by Nancy Neff, University Office of Public Affairs

Even after serving on the front lines as a Vista volunteer in President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, Elliott Naishtat didn’t believe he had quite fulfilled the domestic Peace Corp’s directive to “eliminate the paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty.”

Rep. Elliott Naishtat, 1972 alumnus (Photo by Marsha Miller)

So, he went back to school to get a master’s degree in social work.

“I began my graduate education hoping to prepare myself for a life in public service and to more meaningfully address the problems of low-income people,” said Naishtat, who went on to become the Texas State Representative from District 49 in Austin. He has been reelected nine times and serves as a member of the Human Services Committee and vice chairman of the Public Health Committee. He is a founding board member of the House Progressive Caucus.

Naishtat is one of five School of Social Work alumni featured in a new commemorative book celebrating the Graduate School’s 100th anniversary. He received his master’s degree in social work in 1972 and a law degree from the university in 1982.

Other alumni highlighted are Andrea Braun Albalawi, M.S.S.W., 2003, B.A., 1995; Joe Jenkins, M.S.S.W., 1952, B.A., 1948; Alan Silverman, M.S.S.W., 1980 and August Swain, M.S.S.W., 1953.

Albalawi is dedicated to her work at the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children, which is the first licensed nonprofit shelter in the United Arab Emirates for women and children victims of domestic violence, child abuse and human trafficking. Jenkins, who has had a career in the field of social work for 40 years, was a member of the first class to enter the School of Social Work in  1950 —  one of 24 students.

Swain became the first African American to receive a master’s degree from the School of Social  Work. He cofounded Riverside National Bank, the first predominately African American-owned and operated bank west of the Mississippi, and helped form the Wesley Square Rent Supplement Housing Project Foundation for low-income families, a $3.5 million program that was the largest of its kind in the South in the 1960s.

Alumnus Alan Silverman with Nafissatou Mbodj in Senegal. (Photo courtesy Alan Silverman)


Silverman has spent many years with the United Nations, first with UNICEF and now working with UNAIDS, the Joint UN Program on AIDS. His experience, he says, has taught him that individuals can change lives, and groups of passionate people can make even bigger differences. “Passion begets passion,” he says.

The Graduate School, which was established in 1910, is a story of men and women who pursued their dreams and earned master’s and doctoral degrees from the university, says Dr. Victoria Rodríguez, vice provost and dean of graduate studies.

“Facts and figures create an interesting historic chronology as they are assembled on a timeline, but the real treasures are in the achievements and everyday endeavors of remarkable people who have pursued their passions and followed unexpected paths,” Rodríguez said in the book’s foreword.

For more information, contact Kathleen Mabley, director of communications, Graduate School, 512-232-3633