Alumna SPOTLIGHT: Deanna Barry
In Her Own Words:
I graduated from the MSW program in December of 2018 with a macro concentration and an Applied Arts and Social Justice Certificate. While a student at UNE, I interned with Maine Boys to Men and developed a strong passion for work surrounding the issues of masculinity and gender-based violence. After graduation, I found a job as the Community Educator and Outreach Coordinator for Women’s Support Services (WSS) in Sharon, CT. WSS is a domestic violence agency that serves the Northwest Corner of Connecticut and strives to create communities free of domestic violence through intervention, prevention, and education. In my role as Community Educator, I am privileged to facilitate workshops to our six local elementary schools, one regional high school, and various private schools on topics such as: healthy boundaries, consent, sexual harassment, body image, youth activism, dating violence, and gender identity/sexual orientation.
It is an extremely rewarding, uplifting, and challenging experience to talk to young people about these issues, especially since they often do not have the opportunities to in other settings. Many times the students are just learning this information, and the questions and curiosity they bring to our conversations are insightful, eager, and fill me with hope for a less violent and more equitable society for people of all genders.
At times when students disagree with information I’m presenting, we facilitate forums where we can openly discuss these ideas. While this can be difficult, it usually leads to beautiful conversation where the students take over the discussion, share their individual perspectives, opinions, and knowledge, and I step back. This is always my goal when working with youth—give them the space to talk with each other about deeply personal and “real” things, and allow them to teach and learn from each other. Youth are more likely to hear and absorb information when it is coming from their peers, rather than an adult or authority figure, and often times they are much wiser and more informed than we give them credit for.
UNE’s Social Work program helped me discover my passion to reduce gender-based violence, as well as provide me with the skills, education, and self-confidence I needed to be successful in the field. All of my professors were able to help me orient my classwork around a macro perspective, and gave me the ability to tailor my assignments to focus on issues of power, violence, and gender. The support and encouragement I was given from my professors when I was questioning my direction and area of focus also helped me to feel confident in my choices—they advised me to follow where my passion led me, and to not base my decisions off of any thoughts of “should” or what was most “practical.”
Because of my relationships with my professors, I felt deeply connected, appreciated, and valued as a student and future social worker. This was the best part of the UNE experience for me. Being taught how to empower others while being empowered and uplifted yourself during some of the hardest/most stressful days, weeks, months of your life was truly a life-changing experience, and is something I now use in my work with young people. I will be eternally grateful for both the personal and professional education that I received from UNE’s Masters of Social Work program, and hope to carry their mission and passion forward throughout my career.