• BEST IN STATE—Senior Courtney Schoen Lewis was named Best PR Student in Utah. Story

Social work prof turned from law career to more fulfilling life’s work

July 30th, 2011 Posted in Arts and Life

By D. Whitney Smith

LOGAN—In an alternate universe he’s probably filing court documents somewhere in Ohio, or perhaps he’s the state attorney general. But in the real world, Shannon Browne’s life took an unexpected turn, one that led him to Utah State University. Now, he says, he’s doing something he’s passionate about.

Browne and his wife, sociology professor Christy Glass, moved to Cache Valley from New Haven, Conn., shortly after Glass completed her doctorate at Yale. Browne has been an assistant professor in the social work program at USU since 2005.

“He’s a great asset to the program. Students love him—he has transformed the service activities that the social work student organization undertakes,” said Terry Peak, social work program director. “Now they do a planned activity at least once a month, and he’s always at those activities.”

The trajectory that Browne’s life has taken recently is much different from what he originally expected. Born in 1970 in Bowling Green, Ohio, until he was 13 Browne wanted to be a Southern Baptist preacher—the faith he grew up practicing.

“When I was, probably, my sophomore year in college I wanted to be an FBI agent,” Browne said. “I think I’d seen ‘Silence of the Lambs’ and was like ‘Ooh, that’d be cool to investigate serial killers,’ not really knowing that probably most of the work that you do as an FBI agent is at a desk, pushing papers.”

Having a father and step-mother who are both professors, Browne is no stranger to the academic lifestyle.  Glass says Browne graduated from high school as the valedictorian at age 16 and went on to finish at the top of his class at Bowling Green State University.

After a short stint at University of North Carolina in a sociology doctoral program, Browne said he realized he has no knack for statistics. This is when he decided to pursue a law degree—the goal, he said, was always to eventually become a professor.

“He went to law school at Ohio State and graduated 10th in his class,” Glass said. “Then he managed to get two clerkships with federal judges. He was incredible; he published, I think, four law journal articles—he had a law journal article that was cited by the Supreme Court.”

Eventually disenchantment with a law career set in. Browne said he didn’t want to stay with the law firm he was with for as long as he had to before he could become a teacher. When Browne quit the firm, panic set in.

“I was like, ‘What am I going to do?’ So I just sat down and said, ‘If I’m going to leave the law, I want to do something I really like,’” Browne said. “I always have enjoyed, if I’m in a group of people I’m kind of quiet, but if I’m one-on-one with someone that’s where I feel most comfortable.”

After mulling things over, Browne decided he was going to get involved in doing clinical work. He said social work was the fastest track to doing something he was passionate about. While researching social work, he realized its mission statement runs parallel with his values—fighting for social justice and working for discriminated, marginalized and oppressed individuals.

“These are the people I want to help,” Browne said. “Social work really values service, and actually that’s my favorite part about my job is the service component.”

Browne attended Columbia University in New York to complete a two-year program for his master’s in social work, and went on to do clinical work with at-risk children.

Glass said her husband doesn’t only have a penchant for helping people, but he also has an affinity for felines. Of his four cats, he took in a foster named Mr. Orange who, Glass said, Browne refers to as “his best friend.” Browne retorted that he has human friends, too.

Outside the university setting, Browne is a homebody who enjoys playing both real and fantasy basketball and watching movies and television shows such as the HBO series “The Wire.” Browne said he is also an exercise fanatic.

“As far as my job goes … my focus is almost exclusively on teaching and advising, and those are the things I love to do,” Browne said. “I am happiest when I’m interacting with students. I love to be around students, I love to be in the classroom.”


Tags: ,

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.