Carol Gilson
Carol Gilson (photo by Julie McElrath Ray)

MSSW student Carol Gilson has been awarded the Kenneth H. Ashworth Fellowship for the 2013-2014 academic year.

This fellowship program was established in 1997 by members of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to honor Dr. Kenneth H. Ashworth for his services as commissioner. The purpose of the program is to provide financial assistance to Texas students pursuing careers in public service. Deans and other administrators of graduate programs in various disciplines, including Criminal Justice, Public Affairs Public Health, and Social Work, are invited to nominate students. Only two students are selected each year.

Carol is currently a student in the Post BSW Master’s program and will graduate in 2014. She received her BSW from the School in 2012, when she graduated with the highest honors, and was named Social Work Student of the Year by the NASW Texas Chapter-Austin Branch.

Carol has a strong commitment to make a positive impact in the lives of people with recently acquired disabilities. She experienced a disabling illness as an adult, and had to go through several surgeries and many hours of physical therapy to be able to walk again. She always remembers and is deeply grateful to the social worker that was there for her during this time. “My goal,” said Carol, “is to be that social worker for others.”

At the School, Carol spearheaded the creation of Disability Visibility Initiative, a committee devoted to examine how the undergraduate curriculum and the School milieu addressed disability. In partnership with other organizations, including the Texas Center for Disability Studies, the committee organized a symposium to raise awareness around these issues.

“What I am most proud of is that every attendee left with a resource packet, with tools they could use,” said Carol. “I am also proud that the symposium planted the seed of the Disability Advocacy Student Coalition (DASC), a student group at the university that is carrying forward the advocacy work I started.”

Carol authored an article about this experience that will be soon published in the peer-reviewed online journal Reflections – Narratives of Professional Helping.

“I know Carol will continue to make an impact in the field of social work,” said Dr. Lori Holleran Steiker. “I expect to see more great things from her as her career unfolds.”

Carol is excited about the prospect of receiving her master’s next year, and plans to continue being a public and private voice for disabled Texans. “As a professional social worker,” she said, “I want to help people live full lives after an acquired disability.”