From: Haslet, Texas.

Why social work? As a high school junior and senior, I was unsure about what I should study. I was considering studying psychology because I loved a psych high school class I took; I loved thinking about people’s brains, about how they interact with other people, and about their motivations and values. I was also  nursing because I liked helping, listening, checking in, and standing up for vulnerable people—but I also knew that I hated bodily fluids and so nursing was not for me! And I was considering  education because I liked the idea of having a job in which I was continuously learning and helping others learn. On somewhat of a whim, I went to an informational session about the social work degree at UT Austin, and found a field that seemed to fit perfectly with what I love.

A significant experience during the BSW program: Within the first year of the program, I spent a lot of time out in the field, experiencing social work in real life through service learning and internships. Within my very first week of service learning, in my very first semester of college, I had to make a report to CPS based on information a young child revealed to me about their home life. This was difficult for little 18-year-old me. I had a lot of mixed emotions, including fear, sadness, and anger. But I knew that my conversations with that child, my ability to make this young person feel comfortable and safe opening up to me, played a big part of the journey for this child to move somewhere safer. That’s often what social workers do: they are the connecting piece between people in need and the services/support that will fulfill these needs. This interaction helped me realize that I love the field of social work. The work is very hard and very important.

Favorite part about the BSW program: I love that the school is so small; I know lots of people in the major, which helps the learning environment feel safe and comfortable. I love that the program pushes you to get out and get real-world experience from the very beginning.

Favorite professor: Professors Shane Whalley, Vicki Packheiser, and Dianne Rhodes. But we are so fortunate to have a school full of wonderful professors. They have come to teach after spending many years in the field and so they bring an incredible amount of experience. They instill in you a drive and a responsibility to engage people in difficult conversations, to use your voice for folks who lack a voice, and spend a lifetime working for social justice.

What is next after graduation? I plan to be a middle or high-school English teacher in the Austin area, and to use my social work skills every day in the classroom. Eventually, I plan to return to seek a Master of Social Work degree and to maybe continue to work with youth and adolescents. The great thing about the field of social work is that I will constantly have options and freedom to practice in a variety of settings with a variety of populations.

Advice for prospective BSW students: Be confident in your choice to be a social work major. There are so many different directions you can take this degree into, you don’t have to know right now what you’ll do with it. In my four years at UT I have been able to fit the social work degree, and a major and a certificate program from the College of Education; you can also customize the degree to make it your own. Also, just smile and nod when your friends and family make dumb remarks and jokes about how little money social workers make or how hard the job will be. Maybe the job will be hard, but you chose this field for a reason. It takes a special person to be a social worker, and that special person is you.