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ASU graduates celebrate around the state


Tucson BSW group

ASU's School of Social Work has had a strong program in Tucson for more than 30 years. More than 125 graduates — both bachelor's and master's — celebrated this spring. Photo by Christopher Lopez

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May 11, 2016

As graduation ceremonies are held throughout the week, the Phoenix metro area is not the only place celebrating. The Arizona State University School of Social Work congratulated more than 125 graduates in Tucson and 27 in Flagstaff over the weekend.

“The School of Social Work in Tucson is truly a special place with a profound sense of community,” said Lela Rankin Williams, associate professor and Tucson coordinator. “Our graduates are passionate about effecting change, and their work brings solutions to our community every day.”

Erica Damon, who received her master’s degree, said, “This is a profession that reaches all venues of any community. My heart and passion is for the overall health of First Nation communities.”

Damon, who took two years off to get healthy herself, returns to graduate summa cum laude. She produced a video aimed at advice on how to be successful in college. It won the first ASU Native Sun Devil Video competition.

“I do very well as a clinician and love helping others find, own and rewrite their life stories through the therapeutic process. It is amazing to see change happen right in front of your eyes,” she said of her goal to become a licensed clinical social worker.

Lisa Pena also received her master’s degree.

“I worked as a Spanish-English interpreter for many years in schools, courts, medical facilities and for the Department of Children’s Services. I felt helpless because I could interpret for people, but I wanted to do more to help them to improve their situation,” she said. “The time was right to get my MSW.”

Pena will be putting her knowledge to work in a hospital as a social work case manager.

Kameron Mark, who received her bachelor’s degree, said, “We have been together for two years — and longer for those of us who came from Pima Community College. The support, and school family, really showed at graduation in how we cheer for each other.”

Mark has been admitted to the master’s program on the Tucson campus. She is also a recipient of the Gabe Zimmerman Memorial Scholarship. She hopes to make a difference in the foster-care system.

“I went into the foster-care system at age 14 and aged out at 18,” she said. “The team I had around me in the group home was so phenomenal in supporting me. I was lucky, and I want that for others.”

Mark has volunteered at Devereux Arizona in Tucson, one of the largest providers of behavioral health care.

“Ultimately I want to be in the field working directly with kids,” she said. “I want people to know that no matter what your background is, you can achieve your goals.”

Flagstaff social work students celebrate the last day of class
before a graduation celebration over the weekend.
Photo by Kaycee Pittman

ASU has offered social work classes in Tucson since 1972, and bachelor’s and master’s programs since 1978. The program also expanded to Flagstaff in recent years. 

"The Flagstaff cohort is unique because most of us already had many years of experience in the field," said Kaycee Pittman, a Flagstaff graduate. "We also work with many communities and individuals in rural locations so we are familar with barriers and unique needs in these areas."

“Having programs on the ground in communities around the state enables our students to pursue their passion for social work, while putting their knowledge to work in their home cities,” said Michelle Carney, director of the School of Social Work, part of the College of Public Service and Community Solutions. 

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