Austyn Holleman was a 2018 Graduate Public Service Scholar who interned at Mary’s Center– Maternal Mental Health Program nonprofit in Washington, DC.

Where are you from?
I am from Raleigh, North Carolina.

Where did you go to school? What did you study?
I was a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill triple-Tarheel! I earned my Bachelor’s in Global Health and Medical Anthropology, Master’s of Social Work, and Master’s of Public Health all from UNC.

What was the best part of your internship?
While I can’t choose one “best part” of my internship experience, one that stands out is the completion of my thesis. I was able to integrate my research interests with the needs of my organization, an academic advisor’s dream! I carried out an environmental scan that is being used to inform District-wide policy and programming to improve maternal mental health across D.C. It was incredibly rewarding to complete a thesis that is contributing to meaningful change (and not just sitting in a drawer somewhere for the next 50 years)!

What lessons did you learn that you would like to pass on to future interns?
Throughout my internship and during these first few months of my new job, I have struggled with imposter syndrome. There are many contributing factors-internalized messaging about my age and gender; the societal dismissal of my fields (social work and public health) as “soft sciences” comprised of altruistic paraprofessionals deserving of less pay than professionals in other fields; lived experiences of being silenced and written off in the workplace. My advice to future interns that may have similar feelings of self-doubt is to break those feelings down. Talk about them with other interns, and really try to understand their origins and how you react to them. Then, use them to fuel your success. If there’s anything I’ve learned in the past year, it’s that I’m capable of incredible things, and I shouldn’t let any person or institution tell me otherwise.

What are you doing now?
I was hired by Mary’s Center into a brand new position managing the Senior Mental Health Program. I get to wear many hats in the role, including program manager, grant writer, keeper of the budget, volunteer coordinator, therapist, and so many more. As a reproductive health junkie, I never thought I’d be working with older adults, but I continue to be amazed at the wisdom and joy my clients share with me every day.

What do you hope to be doing in 10 years?
This is a loaded question! As someone who is currently in a job I never imagined I would be in, I honestly couldn’t tell you where I will be in 10 years. What I can say is that I hope to be back in the reproductive health world, working to expand women’s rights and equitable health outcomes for marginalized populations.

What is your favorite book and what are you reading now?
I am reading two books right now. One is Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver who I find to be both a charming and compelling Southern writer. The other is The Ethical Slut which was suggested to me by a fellow therapist at Mary’s Center. It explores how to navigate non-monogamous relationships (which applies to a surprising number of my seniors!)

Tell us a fun fact!
My twin sister and I are in medical journals! We were the first babies in the U.S. to be born using a particular type of IVF.

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