Natalie Stackhouse wasn’t sure what she wanted to study when she first arrived at UNH. She came in undeclared. Then, after volunteering at a women’s shelter in New Hampshire, and before she even took a single course in the field, she fell in love with social work.
“I was working on the hotline, doing hospital visits, and I said, ‘What degree do I get so I can do this work?’” Stackhouse says of her experience at Haven (formerly A Safe Place), which provides support services and prevention education to those impacted by domestic and sexual violence. “I fell in love with all the pillars; social justice is a big part my life now.”
“I didn’t imagine I would leave college and have all the skills I needed to go out in the world."
In May Stackhouse graduated with a bachelor’s degree in social work. Ten days later, she was at her new job at New Beginnings, a nonprofit sexual and domestic violence support service based in Laconia, New Hampshire. Half of her time is spent doing direct service advocacy — accompanying survivors to court, talking them through the process, for example, and the other half is spent serving as a housing advocate, building relationships in the community and with landlords to help women get housing.
“That is what I went into the social work field knowing I wanted to do, so it’s really cool that I am doing it right after graduation,” Stackhouse says. Worried that she might have had trouble finding a job, she started looking months before commencement. In February she learned New Beginnings had a position open and contacted them. They emailed her immediately and she interviewed the next day. And landed the job.
The Alton Bay, New Hampshire, resident began training before graduation — online and in person so she would be as prepared as possible when she started. And she was; in addition to volunteering at Haven, Stackhouse completed an internship with the Joan G. Lovering Health Center in Greenland, New Hampshire.
“I didn’t imagine I would leave college and have all the skills I needed to go out in the world because I’m a very indecisive person, and when I came here, I wasn’t a very confident person,” Stackhouse says, “But my internship and the social work professors were really amazing. They gave me everything I needed to go on. Once I was in the right major, I felt like I was at home immediately.”
Of the support she received from the social work department, Stackhouse says, “I would tell incoming students not to be afraid to go to office hours with their professors. I didn’t do that until my third or fourth semester and it completely changed everything. I started to do better in my classes, I had a better relationship with my professors. It made me value my education more.
“So even if you’re an introvert, step out of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to push yourself. Go to U (University) Day. Sign up for one or two organizations. Get involved.”
Interested in pursuing a career like Natalie's? You can!