2024 Tillman Scholar

Crystal Bettenhausen-Bubulka

Military Spouse
University of Southern California
Doctor of Social Work

“By empowering military spouses through education and connection, I aspire to eradicate social isolation fueled by curiosity and collaboration.”

Crystal’s journey as a military spouse and Licensed Clinical Social Worker reflects a deep commitment to addressing mental health and social challenges within military communities. Her extensive volunteer work and leadership roles at various duty stations demonstrate a dedication to supporting military families. As a military spouse who has  experienced firsthand the impact of loneliness and isolation, Crystal brings a personal understanding to mental health struggles. As a clinician, she recognizes the connection between isolation and issues like depression and suicidal thoughts, motivating her to pursue a Doctorate in Social Work. 

Crystal’s current focus on eradicating social isolation through her doctoral work showcases her desire to create meaningful changes. Her vision is not limited to mental health, but encompasses a broader perspective on social health, emphasizing the importance of building strong social structures within communities. The goals of her doctoral capstone project reflect Crystal’s strategic approach to her advocacy. She aims to empower communities by promoting compassionate curiosity and fostering stronger social connections. This initiative aligns with her belief in addressing not only mental health concerns but also the broader social fabric that contributes to individuals’ well-being. Secondly, Crystal seeks to encourage more military spouses to pursue careers in social work. 

By building a team of culturally competent social workers within the military community, Crystal envisions creating social entrepreneurs and agents of change. This approach supports military communities, diversifies the social work profession, and provides employment for military spouses. It also helps fill the gap of mental health professionals in underserved areas, addressing the critical shortage in mental health care access.