Spartan Spotlight: Kristie Brendel, Assistant Professor of Social Work
As a student in the Master of Social Work program at Aurora University, Kristie Brendel was truly inspired by her professors and always hoped to return to AU as a faculty member. She wanted to have the opportunity to motivate students to excel in their social work careers.
“I love how a professor is able to reach students and teach social work by proxy,” explained Brendel. “I feel it is an amazing contribution to the field to be providing information that will be fed into practice and helping to improve the lives of other human beings.”
Since receiving her MSW at AU, Brendel has completed her PhD in Social Work at Loyola University Chicago and worked in a number of settings, including public schools, hospitals, universities and private practices. Upon returning to AU to teach, Brendel has found ways to actively engage students in the learning process. She has taken her affinity towards the military and veterans, and along with her students started the Veteran and Military Service Association (VMSA), a student organization that provides support to local military and veterans.
VMSA began in the fall of 2012 with a fundraiser for Kyle Moser, a 20-year-old Oswego solider who lost both legs and part of his arm while serving in Afghanistan. Undergraduate and graduate students worked together to raise more than $700 to help cover Moser’s expenses to accommodate his needs. VMSA also completed other service projects throughout the school year, including a drive benefiting the Hines-Fisher House, a foundation that provides housing for families of active duty personnel and veterans that are receiving medical treatment.
Throughout her career, Brendel also has had a specific research interest in Latino populations and is currently leading a class of eleven students in Costa Rica for a May Term trip. “I have experience in Costa Rica and know what an interesting country it is and how the people there have really been extraordinarily resourceful,” said Brendel.
The goals of the 13-day trip are for students to work with local organizations and learn how social work is carried out in Costa Rica, while also attending a language school to practice their Spanish-speaking skills.
“To be able to catch a glimpse of what Costa Rica has to offer will expand our cultural awareness, “explained Brendel. “We have a lot to learn from each other. I believe Costa Rica has a lot to teach us and we will be sharing a lot of our knowledge too.”
Brendel hopes by sharing her research and experience , she can continue to enrich the education of students interested in social work.