Human development, addictions studies are the base for Falk senior’s social work career

Rachel Brennan seated in the Falk College Wildhack Lounge
Rachel Brennan

In her hometown of New Haven, Connecticut, senior Rachel Brennan ’20 was encouraged to join the Orange family when she heard alumni talk about their time at Syracuse University. The academic disciplines in Falk College convinced Brennan that Syracuse University was the place for her. “I remember sitting at an informational meeting about the College and thinking that I was interested in every single major offered,” she adds.

As a senior human development and family science major with a minor in addiction studies, Brennan’s time at Syracuse University has given her exciting experiences both far and near—from study abroad in Sydney, Australia at the University of New South Wales, to a summer internship at Yale University’s Program for Recovery and Community Health (PRCH).

Brennan, who plans to pursue a Master of Social Work degree and a career in social work, originally enrolled as a social work major. But she discovered a different path to graduate school. “After reading the courses offered in Human Development and Family Science (HDFS), I decided to switch my major. I believed the HDFS courses would give me a great foundation in understanding theory and practice when working with children and families that I could then apply to my social work graduate study and field placement,” explains Brennan.

Following her gut helped Brennan discover a passion for research, inspired by her coursework. “I was interested in researching the current opioid crisis after taking multiple courses focused on drug use,” she says. “I had gained a concrete understanding on the impact substances have on the brain through my rigorous courses, and I was drawn to learning more about the impact using opioids can have on an individual’s personal life and overall emotional wellbeing.”

As an intern in the PRCH, Brennan interviewed individuals recovering from opioid addictions. The study examined the effectiveness of different treatments for substance use disorders provided Connecticut Department of Mental Health. “The interview packet was extensive and asked personal questions about how their addiction took form, if they have co-occurring disorders, and if their substance use impacted relationships with their loved ones,” Brennan explains.

“Working hands-on with people struggling with substance use disorders was a powerful experience and I hope to continue researching the impact of addiction on children and families throughout my graduate studies and future career,” Brennan adds.

After graduation, Brennan plans to pursue a Master of Social Work following a clinical track. “I hope to work in out-patient mental health clinics while working towards my LCSW,” she says. “My end goal is to eventually have my own private therapy practice where I work with children and families impacted by addiction and other traumatic experiences.”