Eric Brown, AM '08
Before coming to SSA, Eric Brown, AM '08, worked on a research study conducting home visits and interviews with individuals who were addicted to substances and receiving public assistance benefits. While he believed the work would influence welfare policy, it was the feeling of helplessness when participants would ask questions or share personal challenges that led Eric to pursue a degree in social work. Following the recommendation of an undergraduate advisor, Eric looked into the program at SSA.
“I really appreciated the interdisciplinary focus on clinical, administration, policy and research. I was pretty intent on “going clinical” but I had a vague idea that I might have other roles at some point. Ultimately, I chose SSA because I felt like the school would best prepare me for different roles.”
At SSA, Eric completed his second field placement at Children's Memorial Hospital (now the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago) where he provided case management services and brief counseling to children and families in the Kidney Diseases and Oncology departments. The placement provided him the opportunity to apply his academic knowledge in a professional setting. For instance, he completed a presentation on how evidence-based social work practice informs assessment and interventions for adolescents who are not adhering to medication protocols.
"Social work training predisposes one to conceptualize challenges in a different way than physicians or nurses. Presentations of this nature are fundamental for bridging the respective approaches of medical staff and social workers, with respect to the challenges faced by our clients."
During this field placement, Eric also participated in other activities around the hospital, such as cooking meals for the Ronald McDonald House and the Family Services Department's annual fundraiser Step-Up for Kids.
"These activities enhanced my internship experience by further integrating me within the service delivery infrastructure of the hospital. I began to understand how the work of various departments within the hospital is connected and driven by the larger agency mission to support children and families."
Eric’s first field placement was at the Gary Comer Youth Center in their Community Schools Program. It was here that Eric discovered a passion for working with adolescents, and he decided he wanted to further understand and improve the education system. For that reason, following graduation from SSA, Eric worked at the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research, which conducts studies related to urban education and reform within the Chicago Public School system.
“My attraction to research is to be able to help practitioners do their jobs better, whether that means evaluating the effectiveness of interventions or researching the experiences of people in order to develop interventions.”
After a few years with this experience, he decided to go back to school to obtain a PhD in Human Development and Social Policy from Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy. With a year left in his program, Eric’s next goal is to run his own research studies in the education system, and he believes his training in the clinical program at SSA uniquely equipped him for this path in education research.
“SSA prepares you to work in proximal fields to social work,” he explained. “In addition to clinical field training, the systems perspective training that I received at SSA makes sense to me broadly for issues of professional practice or research.”