just a ferry ride away from Seattle. I’m so excited because that’s my dream job for post-grad work.

Words of wisdom for the incoming class: Trust in yourself, trust in your family, and trust in God. Have confidence because you’ve got this.

Posted December 4, 2018.