Hometown: Austin, Texas!

Martha Santillan
Martha Santillan, MSSW ’18

Why social work? While working at a residential treatment center during college, I came to admire the therapists’ work with the residents. I realized then I wanted to create a safe space and time to provide support and empathy for others. Years later, before I applied to the Steve Hicks School of Social Work, I worked at LifeWorks Austin and become friends with counselors who had graduated from the program. They encouraged me to apply to the master’s program program as a clinical student. I followed their advice and encouragement all the way!

Favorite experience on campus: The lighting of the tower, tailgating and going to football games! Off campus, my favorite time was interning at Dell Seton’s emergency room last summer- it was challenging and a huge learning opportunity. I like to think of summer field immersion as a final field crash course opportunity and would highly recommend it to others in the program.

Most challenging time at the Forty Acres: Balancing a steady family life, social life, and school life for the past three years or so. Some semesters are lighter and then some are packed with things to do– it has been a work in progress to figure out what works best for me each semester.

Best moment at your social work internship: Co-facilitating a mothers’ support group for immigrant, Spanish-speaking mothers and mothers-to-be during my first internship at Catholic Charities of Central Texas’ Gabriel Project Center. I enjoyed seeing them connect and learn from one another while creating community.

Favorite professor: With no hesitation my favorite professor has been Yessenia Castro! She represents me! She is just so cool and intelligent and a badass Latina. I admire her and am grateful she is a faculty member here.

On Latinx graduation: Attending the Latinx graduation was a special experience. It was a moment to embrace my identity as a Latina, a daughter, a sister, and role model. You see, I am the first one to go to college in my family and the first to receive a master’s degree, too. I somehow remained strongly focused on my education and meeting the next goal I had set for myself even with the odds against me. My family, especially my Mom, has provided ongoing support, encouragement, and inspiration to be who I am, to keep moving forward towards those high goals. My accomplishment are not mine alone.

Plans for the future: I plan to stay in Austin and enjoy the city as an official adult! I will start working towards my LCSW once I find my first social work job. I also plan to move out of Texas after becoming an LCSW to see what another city and state has to offer– a goal of mine for now which I hope to achieve!

Words of wisdom for the incoming MSSW class: Being an adult student is difficult yet somehow manageable and a lot of fun. You are capable! It is okay to ask for help or guidance and allow yourself a mental and physical break.