Staff Spotlight: Jorge Vargas

Describe briefly what you do and how long have you been at Brown:
I’ve been at Brown on and off, in various capacities and in various departments for over seven years now. I’ve been an Americorps member and consultant at the Swearer Center, a faculty member at the Warren Alpert Medical School, a graduate student intern at the BCSC, and a student support staff member at Student Support Services. Currently, I serve the campus as a psychotherapist at Counseling and Psychological Services providing direct clinical support to students. I also serve as the Special Assistant to the Vice President for Campus Life working on projects focused on staff wellbeing. It’s been a journey here, you know. 

What professional accomplishment are you most proud of:
I have a deep appreciation for the collaborative projects with wonderful campus partners over the years, and for the opportunity to work directly with such a vibrant studentry. Developing and presenting the B.E.A.R. Project with my CAPS colleague, Erin Lane-Aaronian, PhD, encapsulates that work and appreciation most succinctly. The B.E.A.R. Project took over three years to develop, over a thousand interactions with students and staff, the review of countless feedback forms, and continues to be an evolving project. One of the life lessons that I have learned as a result of working on this project has been that in order for me to talk about wellness, mental health, and suicide prevention in any meaningful way, then I have to be willing to take steps outside of my comfort zone, be present on campus as my authentic self, and to trust that we have the capacity to hold each other with compassion even through difficult conversations. Erin and I will give each other pep-talks before presenting and one of the things we’ll tell each other is “it’s okay to be your awkward self”; this is advice that helps me be present at work and in my personal life. So don’t mind me, I’m just being my awkward, and often loud, self.

Name something about you most people don't know:
I’m not going to put it all out there in this newsletter but I will play two-truths-and-a-lie:

  1. In my senior year of high school, I was denied admission to every single college and university that I had applied to.
  2. I was recruited at a SEARS department store to be in a Colgate toothpaste add as a young kid.
  3. I was a professional Shakespearean actor in Los Angeles.

If you want to know the answers, I’m typically free for lunch on Wednesdays.

If you weren't doing this job, what would you be doing?
I honestly don’t know…My career path has, in some ways, been untraditional and has taken turns that I would have never predicted. But, I’m almost certain that I would be in Los Angeles where my mom would be stuffing me with food, my father would be making fun of me, my sisters would be making me crack up, and the whole family would be stressing me out about bills or something. And, I would have figured out a way to pay those bills and be fine. As a part of my personal spiritual practice, I try to be aware and grateful for the here and now, with varying degrees of success, of course. So, who cares what I would have been doing, really? I don’t. ...But, also, I would be a back-up dancer for Janet Jackson. Duh.