Celebrating the Class of 2018

Amanda Mills, MSSW ’18

Amanda Mills, MSSW '18

Amanda Mills, MSSW ’18

Hometown: I hail from Lubbock, Texas but completed my undergraduate degree at Rice University in Houston. I moved to Austin shortly after graduating in 2013 and have lived here ever since.

Why social work? I chose pursue a master degree in social work because I am committed to social justice and wanted to spend my days fighting for a world free of oppression and exploitation. I love that social work is not only concerned with the interpersonal, but also with the systemic.

Favorite experience at UT Austin: Seeing Bryan Stevenson speak at the LBJ school. He has done inspiring work towards racial justice, fighting mass incarceration, and preserving the legacy of enslaved African Americans. His words that evening brought me to tears.

Most challenging time in the program: My first year, as I was participating in my first field internship while taking a full course load and working to stay connected to my partner, friends, family, and community. It was challenging to try to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle during this time, but I also learned a lot about setting boundaries, honoring my priorities, and caring for myself through that experience.

Best internship moment: One of my clients at my final field internship was a young child who began the semester with an aversion to talking about sadness. By the end of our time together, she was not only capable of identifying and articulating sadness, but actively created opportunities to talk about those feelings herself. Seeing her growth and progress over the months was incredibly rewarding.

Favorite professor: I enjoyed many of my professors, including Michele Rountree, Cossy Hough, and Esther Calzada. Christine Winston was an amazing professor for Capstone because she was always present in the moment and took every student thought and concern seriously. She was genuine and used her experiences to inform the class discussion, but also encouraged conversation between students and fostered a sense of safety in the classroom that allowed for disagreement and vulnerability. Braden Latham-Jones was another great professor who created a rich syllabus about community practice and community organizing. With his help, many of the students in his class became more involved in organizations that serve the Austin community.

On Lavender Graduation: I did not always feel connected to the LGBT students at UT Austin while in my graduate program, which was tough for me. However, Lavender Graduation was an opportunity for me to spend time with fellow LGBT Longhorns and celebrate them, which was really meaningful for me. Lav Grad was also a really inspiring ceremony with speakers who focused on how we as LGBT students can embody and fight for social justice after graduation. It made me feel proud to be part of the LGBT community at the university.

Plans for the future: Since I am in the extended program, I am still finishing my final field internship. After I complete those hours, there are many areas of learning I plan to explore including cultural humility and trauma-focused modalities like EMDR. I hope to pursue my clinical licensure, as well as opportunities to work with the LGBT community and to engage in community outreach and organizing.

Words of wisdom for the incoming class: My advice for incoming MSSW students would be to make self-care a priority from the very beginning and avoid internal and external pressure to overload your schedule or take on more than feels feasible. While the program is filled with amazing learning opportunities, our education does not end with graduation and it’s important not to feel like we have to “do it all” right now. Also, the program involves a lot of self-reflection, which can be scary, but I would encourage incoming students to embrace that process. Seize the opportunity to think critically and feel deeply. Notice what makes you uncomfortable. Interrogate your own power and privilege. Speak up in classes, even when that means being vulnerable or voicing a disagreement with a professor or classmate. And continue identifying what is important to you, professionally and personally. You’re gonna do great!