The University of Iowa University of Iowa

The Intersection Section meets Jade Howser


Jade Howser.

Received her Masters of Social Work at the University of Iowa.

Currently a TA for Gender and Society (taught by Professor Jenn Haylett).

When not studying, Jade works at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

Impressive, right? I know. We at KRUI feel the same way.

She’s a raging feminist badass and a complete joy to talk to. Here’s what Jade had to say at our lunch/interview:

Was there a point in your life when you knew you wanted to be a social worker?

Honestly, it’s all I’ve known. I actually got started in 2001. My brother was in the army and he was recruited to go to Iraq. And at the time, I knew there was faulty information being fed to us about the war. I knew from the beginning we had absolutely no business there. While all of this was happening, I was working at the police station in Des Moines and I saw a lot of cases of sexual assault. It was hard for me to see that dark side of the world we live in today… and I think I have always know I wasn’t meant to sit in a cubicle somewhere. I wanted to help survivors, not work within the system like a hamster on a wheel. At this point in time, I started to think about the systemic causes of issues and the broader context of those issues we tend to not even think about.

Who is your biggest influence/inspiration when it comes to stances on social justice?

Wow, that’s a hard question. There is a lot of people! The person that helped me the most would have to be Ilima Young-Dunn. She is the Director of Human Services Program at DMACC (Des Moines Community College) and helped me figure out what I wanted to do, like the School of Social Work at the University of Iowa. I worked in this field before I got my education. Ilima opened my eyes into intersectionality.

How long have you been a TA?

It’s my first semester! I learned about the Gender and Society TA position through the Sociology Department… They needed someone to be a TA, so they opened it up to other departments. And this is a major topic of interest for me, so of course I jumped at the opportunity! In addition, I aspire to work in academia, so this was my way of getting my foot in the door.

How long have you known Professor Haylett?

She actually just moved here! I met her on the first day of class because the Department Head of Sociology does all of the hiring. So this whole experience was very new for her too! We automatically bonded because we both had purple in our hair and similar tattoos!

Talk to me about where you work and what that’s like.

Well currently, I am doing practice at the College of Laws in the Immigration Clinic. I help out in a course to teach things like interpersonal communication skills, etc. Doing actual immigration legal work. I help them realize their position of privilege and equip them with the knowledge and skills to build partnerships. I also work at the Hospital downtown. I help in the emergency section. Things like helping families in crisis, discharge planning (making sure they have family support at home), and things of that nature. Basically, if someone doesn’t know the answer to something, social workers figure it out! I also help out in the hospice department. And that is a different kind of crisis because you help prepare for a life without this person. And honestly, when someone is dying, all they want is to go home. I am honored to help people get home and to aid them in any way. I have to say, I never saw myself doing this… But I just love helping people!

I remember you mentioning you grew up on a farm. What was that like?

Well, I use the term “farm” loosely. We lived on 40 acres of land. We also had alfalfa, but the rest of the land was left completely untouched. There’s a lot of creeks and wildlife… It’s so beautiful out there. My mom also rehabilitated wildlife which we helped out with a lot. Trust me, it’s sounds great but when you have to wake up at the crack of dawn every morning to feed the animals, you aren’t thinking about their cuteness haha!

Did that teach you any important lessons that helped you later in life?

Oh definitely. Living on the farm really helped me connect with nature. And although I never really thought about it till now, I guess you could correlate caring for animals to helping humans. There is a lot of compassion involved in medical social work. It’s important to accept that death is a part of life and we should look beyond the stigma surrounding death. And I was exposed to death at a young age with the animals I worked with. I think it really helped with working with people. I have to admit, I am kind of oddly calm with death. Sometimes I think it freaks people out!

How has your family responded to your career path?

Well, my dad wishes I made more money haha, but as long as I am happy, my family is happy. I am the first in my family to go off to college, so I feel like I sometimes have an outsider’s perspective. I think there is a fine line between “we are proud of you!” and “don’t go and get a big head now!”

Thanks so much for this interview Jade! You were a blast.

For those of you who don’t know, Jade is also involved in multiple protest communities. If you have a Facebook and want to get involved, check out these links!

Black Lives Matter

Defending Our Universities (University of Iowa)

Center For Workers Justice Of Eastern Iowa