Taking the Next Step to Addiction Studies

Spotlight on Students

Background: Dianne Sullivan of Hayward, Wisconsin, is one of the recipients of this semester's diversity grants that the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies awards to incoming and/or current students. To qualify for these awards, the applicants write essays then evaluated by HBFGSAS graduates who received these grants in the past.

Dianne SullivanAn enrolled member of the Lac Courte Oreilles band of Ojibwa, Dianne credits her mom for much of the success she's had in her life.

"I got into recovery 34 years ago, and the guiding force in my early recovery was my mother," said Dianne. "My mother was one of the first Native American women to go through treatment at Hazelden, and she was sober for 15 years before her death in 1985."

In 2015, Dianne enrolled in the Master of Arts in Addiction Counseling: Advanced Practice through the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies (HBFGSAS). She has been named the recipient of two grants available through HBFGSAS:

  • Minority Grant: This grant is for students who identify as African American, Native American, Alaska Native or Latino American. Eligible essays include an explanation of how the student has provided service and/or support to the minority recovery community and/or the minority community as a whole.
  • Multicultural Student Fund: All students are welcome to apply for this award, and qualified essays must include a description of the student's cultural background (e.g., with respect to age, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, disability); an explanation of how receiving this grant will serve as an asset to a career in counseling; and an explanation of how attending the Graduate School will help the student achieve his/her overall career goals.

Dianne's core philosophy of serving others is reflected in her journey to this point in her life.

Following completion of her undergraduate degree in English at Mount Senario College, Dianne went on to complete a semester of graduate-level coursework at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Her intention was to teach English and drama in a high school; however, even though she's been active in Community Theater in the Hayward area for over 25 years, after her student teaching practicum in college, she never returned to teach in the classroom.

Her mother became sick, so Dianne left school and went home to take care of her. Because her mom had a group home for recovering teenagers, Dianne got her license as a foster parent and took care of 14 kids who came to live in the home over the next five years.

Her first job in the community was in the child protection department of the tribal government. She later moved from that position to become an outreach advocate in the drug and alcohol program at the health clinic, and then transitioned to the role of an outreach worker. This involved visiting clients in their homes, going to court with them, and if they were under child protection or dealing with legal issues, taking them to meetings or appointments with probation officers. In 1989, she received her certified counseling degree through the Minority Training Project in Wisconsin and served as an outpatient counselor for her community.

"In May, I decided that I wanted to take the next step in my career and googled graduate schools in addiction studies and was surprised to find the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School," said Dianne. "They just happened to be hosting an open house in June, so I came to the campus, went through the tour and just felt that this is where the Creator was leading me."

She recently relocated to Center City to complete her studies and is slated to graduate in August 2016. After graduation, her goal is to return to help others in her native community.

"I'm amazed at the diversity within the graduate school, and I appreciate their philosophy and integrated approach to addiction treatment." said Dianne. "This really feels like I'm coming full circle—increasing my skills and education in order to go back home and work in my community."

Family and community are integral in her life, and despite her present distance from Hayward, she continues to connect with those who are important in her life, including four beautiful grandchildren. She also loves to read and be outdoors. Two of her favorite outings are hiking and camping with friends in the Porcupine Mountains of Upper Michigan or canoeing in the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota.

"For many of us in the native community, family connections are vital. And the Graduate School is close enough to my home community so that I still have access to my culture and ceremonies and can continue to be an effective language learner with those who speak the language," said Dianne. "There are people within my community—people who helped me, held their hands out and lifted me up. I am identified as a person in recovery within my community, and I want them to know that there is someone who they can always call."

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