Jared Brassil, '23

November 21, 2022
Psychology major expands perspectives on mental health and criminal justice at OAR of Richmond
By Joanne Bong, '25, Communications Assistant for Equity & Community

For psychology major Jared Brassil, '23, a Deborah L. Marsh Civic Fellowship at OAR of Richmond was the perfect way to engage with social issues he had begun exploring in the classroom.
"I knew that I wanted to work somewhere that dealt with mental health and criminal justice," Brassil said. "I found that with the OAR organization."
OAR of Richmond is a nonprofit that specializes in providing services for individuals who have just been released from prison. These services include resume assistance, GED classes, interview prep, and life skills groups. Their vision is to advocate for the humanity of those affected by the criminal justice system and empower them to achieve success.
Through his Civic Fellowship, Brassil was able to learn more about his field of study and personal interests.
"I was able to shadow some of the staff members and do hands-on work like databases and interviews," Brassil said.
As he took on different responsibilities, he experienced new challenges and deepened his thinking.

"When it comes to working in a field involving criminal justice, you go through a lot of burnout," Brassil said. "There were clients that came in with histories of aggression or sexual violence. I didn’t have experience working with people released from incarceration, and I was coming at my career path from a naive perspective."
Some of OAR’s programs include the Virginia Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Program (VASAVOR) and the Jail Mental Health Program (JMHP) which require specialized experience.
"Through the conversations and experiences I had at OAR, I was able to refine my thinking and learn more about my career goals," Brassil said.
In addition to working at OAR, Brassil also met regularly with his faculty mentor Dr. Kristjen Lundberg, associate professor of social psychology, to reflect on his experience and discuss readings relevant to his internship.
"He started off with readings that offered psychological accounts, historical context, and sociological analysis on the criminalization of mental illness and incarceration as a potentially traumatic experience," Lundberg said.
When questions emerged from Brassil’s internship experience, Lundberg recommended other readings.
"As he got deeper into the work of OAR, interacted with more clients, and considered his potential future role as a therapist, we had these amazing conversations about empathy and burnout and then were able to supplement those conversations with additional readings from moral psychology," Lundberg said. "In other words, the academic and experiential portions inform each other, which ultimately informs the fellow’s understanding of the situation, of themselves, and of how to effectively take action."
Now, Brassil is considering his post-graduation career goals. "I’m keeping my long-term career options open at the moment, but I think that it will definitely revolve around mental health and criminal justice."