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Alumna of OHIO Chillicothe's inaugural Social Work cohort returning to teach next generation of health care professionals

Nikki (Susan) Priest has returned to her alma mater, Ohio University Chillicothe, to teach in social work. Before joining the social work faculty in the College of Health Sciences and Professions at Ohio University as an assistant professor of instruction, Priest served at Adena Health System as a Project Manager for Rural Communities Opioid Response Program. This Health Resources and Services Administration program awards grants related to substance use disorder. 

A Ross County native, Priest was part of the first class of social work graduates at OHIO Chillicothe, earning her bachelor’s degree in 2014. She later earned a master’s degree in social work at Ohio State University. 

Priest chose the social work profession out of a desire to help others. 

"Growing up, I experienced and witnessed poverty, addiction, and mental illness and the impact they have on the lives of individuals and families,” Priest said. “I experienced firsthand the feelings of powerlessness that accompany oppression and marginalization and I wanted to prevent other people from experiencing those feelings."

Priest describes social work skills as “knowledge in action” and says her social work degree provided her with the knowledge and background she needed to feel confident in her social work career. 

In her previous role as a Project Manager for the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program, Priest played a crucial role in addressing substance use disorder in rural communities. She managed the day-to-day operations of the grant, established community partnerships, and implemented strategies to enhance access to harm reduction services and treatment.

“I loved the work I was doing with Adena,” Priest said.

Priest is eager for the opportunity to teach and learn alongside social work students at Ohio University Chillicothe. 

"I’m excited to get to know them and give them the information they need to make a big difference in their community," she said.

Dean of Campus and Community Relations Roberta Milliken said Priest will be an asset to the social work program at OHIO Chillicothe. 

“I am thrilled to have Nikki joining the OHIO Chillicothe team,” Milliken said. “Having worked with many local agencies, she brings a wide variety of experiences and knowledge that will enrich her classes.”

As she begins her first semester of teaching, Priest remembers the impact of her professors, particularly Dr. (first name) Hungerford, who brought his passion for social work to the classroom even while battling Stage IV Cancer. His dedication left a lasting impression on Nikki, inspiring her passion for the field.

Outside work, Priest enjoys spending time with her dogs and family, engaging in activities such as hiking, painting, reading, and attending music festivals and concerts. She advises students to find balance and prioritize self-care.

“If you want to be a helper, you have to care for yourself,” Priest said. “Prioritize time for friends/family, joy, hobbies, rest, school, and work.”

January 23, 2024
Staff reports