Faculty Spotlight

Deanna Cooper

Deanna Cooper

Faculty/Staff Academic Background Information:

Deanna has had an extensive career in direct practice social work. After completing a social work practicum with the VA Palo Alto, she was hired by the VA, relocating to the Four Corners area of New Mexico to work in rural healthcare with veterans and their families. She spent ten years in school social work, establishing prevention programs for children and families impacted by poverty and substance abuse. Prior to moving to Montana, Deanna spent ten years as Clinical Director of a model program for the State of New Mexico, working with incarcerated individuals and their families, overseeing evidence-based programs and approaches for substance use disorders. Deanna provided clinical supervision to licensed professionals within her agency and helped develop transitional and medication-assisted programs for clients and peer mentoring positions for graduates of the jail-based treatment programs.

What do you like most about the field of Social Work?

It’s never boring! I’ve had the opportunity to work with people at almost every stage of human development, in many different areas of focus, and I still feel very passionate about the field of social work. At this point in my career I feel blessed to be working with students and helping this generation to carry the torch of social work and social justice issues.

What have been some highlights of your career thus far?

How much I have learned from clients; they teach us the best lessons in life, including humility. Bearing witness to people’s stories of the impacts of trauma, hardship and poverty can be difficult but is necessary. The reward is in the celebration of watching people move forward and witnessing the incredible strengths and resiliencies that they find in themselves, their families, and their communities. Watching positive change happen is a gift.

Is there any advice you would give students interested in pursuing a career in Social Work?

People are messy and complex, be a lifelong learner to keep up with new advances and take great joy in the small successes. The field is so diverse, and as the science of behavior change grows people are recognizing social workers as catalysts for change and excellent team players. Once people find out what social workers can do, they want us at the table.

What do you like most about living in Missoula and working at the University of Montana? 

I actually don’t live in Missoula, I live in St. Ignatius. It’s a bit of a drive, but being surrounded by the beauty and the people that live in Mission make it worth the commute. I feel grateful to be part of the UM community; the students keep me young and the work keeps me up on changes in the field. Our BSW 2+2 Program allows me to build relationships with tribal and rural colleges and communities which is an extension of the UM campus to Montanans across the state.