Aaron Beswick is the first in his family to pursue a master’s degree. He’s also the first person in his family to graduate from college.
Beswick, who will be earning both a Master of Public Health and a Master of Social Work from the Brown School, acknowledged that it’s his family that made these accomplishments possible, keeping him grounded, focused and determined.
“My mom is a medical assistant and my sister works for minimum wage in a pet store,” he said. “They both truly love what they do and are very good at their jobs. But when I go home, I see the things we are learning in school in action. People in the real world, in my own family, are facing powerful social and economic issues every single day, not to mention serious health challenges and disparities. Minnesota, where my family lives, just raised its minimum wage so my sister will be getting a raise soon. But there is still so much more to do. And I see that every time I go home, with my entire extended family.
“My entire family helped me get where I am. I’m going to use this education to do the best that I can to make their lives better and to better the lives of everyone else in their situation.”
Beswick has focused his education on specializing in policy approaches to social and economic development and health promotion, particularly in distressed urban communities.
“I’m passionate about poverty,” he said. “When you’re poor, almost every domain of your life adds another weight on to you. I’m trying to learn as much as I can about each of those different areas, how they fit together as a total system. How can we change people’s social and economic conditions and move families forward and see benefits across all those domains?”
During his time at the Brown School, Beswick has completed three practicum projects. He worked with Beyond Housing, a St. Louis community development organization. He was a legislative intern for Missouri House of Representatives member Jill Schupp, working on Medicaid expansion and other bills. And he worked at the St. Louis Department of Health, evaluating compliance and helping with the legislative agenda.
He’s also been incredibly active on campus during his time at Brown, serving as treasurer for the Society of Black Students of Social Welfare, helping to organize the university’s annual celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr., and being part of Brown’s diversity committee.
He credits a former colleague with steering him to the Brown School, one of the best decisions he’s ever made.
“Following my undergraduate degree from Northwestern, I was on the ground working with individuals living in public housing in Chicago, trying to help them move out,” Beswick said. “It was difficult. I kept running into barriers at the system level. I knew I needed to learn more about how to make these systems better. A colleague recommended getting an MSW degree. She was from St. Louis and said that WashU is the place to go. I applied and they said yes, thank goodness!”
Beswick has enjoyed his time at the university and been quite impressed by his interactions with Brown School faculty.
“There is an essence of practice and application at Brown,” he said. “The faculty here really embody that kind of practice-based orientation and are using their work to better the lives of people who need it. That kind of ethic runs throughout the Brown School, and I really enjoy that.”
Following Commencement, Beswick will move to Baltimore to pursue a public service career, working in policy analysis for the federal government.
“We have so much knowledge in the world,” he said. “We have great academic programs, like the one here at WashU, doing amazing work on a number of topics. But the people on the ground running the programs aren’t necessarily the same people who know what the research is or how to implement it the best way possible. I want to be that middle person, translating the information into meaningful action.”