Reese Brinkley has always known that he wanted to be in a helping profession, operating in a field that made a tangible difference in people’s lives. Originally looking into a career in the medical field, social work’s accessibility and community focus drew him in.

For Reese, family has inspired and directed his future endeavors. He is inspired by his parents

“A lot of the care and compassion I learned from my mom, and being able to support people through practical means and resourcefulness I got from my dad,” says Reese. His mother’s career as a doctor only drove home his desire to be in a helping profession—in high school, Reese completed training as an EMT. 

Reese came to UT Austin as an undergraduate. The school boasted community, a quality education, and a great location. After acknowledging that the medical field was too intense for him, he decided to try psychology. However, Reese found that psychology lacked the practical focus and accessibility that he was looking for in a field.

A professor recommended that Reese check out SHSSW. He remembers his Introduction to Social Work class as a standout moment. In this class, he was exposed to social work and its foundations in social justice. This overview prompted Reese to dig into history, a personal passion of his. He found social work to have the practical focus that he was looking for; this was a field that would truly allow him to help others. He graduated from SHSSW in 2020 with his BSW and has now proudly obtained his MSSW.

During his time at SHSSW, Reese was honored to learn from and work alongside Lainey Sevillano, who also earned her PhD in May 2022. He also did some editorial and op-ed work to promote a social work history course. Above all, Reese is proud to advocate for things he believes in.

As Reese puts it, his ultimate goal is to “jump into the infosphere” as a professor of social work. He loves trivia, teaching others, and facilitating learning. The professors at SHSSW leave a lifelong impact on all of their students, and Reese would like to give back to the social work community in the form of teaching too. This will eventually require a doctorate degree, but he anticipates working in a private practice before entering back into academia.

In the immediate future, Reese will be traveling to South America to volunteer and have a change of pace. He is hoping to do some social work-adjacent type of service engagement; this will mostly look like building structures and investing in the community. He believes that it is important to humble oneself and give back to a different community; to put it in his own words, “You’re not as special as you think you are.” He looks forward to experiencing a different culture and practicing his skills in an international setting.

To future social work students, Reese has many words of wisdom to offer. He hopes that future students will take their education by the horns and fully experience it, having fun while taking every opportunity to be professional and ask questions. “Talk with your teachers regularly,” Reese goes on, “Engage with them and build rapport. Connect with the experience of being a teacher.”

He also points out that starting out is one of the biggest hurdles of being productive as a student, and encourages his fellow future social workers to start small. It’s better to do something as small as skimming notes than to do nothing. He recommends taking a part-time job with UT Austin if possible: “Any experience from TA to research assistant gives you experience that you can use to learn which elements of social work you like, and it looks really good on a resume.”

After offering such pragmatic, practical advice, Reese has one more thing left to say, a statement that shows the professor in him shining through: “Oh, and always take summer courses.”

Congratulations to Reese Brinkley, MSSW ’22.