2013 fall graduation 6Family members and friends of the School of Social Work Fall graduating class were slowly filling the LBJ School Auditorium this past Saturday, December 7th, early in the cold morning.

Graduates were busy and excited in an adjacent room, putting gowns on, adjusting caps with bobby pins, and exchanging stories about their time at the School. Most of the thirty-one Fall graduates are from the Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program.

“One of my favorite moments of the BSW program was during my Introduction to Social Work class,” said Denise Martinez-Rivas. “I spent the day at my volunteer agency, Casa Marianella, with one of the residents, and while I helped her make dinner for the other residents she told me some of her stories. It was incredible to hear how much she had overcome. That day solidified my reasons for going into social work.”

Martinez-Rivas held leadership positions in the Social Work Council during her time at the School, an experience that she found very helpful to navigate the first year of college.

“The Social Work Council helped me so much my first year at UT. I was incredibly shy and just the act of being involved and around other people helped me to come out of my shell,” she said.

2013 fall graduation 7Alexander McArthur, who received highest honors at graduation, appreciated how the program helps students grow by pushing them out of their comfort zone.

“This was particularly true of my  Foundations of Social Justice class,” said McArthur. “The professor assigned different activities that really got us into a different mind set. For instance, we had to act like we lived on food stamps for a week, and do an action that was not the ‘norm’ by society’s standards.”

McArthur also acknowledged that college had not always been an easy ride.

“The final semester was very hard for me,” explained McArthur. “I had a full time internship, a second job, classes, assignments, I had to commute from Georgetown, I had to balance a relationship, and I had to manage personal time for myself. It was such a huge challenge for me. But I’ve been able to make it to the finish line as a stronger, more confident individual who has learned how to balance many roles at once.”

He is actually continuing right into the MSSW program at the School, starting in January.

“I am so honored that I’ll be able to continue my education here. I have come to know many great individuals and have done amazing work both on and off the UT campus. I look forward to continuing this in the only place I would ever want to—the School of Social Work at UT!” said McArthur.

2013 fall graduation 2Several other students will also continue into the MSSW program, such as Shirley Henderson.

“As a non-traditional student, I decided that it’s best for me if I don’t delay grad school while I’m in school-mode,” said Henderson. “I’ll remain in familiar territory, and will still be able to see some of my undergrad professors. That should help with a smooth transition for me.”

As the clock reached 9am, voices subsided and graduates lined up for the procession into the LBJ Auditorium that signaled the beginning of the commencement ceremony.

The program opened with a speech from Dean Luis H. Zayas. Bethany Camp welcomed the graduates on behalf of the Social Work Alumni Network, and Kaitlyn Ryann Cryer was the class speaker. Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Programs Vicki Packheiser recognized the twenty-eight BSW graduates; Assistant Dean for Master’s Programs Jane Kretzschmar recognized the two MSSW graduates; and Assistant Dean for Doctoral Programs Cynthia Franklin recognized the one PhD graduate.

More pictures of the 2013 Commencement ceremony will be posted on the School’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/utssw

Andrea Campetella – Posted December 9, 2013