Meet Amy Wright, who comes to the School of Social Work as our new faculty member. She comes to Illinois State University from Louisiana State University where she pursued her doctoral degree and worked within an integrated behavioral health setting. Using trauma-informed screening processes as an emergency room licensed clinical social worker, she conducted comprehensive mental health and chemical dependency evaluations among some of the most vulnerable populations in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

She will be teaching SWK 310: Understanding Diverse Populations within the fall 2018 semester. She is excited for the unique opportunity to partner with Illinois State University’s Diversity Advocacy and Student Counseling Services this semester in order to incorporate the Voices of Discovery (VOD) program into the curriculum. Let’s get to know her.

Why social work?

The reason I chose to pursue a career in social work is a deeply personal one. Growing up as a lesbian while attending a small, Catholic elementary and high school that was geographically situated within the rural Deep South was, at times, terrifying. I was taught in my religion classes that being gay was an unforgivable sin. I was encouraged by my school’s teachers and clergymen to “pray away the gay.” I struggled with bouts of anxiety and depression as an adolescent secondary to experiencing various forms of discrimination based on my sexual identity.

I began regularly attending counseling sessions with a social worker as an undergraduate college student. My social worker encouraged me to challenge my old schemas; he taught me the importance of self-determination and the dignity and worth of all people, and he helped me to feel empowered in an environment where I initially felt powerless. It was because of this transformative experience that my ultimate passion became to cultivate awareness of social justice issues by advocating on behalf of the vulnerable and underrepresented groups of our society. As a social worker, I hope that every phase of my life reflects my advocacy for those who have been marginalized by mainstream culture.

What do you hope to accomplish as an assistant professor within Illinois State’s social work department?

As a social work scholar, my commitment to diversity has consistently been a source of inspiration for both the content and approach to my teaching, research, and community engagement efforts. As I transition from doctoral student to my new role as assistant professor, I look forward to expanding such inclusion efforts through the incorporation of service-learning activities within the classroom, broadening the scope of my research among the LGBTQ community across a variety of racial and cultural identities, and serving as an advisor to historically underrepresented student groups on campus.

How do you feel about becoming a Redbird?

I am thrilled to join the Redbird family here at Illinois State! I am looking forward to working within ISU’s School of Social Work given that both the university and the department prioritize a welcoming and inclusive environment built on a foundation of acceptance and respect for all cultural backgrounds. I’m also particularly looking forward to introducing a few yummy Cajun delicacies to the department!