For Alyx Steadman, BS ’16, the desire to pursue social justice started early. Steadman grew up in a “very homogenous, small town” in Montana. As a high school junior, he began advocating for increased diversity in the local school district, motivated, he said, because “as a gay man, [I noticed] there was a lack of representation there.” Social work for Steadman is a family affair, and he attributes his passion for advocacy to his mother, a social worker who studied for her MSW degree while Alyx was still in high school. As he puts it, “She would bring her homework home, and her inspiration was funneled through me. We’re a mental health family!”
Inspired by his mother’s example, Steadman decided to pursue an undergraduate degree in social work, and considered the programs at the University of Montana and New York University. NYU compelled with its location and promise of diversity. Living in New York City also provided him an opportunity to immerse himself in an entirely unfamiliar environment. He had only visited the city twice before, had no family there, and knew no one. Rather than balking at the unknown, Steadman jumped right in: “Breaking out of my comfort zone was what I was purposefully looking for because personal growth now is equally relevant for social work practice later.”
Steadman has applied this “jumping in headfirst” approach to all parts of his academic life, becoming actively involved in organizations on campus and off, and taking advantage of opportunities for community involvement. In his freshman year, he took a Gallatin-offered course titled Policy, Community, and Self, which offered a supplemental internship at the Hetrick-Martin Institute. Steadman worked in the organization’s LGBT advocacy sector, providing educational trainings and developing courses for corporate and public sector entities seeking guidance in creating services for LGBTQ youth. After the internship’s conclusion, Steadman began work at the Peer Health Exchange, providing pregnancy prevention classes to 9th graders throughout the city’s public school system. He enjoys teaching, and feels that his ability to educate others on social issues is a valuable asset.
On campus, Steadman serves as a class of 2016 representative for the Undergraduate Student Government Association. For underclassmen like Steadman, who do not yet have a field placement or practice classes, USGA meetings and activities provide a safe environment for venting and seeking support from fellow students. The BS program is a small and tightknit community of young, motivated individuals, much like Steadman. He is grateful to his peers, and inspired by them: “It takes a special person to know they want to go into this line of work at such a young age.”
While he will not begin his field learning until junior year, Steadman has already started thinking about his future placements. He said, “Ideally I’ll be placed in a trauma-focused institute or LGBT-centered agency. I know I’d love to work with trauma, child, or LGBT populations.” Graduate school looms in the not-too-distant future, as Steadman feels it would be wise to “take an extra year to validate my experience.” He is interested in pursuing his MSW through NYU Silver’s advanced standing program. Ultimately, he hopes to obtain his LCSW.
“I want to do therapy, but also have these real-world, hands-on experiences while I’m young, excited, and have the energy to keep going,” said Steadman with a smile. “I’m open to the universe helping me explore my options.”
By Penelope Yates, MSW ’16