Prominent MSW alums Unfold their Path to a University Education
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Abbi Strader, a graduating Master of Social Work (MSW) student at Illinois State University, epitomizes resilience and dedication in her pursuit of social change. Transitioning from roles in crisis intervention and early childhood education, Strader found her calling in social work. Since joining the program, she has adeptly balanced her academic pursuits with her roles as a wife and mother.

Strader’s commitment to empowering communities is exemplified through her role at the Boys and Girls Club, where she not only manages a caseload of children but has also spearheaded initiatives to promote behavioral health and trauma-informed care. She has created a safe space for kids to decompress and process strong emotions, integrating social work principles into the club’s programming to foster a supportive environment for vulnerable youth.

Bailey Birditt ’23, another graduating MSW student, personifies the passion and dedication required in the field of social work. Inspired by her own experience with a social worker during teenage dating violence, Birditt’s journey into social work stems from a desire to support others facing similar challenges. Her resilience and determination to turn personal hardship into a source of empowerment for others highlight her unwavering commitment to making a difference.

Throughout her academic and professional endeavors, Birditt has made a tangible impact on the Bloomington-Normal community. From working at a domestic violence shelter during her undergraduate years to her current role as a drug court clinician, Birditt has demonstrated a hands-on approach focused on evidence-based treatment and rehabilitation practices. Her ability to build partnerships with clients, empower them, and advocate for their needs makes her a valuable addition to the field of social work.

In the suburbs of South Chicago, Diamond Crowder’s upbringing was shaped by family values, community, church, and service. Raised by her parents in a tight-knit environment alongside her brother, Crowder’s early years instilled in her a sense of responsibility and compassion that guided her path toward social work.

Despite challenges, Crowder’s decision to join the National Guard in 2018 was motivated by financial considerations and a desire for personal growth. Her passion for social work stems from her belief in the importance of mental health and breaking generational cycles of trauma. Inspired by her grandmother’s dedication to caring for children with disabilities, Crowder is committed to advocating for the marginalized and underserved.

With a focus on both micro-level interventions and macro-level systemic change, Crowder aims to empower individuals and communities to overcome adversity and thrive. As she reflects on being part of the helping profession, she said, “It’s just one of those things where it’s like, it just feels good at the end of the day of knowing that you did something for somebody else.”

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