Senior reflects on uncertainty as a freshman, future working with people with disabilities

By David Miller

A female university student poses for a photo outdoors.
UA senior BSW ambassador Hannah Lancaster.

Hannah Lancaster applied only to the University of Alabama prior to graduating from Tuscaloosa County High School. Though undecided on a major, she was confident she’d “figure out” her direction.

Lancaster had developed interests in social and community connections and looked into “people-based” majors, like psychology and marketing, during her freshman year. Then, she met her future sister-in-law, UA MSW alumna Grace Harris, who urged Lancaster to consider social work.

“I talked to (School of Social Work coordinator of student services) Mary Sella and immediately switched my major,” Lancaster said. “It was the most genuine conversation about a career path I’d had to that point.”

Lancaster was particularly interested in the required field placement, which, at first, was “daunting,” she said. But she was sold on the path because a field placement would present a unique experiential learning opportunity she wouldn’t achieve in other majors.

Lancaster has since relished each opportunity to learn about the field of social work and grow her connections within it, from her internship with the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, to her duties as a BSW Ambassador with the School.

Lancaster is currently serving as a BSW ambassador for the 2019-2020 academic year. Ambassadors represent the School of Social Work at student and alumni events and at ‘Bama Bound. These experiences have affirmed her passion for social work and developed an appreciation for the people involved with the “inner workings” of the School’s events and recruiting strategies.

“A lot of [Ambassador] experiences are arranged for you,” Lancaster said. “But when you become an ambassador you get to see how much faculty are involved with the students, getting to know the mechanics of it all. I didn’t know I’d get to see all of that.”

Lancaster almost opted against applying to be an ambassador and did so at the urging of her friends, who reminded her that “the only thing I ever talk about” is social work, from her class work and relationships with faculty, to Little Hall itself.

“So why not put that knowledge to use?” Lancaster said.

Lancaster said she will miss working alongside other ambassadors, particularly ironing out ideas and details to support the ambassadors program.

Ahead of commencement in May, Lancaster has applied for the advanced-standing MSW program at UA. She’s also considering law school.

Whichever direction she takes, she’s keen to work with people with disabilities after her transformative field placement at ADAP.

“The textbook can tell us that there are incredible injustices and disparities among people that are really vulnerable in our communities,” Lancaster said. “But when you talk to those people, meet in person and see the joy in them when you help them, that interaction to me is something I never picked up on in class.

“I fell in love with working at ADAP.”