Izzy Madaelil has caught the Texas spirit. After a long and winding journey and watching her siblings come through UT Austin, she is currently pursuing her MSSW from the Steve Hicks School of Social Work. For her excellent work and her passion for the field, Izzy has recently been awarded the Ima Hogg Scholarship, an award that supports social work students who want to provide mental health services to underrepresented populations in Texas.

Originally from New Orleans, UT Austin was always hovering on the horizon of Izzy’s life. She hoped to attend UT Austin for her undergraduate experience, but ended up at the University of Pittsburgh, where she earned her bachelor’s in Psychology and Sociology with a minor in Social Work. But her Texas dreams were far from over. The MSSW program at SHSSW was the perfect fit for what Izzy wanted personally and professionally.

In early high school, Izzy wondered if becoming a clinical therapist would be the right path for her. Listening, being empathetic, and helping others came easily to her. As she has developed as a person and moved forward in social work, she has found the field to be collaborative and empowering, and she appreciates that it takes a systemic focus.

When Izzy found out about her scholarship award from the Hogg Foundation, she had just gotten out of her field placement for the day. She was both surprised and honored to receive this award—she had been recommended to apply by a faculty member at SHSSW. Izzy sees this award as recognition of her passion for social work: “I really care about what I’m currently doing and what I will be doing.” She also points out another meaning to this award for her: “It means a lot that I am getting this opportunity to fund my larger goals, because I think they are going to take a lot of time and work.”

Izzy’s larger goals began to take shape as her friends began going to therapy. They told her they couldn’t find therapists of color, and as she began searching, she also encountered this difficulty. “This is beyond identities matching,” says Izzy. So many factors go into therapy—issues of building rapport with the client, types of insurance, and specialty, to name a few. Izzy dreams of opening up her own clinic one day, a centralized location for people to find someone they can relate to as their therapist. She would love to be part of a team of people of color with different identities and for the clinic to focus on being both affordable and accessible.

Izzy has also been dreaming and planning something a little more unconventional—a bakery clinic. She loves to bake and thinks that this kind of organization would be particularly helpful for people with OCD. She explains, “It would be a really great exposure therapy option, for harm obsessions or contamination obsession. I think we could really talk a lot through baking.” As she describes this unique idea, she muses, “That’s the beauty of social work too—you can have it all! It’s such a creative field.”

Izzy entered her social work program with the expectation that she would take to the field quickly and that it would be an easy journey. Looking back, she sees that there was a steep learning curve and that she needed to grow accustomed to being in an academic environment again. As time has gone on, Izzy can see her improvement and her knowledge increasing. “I hope to continue to gain confidence in my own skills and bring myself more to my sessions,” she says.

To Izzy, authenticity is one of the most important things that a social worker can bring to the field. Looking forward, she hopes to lean into collaboration with clients, working alongside them instead of problem solving for them. She feels lucky to have the opportunity to attend SHSSW and to learn and work alongside such wonderful people.

To learn more about the Ima Hogg Scholarships, click here.