Brooke Barnard grew up in the shadows of Kauke Hall’s majestic twin towers, just about a mile from campus, but she might as well have lived a thousand miles away because in her mind a degree from The College of Wooster was unattainable.
“I held Wooster in very high regard,” she says. “Everything [at the College] was done at such a high level. Everyone who went there was so intelligent and well spoken. I wasn’t sure I would measure up,”
After some words of encouragement from her parents, particularly her father, Ken, who graduated from Wooster in 1968, she decided to give it a shot. She applied early decision, and to her surprise, she was accepted.
Barnard arrived on campus in August of 2001 intending to major in studio art with an emphasis on painting, but after taking a few courses in history and religious studies, she started to rethink her decision. “I really enjoyed learning about different cultures,” she says. “I realized that I had a lot more options than I originally thought.”
So she shifted gears and chose instead to major in history. A key factor in the decision was Professor Madonna Hettinger, who taught one of Barnard’s early courses and then became her advisor for her senior Independent Study project, Wooster’s nationally renowned undergraduate research program in which each student works one-on-one with a faculty mentor to produce a thesis, performance, or exhibition of artwork.
“Dr. Hettinger was an amazing advisor,” says Barnard. “She really encouraged me. I did a lot of writing. My final project was 134 pages.”
That experience provided a springboard into life after graduation. “During my senior year, I decided that I wanted to be a social worker,” says Barnard. “Dr. Hettinger helped me tie my I.S. (“Remind Me, Why Are We Doing This? The Question of Motive in the Evolution of Institutions for the Dying”) into that field.”
After graduation, Barnard enrolled in Case Western Reserve’s Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, where she spent two years earning a graduate degree. She also completed two internships —one with Hospice of the Western Reserve and the other with University Hospitals of Cleveland. In her second year, she received a field placement that ended with a job offer from University Hospitals, and she has been in that position for the past six years.
“I was hired as an in-patient bone-marrow transplant social worker,” she says. “My responsibilities include working with those who are dealing with a recent diagnosis of blood cancer. My role is one of support for patients and their families. I try to help them through the crisis. It’s always different, always new. I never know what each day will bring, but I enjoy the opportunity to change a life by helping the patient and family reduce stress and deal with the disease.”
Barnard is thankful to be doing something she loves and grateful to the College for helping her to get there. “Wooster prepared me for this by guiding me in the development of critical-thinking and problem-solving skills,” says Barnard, who also collaborated with several of her colleagues to publish a paper about the role of a social worker when a patient is transferred to an intensive care unit.
“I was always challenged, always encouraged to observe and explain. My experience at Wooster not only helped me to learn, but also to figure out exactly what I wanted to do.”
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