Meet Drew Lindsey (’24), who worked his way off academic probation and onto a path of paying it forward for the sake of those with behavioral health struggles.

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of stories highlighting a few Concordia’s uncommon graduates. Faculty and staff submit candidates for consideration. Stories are posted in the days leading up to commencement. View more uncommon graduates here

There’s nothing more powerful than seeing someone who was given a second chance succeed.

Concordia gave Drew Lindsey the opportunity for a restart, and it’s made all the difference for him – as it will, no doubt, for the countless people he’ll impact through his intended career as a behavioral health therapist.

Drew graduates this week with double majors in psychology and social work, and he plans to continue his education at Concordia in August when his Master of Social Work program begins. In the meantime, he’ll get his feet wet in the field starting this month. He accepted a position as a mental health technician with Rogers Behavioral Health. He’ll work at the organization’s Oconomowoc hospital location.

None of this would have been possible had Concordia not believed in his potential for improvement and had he not put in the hard work to course correct his academic trajectory.

GPA decay

In December 2019, just one semester into his CUW experience, Drew’s attention to his academic studies was already starting to dangerously wane. The onset of Covid-19 didn’t help matters. An only child, he stepped up to financially support himself and his mother while her job was on pause due to the pandemic. Throughout Covid, he eagerly picked up as many shifts as possible at LindenGrove, a nursing home in Waukesha. Soon, he was working an average of 70 hours a week.

“Because I was working in a health professions field, I had this chance to work when so many other people weren’t able to,” Drew said. “I just kept taking on more and more overtime. I didn’t really take into consideration how it would affect my grades.”

The situation snowballed quickly. After two-and-a-half semesters on academic probation, Drew was dismissed from Concordia, but the door was not altogether shut. He had the opportunity to go through Concordia’s academic appeal process, where a student appears in front of a review panel of CUW faculty and staff to demonstrate his or her commitment to being academically successful into the future.

Striving toward academic recovery (STAR)

“It was a wake-up call for me,” Drew said. “The appeal process was very intense. They went over the whole process, the goals that would need to be met and then the implementation of the STAR program through the Academic Resource Center.”

Drew had a tall task in front of him, but he wouldn’t have to tackle it alone. He found a flood of support from Concordia’s ARC staff, including Director Jan Chapman, who sat on his academic appeal panel, as well as Elizabeth Kirk and Kathleen Hoppa Grady.

“We are very proud of Drew and all the adversity and obstacles he has overcome, while continuing to have a positive and upbeat attitude throughout his academic journey,” said Kirk, who serves as academic support specialist for the ARC. “His experience highlights the importance of perseverance, seeking support, and maintaining a growth mindset in the face of adversity and challenges. Setbacks do not define us, but rather, our ability to rise above them helps us to emerge stronger.”

A major change

As part of his academic appeal process, Drew agreed to significantly limit his off-campus work hours and change his area of study from pre-pharmaceutical studies. He quickly found psychology, and later, social work.

Initially, Drew said he struggled to reconcile the program change. Already at age 7, he had determined he would one day become a pharmacist after seeing his aunt, whom he greatly admired, work in the field. It was difficult letting go of a future he had so long envisioned for himself.

“The hardest part was just realizing that pharmaceutical sciences wasn’t for me,” Drew said. “I didn’t want to disappoint my mom and family, but going into a different major shouldn’t be a bad thing. Sometimes, you need to be able to figure out what really speaks to you, otherwise you’re just going to be unhappy in the field you’re in.”

Going into a different major shouldn’t be a bad thing. Sometimes, you need to be able to figure out what really speaks to you, otherwise you’re just going to be unhappy in the field you’re in.

Drew Lindsey (’24), Psychology and Social Work

Once he found psychology and social work, his grades began to drastically improve. He gained a second wave of support in his new professors, Psychology Department Chair Rachel Pickett, PhD, and Bachelor of Social Work Program Director Nichole Ostrowski, MSW.

“They’re like mother figures to me,” Drew said of Pickett and Ostrowski. “They’re so kind-hearted and so intuitive. We’ve had multiple deep conversations about a multitude of things. They’re never unwilling to give me the time of day. I credit them with guiding me and helping me figure myself out in terms of what I want to do with my life.”

Rising to the occasion

Once Drew graduated from CUW’s STAR program, he began to step into a variety of leadership roles at CUW. He served as Director of Development for Concordia’s Student Social Worker Organization and became inducted as a member of Phi Alpha Honor Society. He also reintroduced work hours into his schedule, contributing his time as an on-campus student worker for the ARC.

He’ll end his tenure at Concordia with a solid 3.0 GPA, and he’ll go on to become a fierce advocate for individuals with mental health struggles.

“A lot of times people with mental health issues are seen as weak, but I don’t believe it’s so,” Drew said. “I just want to see that stigma go away. I want to be that person to help others.”

Let’s start again

Drew’s restarts in life have extended beyond just his time at Concordia. Born in Louisiana, Drew and his parents evacuated his childhood home ahead of Hurricane Katrina. After the flood waters damaged the house beyond repair, they originally moved near family in Oklahoma, and then toward family in Madison, and, later, to Waukesha.

“It was a lot of moving,” Drew acknowledged. “I used to be a lot more outgoing, but I think with the constant moving, I had to kind of build relationships over and over again and, instead of doing a mass quantity of relationships, my circle of friends started to get smaller and more focused.”

Perhaps the perpetual moves built a resilience in Drew that helped him take on the necessary redo at Concordia. Either way, there’s no doubt in his mind that his Concordia experience, in turn, helped build in him perseverance and empathy for others – two essential qualities as he works to help others restart and build resilience in the face of their mental health struggles. 

“At times, God allows us to face our toughest challenges,” he said. “I think we all have our own battles that we fight. Overall, I think it’s about how we are able to persevere and be resilient so that we can we focus our vocation on helping others.”

Want in?

Concordia’s Psychology and Social Work programs seek to provide an excellent educational experience that will inspire students to contribute positively to their communities.

With an emphasis on Christian service, the programs encourage students to practice healthy habits to live a productive and meaningful life, and apply psychological knowledge and quality research to connect with others and share Christ’s love.