Social work graduate finds her calling in the nation's capital
Lee Anne Brantley, a native of Camden, Alabama, works in Washington, D.C. as the grievance specialist for the Department on Disability Services. She is a third generation Auburn graduate who found her calling in social work and is putting her degree to work as a leader on a system change project for the District of Columbia.
Would you please tell us about yourself?
My name is Lee Anne Brantley and I am from Camden, a small town in southwest Alabama located in Wilcox County. Currently, I live and work in Washington D.C. I got my master's in social work at University of Maryland, Baltimore, with a concentration in community action and social policy in 2017. I currently work in D.C. as the grievance specialist for the Department on Disability Services. In this new position, I have the opportunity to create and implement a grievance or complaint system that has never formally existed. This new process is for the Developmental Disability Administration to allow people with disabilities and their families to effectively and efficiently express concerns about their services.
How did you choose Auburn, and how did you choose social work as your major?
I'm a third generation Auburn Tiger! My grandfather, mother, and uncle attended Auburn University, so growing up I knew I always wanted to go to Auburn and be part of the Auburn Family. I had guidance from a family friend that led me to social work, and after meeting the social work professors, I knew this was where I was supposed to be.
What organizations were you involved in on campus?
I was part of the Freshman Leadership Program (FLP). I was also actively involved in Best Buddies and Expressions of a Braveheart throughout my undergrad. Best Buddies International is a non-profit that creates opportunities for people with disabilities. At Auburn we matched up college students and adults with disabilities to develop a friendship and attend social events and gatherings. Expressions of a Braveheart was developed by two social work professors and was an after school program for people with disabilities that focused on the fine arts. I was a Tiger Advisor at the library, which was a peer advising program. I was part of the Phi Alpha Honor Society, the social work honor society. I was also vice president of the Social Work Club. My senior year, I was honored to be recognized as being in the 10% of my graduating class and was initiated into the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.
What has been the greatest lesson Auburn taught you?
Auburn taught me to be open-minded and accepting. It taught me that there is a huge world outside of my little town of Camden. Auburn gave me a sense of community and family that can never be replaced.
How did your professors at Auburn impact your undergraduate experience?
Every one of my social work professors impacted me in one way or another. I could give specific examples, but overall I would not be where I am today, doing what I do, if it was not for my social work professors. They encouraged me to seek out macro social work experiences and to not be afraid of taking on something big. My social work professors believed in me and gave me the tools, skills, and knowledge to be successful.
What's the best thing you did at Auburn that prepared you for your career?
With my current career, volunteering with Best Buddies and Expressions of a Braveheart showed me that people with disabilities have dignity and worth and deserve a great life. People with disabilities are also just like you and I, who want to date, go out to dinner, choose what movie to watch, get married, etc. My Auburn bachelor's degree field placement at the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Montgomery, AL, and my field supervisor there taught me how to be a professional and prepared me for the current position I have in the District of Columbia.
What is your favorite Auburn memory?
I made many wonderful memories at Auburn from Kick 6 to Expressions of a Braveheart final performances. But some of my favorite memories were where I had life changing interventions from the information I was learning in my classes. I learned things that pushed me out of my comfort zone and tested my current state of knowledge. These are the memories I remember and impact how I think and make decisions today.
What was your career path after graduating from Auburn?
After I graduated from Auburn in 2015, I knew I wanted to move to a bigger city. I previously spent a month interning in Washington, D.C. and after I graduated, a friend, also an Auburn alumna, said she had an extra basement room in a row house in D.C. and asked if I wanted to move up here. I jumped at the chance. I waitressed for nine months, interned for the Public Defender’s Office, got my master’s degree, worked at a bagel shop, and now work for the D.C. government. My Auburn experience has definitely prepared me for the career journey I have experienced in D.C.
How has an Auburn degree helped you get ahead in your chosen field?
Auburn taught me to be resilient and go after what I wanted. I think the knowledge and confidence I gained from getting an Auburn degree has helped me tremendously. My social work degree from Auburn has helped me become a leader on a system change project for the District of Columbia.
What is the best advice/approach for a student interested in pursuing your line of work?
The best advice I would give someone interested in social work is do not think social workers will never make any money. Social work is a profession that's rewarding in many ways, including monetarily. Of course I did not go into social work for the money, but I learned that the work I do is worth something. Do not be afraid to practice macro social work. Through macro social work you still practice micro social work on an individual level. I could not do my "macro social work job" if it was not for the stakeholders and people with disabilities I have the opportunity to meet with and get feedback from. Through those conversations, I am still a reflective listener, resource provider, social justice warrior, dignity giver, and social worker. I believe in Auburn and love it! I believe in social work and love it!