Ana Kearney has found her niche—not only through social work, but also through Latin American Studies, thanks to UT Austin’s dual degree program. Ana is passionate about Latinx adoptees and has already filled gaps in the literature regarding their experiences. Ana states, “I believe that this is important work to help them understand where they stand in the fight for racial equality and equity.” She recognizes that her experience at UT Austin is unique and that her selection of SHSSW enabled her to become a vital voice in this area.

Ana’s drive to be a social worker comes from her love of working with people. She is also inspired by social work’s systems, as she herself is driven to address social inequalities. As Ana puts it, “I don’t believe that we can do adequate work to support individuals if we are not also focused and mobilized around reforming harmful systems.”

Ana is graduating with not just one, but two Master’s degrees in 2022. Along with her MSSW, she is also receiving a Master of Arts in Latin American Studies. The ability to pursue two degrees at once is what drew her to UT Austin in the first place. This was a unique opportunity; UT Austin’s Latin America Studies/Social Work dual degree program is the only one of its kind in the country. Both SHSSW and the College of Liberal Arts are among the top schools in the nation.

Ana cites this as one of her proudest moments at UT: “I am so proud to have gotten two Masters degrees! I truly feel like my graduate education would not have been complete if I had only pursued one degree. Both programs complimented the other and it really helped to deepen my knowledge of working towards social justice both within the United States and also internationally.”

Another proud accomplishment of Ana’s is her individual research that she completed for her Latin American Studies thesis. Because of the dual degree program, Ana was able to truly integrate both of her areas of study into one combined thesis. She dove into research in order to help fill a gap in literature regarding transracial and international adoptees from Latin America. In explaining the thesis, Ana says, “I was able to interview 25 adoptees about their experiences growing up in white spaces and how that influenced their racial and ethnic identity development.” She was able to formulate theories around how Latinx adoptees create their identities. Ana attributes much of her success to her mentor and advisor, Dr. Mercedes Hernandez, as well as the Latin American Studies Program, who funded the research.

After working so hard to obtain two Master’s degrees, Ana is looking forward to a well-deserved break. She will be heading to her hometown of Philadelphia, PA to recuperate and search for a job that she loves.

Ana’s next milestone is to obtain her LCSW. She is excited about joining the ranks of adoption and adoptee-competent professionals to work with underserved populations. Ana will eventually return to academia to pursue her PhD; she is passionate about contributing to research in the field of adoption and filling gaps in the literature. In the future, Ana hopes to work clinically with adoptees and their families while also conducting research to ensure that she is implementing the best interventions possible.

As Ana moves forward into a bright and promising future, she reflects on all she has learned at SHSSW. Along with the knowledge obtained in her classes, she attributes much of her learning to her classmates and peers. In thanking them, she points out, “They have a wealth of knowledge that comes from all of their individual experiences. I know that I will be a much better social worker because of them!”

Congratulations to Ana Kearney-Cook, MSSW ’22.