Olivia Osborn

Olivia Osborn hopes to become a clinical social worker for dependent adults. When she isn't studying, Olivia enjoys spending time with her family, friends, and girlfriend.

Olivia Osborn takes inspiration from mother to pursue a career and research opportunities as a social worker

As a child, Olivia Osborn witnessed her mother's career as a social worker. Olivia often tagged along to her mother’s monthly gatherings in the Alzheimer's and dementia care unit for residents and their families. She started out by volunteering to serve punch and push wheelchairs. Her benevolence has only grown since then.

These experiences kindled Olivia’s abundant desire to become a social worker herself — specifically working with older, dependent adults. 

As a child, adult, and family services major at Iowa State University, Olivia has participated in the Louise Rosenfeld Undergraduate Research Internship under human development and family studies associate professor Megan Gilligan. 

Olivia is researching adult siblings who are caretakers for a parent with Alzheimer's or related dementia. Her research is conducted through video conference interviews, recording familial interactions, and collecting saliva samples from the siblings to record stress hormones.

“I think that whenever there is a confrontation or conflict regarding care when [siblings] are not on the same page, there are probably going to be spikes in their stress hormones,” she said.

Olivia is also a direct support intern for Mainstream Living Inc. Her tasks include working with residents who have intellectual disabilities by providing daily care, taking them to therapy, or getting their groceries.

“It’s a very challenging job,” she said. “[Residents] know how to push your buttons sometimes, but I think seeing them accomplish something that they didn’t think they could do, or overcoming a challenge is the best part [of my job].”

Olivia isn’t interested in working in daily care forever, and hopes to graduate to providing mental health assistance for older adults with intellectual disabilities. She believes it’s an area that is too often overlooked in the human services industry, and can have massive repercussions on a person’s depression or anxiety.

She said that her classes have prepared her for the real-world of social services by not sugar-coating lessons. However, nobody quite prepared her as much as her own mother did.

“Seeing my mother as a single mom and raising two kids as a social worker made me think, ‘I’m okay to do this. If she can do this and raise two kids, I can do this and be okay,’” Olivia said. “I don’t have to be in a career for money; I can actually do what I want to do, because she did it.”