Devan Daniel is a full-time second-year Macro concentration student at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. Devan started out as a substance abuse counselor in Ohio before making the leap to move to Texas to obtain his Master’s degree. In joining the program, he decided to switch gears to working in the political sphere of social work. Devan’s primary goal during the 2021 Austin Legislative Internship Program is to fully experience the legislative process to be better equipped to advocate for marginalized communities within the political sphere. Devan seeks to network with others working in the legislature for potential collaborative opportunities in the future. Ultimately, Devan hopes that this experience will make him a better advocate.
Audrey Erwin is a second-year Macro concentration student at the Graduate College of Social Work from Arizona. During her time at the GCSW she has been an intern at the SUSTAIN Wellbeing COMPASS Coordinating Center, volunteered as a member of the Harris County Ballot Board, worked as a research assistant on civic engagement research with local Houston communities, and is a Dean’s Advisory Council Endowed Scholarship recipient. Audrey is interested in appropriations, civic engagement, harm reduction, HIV prevention, mental health, healthcare policy, and drug policy reform. Prior to beginning her journey at the GCSW, Audrey worked at an inpatient psychiatric hospital and was motivated to return to school in order to identify ways to better help the vulnerable populations she worked with. The opportunity to participate in the Austin Legislative Internship and gain knowledge of the legislative process and working towards bipartisan policy reform was a deciding factor in Audrey choosing the GCSW.
Joy Fairchild is a second-year Macro concentration at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. Joy earned her B.A. in Communication from the University of Houston in 2014. She developed a passion for civic engagement through her involvement with the League of Women Voters and The Women's Resource of Greater Houston. Joy enjoys spending time solving puzzles of all kinds and hanging out with her dog.
Hannah Hall is a second-year Macro concentration student specializing in Political Social Work at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. After receiving her bachelor's degree in Media Studies from the University of Houston, Hannah became interested in developing her passion for social justice into a viable career. Her prior experiences as a government employee and AmeriCorps associate inspired her personal philosophy that government work can and should be a significant tool in uplifting vulnerable communities and promoting societal wellbeing. She hopes to strengthen her skills in policy analysis, advocacy, and political strategizing during her time in Austin so as to do that philosophy justice.
Maddox Hilgers is a first-year Advanced Standing Macro concentration student at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. After receiving their Bachelor’s degree in social work at the University of Texas at Austin, Maddox spent a year working for a local school district in the Austin area. As a member of the LGBTQ community, Maddox has a passion for advocating for advancing LGBTQ protections and rights within the state. They have volunteered for various organizations around the state advocating for non-discrimination laws and adding same-sex education to public school curricula. Maddox hopes that by participating in the Austin Legislative Internship they will gain experience in the complexities of Texas politics and begin building their network within the system.
Cassidy Kenyon is a first-year Macro concentration student specializing in Political Social Work at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. Cassidy graduated with honors from Texas A&M University, where she wrote an undergraduate research thesis about the effects of political and economic instability on the individual and was awarded a fellowship from the Department of Multicultural Services. Before starting at UH, she worked in community mental health as a caseworker for children in the highest levels of care. Cassidy has a passion for research and writing, particularly around the intersections of politics and social problems. She is excited for the opportunity to learn about the legislative process and hopes to learn more about political advocacy and policy analysis.
Victoria McDonough is a first-year Macro concentration student at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, specializing in Political Social Work. Victoria has worked with children in marginalized communities which led her to build a commitment to these families and advocate for their needs. Victoria’s interests include the effects of incarceration on marginalized individuals, criminal justice reform, policy analysis, and women’s rights. While participating in the Austin Legislative Internship Program, Victoria hopes to gain a better understanding of how the legislative process works and the effects that it has on policy making and implementation. Through this opportunity and experience she hopes to effectively advocate for the needs of individuals who are incarcerated and social change for vulnerable populations.
Phuong Nguyen, RN is a first-year Clinical concentration student at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, with a background in Education and Health Care. Phuong is a former high school teacher and ICU nurse with experience in neurology, cardiology, and research. With a heart for service, social work is a natural transition in her career path. Phuong has experience working with disenfranchised youth in the public school system and mentoring veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injuries. While pursuing her Master’s degree in social work, she hopes to gain a competent understanding of the interworking of our political system, legislative strategies, and the policy process in order to positively impact her community.
Chelsea Dalton Pederson is a Macro concentration student who extended her Advanced Standing degree plan in the Graduate College of Social Work. Chelsea has experience in advocacy, organizing, research, and co-founded Students for Sensible Drug Policy on the University of Houston campus. Chelsea is invested in establishing compassionate drug policies across Texas; altering the criminal and legal justice systems; evaluating existing programs to change the way recovery is perceived, implemented, and managed; as well as legalizing, decriminalizing, and expanding access to (licit and illicit) medications and equipment that could assist, curb, or reduce issues related to substance use disorders. In the future, she hopes to continue research for opioid use disorders, particularly utilizing ibogaine as a medication, and establishing psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy as a therapeutic option within law enforcement agencies. She chose to participate in the Austin Legislative Internship Program because of her lived experience with substance use and the criminal and legal justice systems.