The School of Social Work 2016 fall commencement ceremony took place in the LBJ auditorium on Saturday, December 3. The convocation speaker, chosen by her peers, was Reginald (Reggie) Smith, BSW ’16.

Reggie Smith. Photo by Shelby Knowles.
Reggie Smith. Photo by Shelby Knowles.

Smith is a former vice president of the San Antonio Chapter of the Texas Association of Addiction Professionals. He’s also a Longhorn Center for Civic Engagement/Austin City Hall Fellow, a School of Social Work College Scholar. and the recipient of the 2016 Tower Award for Outstanding Student Volunteer. Currently he works as a peer policy fellow and certified peer specialist at Communities for Recovery in Austin.

“Reggie is an extraordinary person with a compelling story. In his own words, he has come full circle, ending an almost thirty-year odyssey through the school-to-prison pipeline that ultimately led him back to school,” said Allan Cole, senior associate dean for academic affairs when introducing Smith.

“By virtue of the many lessons he learned from his personal experience in the criminal justice system—including difficult lessons to be sure—Reggie has been a conduit for educating students, faculty, policy makers, and anyone else who will listen on a whole host of matters related to criminal justice reform and smart decarceration strategies. He is to be commended for his vision, his courage, his wisdom, and his humanity while leading in this important work. And by the way, all of us do well to listen to him,” Cole added.

In this own speech, Smith emphasized that a social work degree comes with the obligation, and privilege, to serve the community and work to interrupt and end disparities:

“Barbara Jordan once said, ‘It is a privilege to serve people, a privilege that must be earned, and once earned, there is an obligation to do something good with it.’ As graduates of The University of Texas at Austin, we have acquired a privilege by virtue of obtaining a world-class education from this institution. We should strive to use this privilege to interrupt and end disparities based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status, political belief, religion, mental or physical disability or location.”

Read the full speech (pdf). See more graduation photos on the School of Social Work’s Facebook page.