Wally Wingfield, MSSW ’83, will receive the 2012 Charles I. Wright Distinguished Alumni Award, presented by the School of Social Work and the Social Work Alumni Network (SWAN), the school’s alumni organization. Wingfield, a social worker at Seton Shoal Creek Hospital in Austin, has served as a field instructor for numerous School of Social Work interns since 1986. His dedication to the social work profession will be celebrated during the school’s annual spring alumni reception May 10, at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center.
School of Social Work Director of Alumni Relations Jennifer Luna-Idunate recently interviewed Wingfield about his time as a UT Austin graduate student and subsequent career.
JLI: Why did you choose to study social work at UT Austin?
WW: I knew I wanted a career where I could help people and looked at several options. I liked working with people and knew that I would want to work in a position where I could get to know people one at a time. Social work seemed to be a perfect fit for me because it would teach me tangible ways to help people, and I would be helping those with the greatest needs to make their lives better. I chose UT Austin because of their accredited graduate social work program; I felt I would be getting the best education. I also liked the idea of attending UT and being close to where my family lived.
JLI: From where did you receive your undergraduate degree?
WW: I attended Texas Tech University and Lubbock Christian College and had two different majors before I realized that social work was the pathway I wanted to pursue.
JLI: Tell me about some of your memorable career moments.
WW: One of my most memorable career moments occurred during my School of Social Work field placement at Shoal Creek Hospital. I was employed with the state of Texas the previous three years working with the aged, blind, and disabled. The field placement was my first experience with the whole spectrum of people with severe psychiatric issues. Finding out that I had the tools to impact and better their lives—they moved from extreme psychological stress to being able to live independently—was so remarkable that I decided to continue this course of work and have been at Shoal Creek Hospital for almost 30 years. My second most memorable career moment was when my daughter, who had decided to follow in my footsteps and make social work her career, came to observe me run a group meeting
JLI: What do you like best about your social work career?
WW: As a social worker in an in-patient psychiatric setting at Shoal Creek, I enjoy seeing people get well and helping them pursue their plans for the future. This transformation not only impacts the life of the individual but very often their whole family.
JLI: How has the profession changed since you began working in the 1980s?
WW: Over the last 30 years as community and governmental resources have diminished, I have seen the role that the social worker plays become increasingly more complex and important to clients seeking help.
JLI: Any words of wisdom to our incoming class of social work students?
WW: Do your best and have fun!