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Social work grad plans career offering support to new immigrants

Her own immigrant family did not receive culturally responsive services, increasing delays in meeting their basic needs

Mutumwinka Rose, fall 2023, Outstanding Graduate, School of Social Work, Watts College

Mutumwinka Rose is the School of Social Work's fall 2023 Outstanding Graduate. Courtesy photo

December 11, 2023

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2023 graduates.

Among the people social workers help are new arrivals in the United States, many of whom are unfamiliar with the process of living in their new home. Social workers assist them in finding housing or a job, signing up for school, locating medical treatment and many other introductions to American society.

Mutumwinka Rose, who is the Arizona State University School of Social Work’s fall 2023 Outstanding Graduate, said she wishes that the social worker who was assigned to her family had been less pressed for time and more culturally competent.

Rose’s family left the east African nation of Rwanda when she was 8 years old, moving to North Dakota for about a year.

“My family was assigned a case worker,” Rose said. “She didn’t seem to have enough time for us, to get our needs met. My family and I struggled to do so many things by ourselves; we did not have a support system while navigating our new lives in America.”

It took a visit from Rose’s cousins in Illinois to show her and her family the basic things that the caseworker should have done. Her cousins said the family should move.

“They convinced us to move to Illinois. They helped us, and look at us now. We’re thriving,” the Rock Island, Illinois, resident said, although now that she’s graduating with a Bachelor of Social Work, she said she plans to stay in Arizona to pursue her Master of Social Work at ASU.

Rose plans to focus on helping immigrant families and youth, a decision she said she made after working closely with two teenagers during an internship.

Read on to learn more about Rose’s ASU journey.

Note: Answers have been edited for length or clarity.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: It was back in 2008. I did not realize this, of course, until I was older, but being an immigrant and knowing the struggles that immigrants must overcome motivated me to want to pursue social work and help individuals who may be experiencing the things I have experienced. I recently had the opportunity to work with two immigrant teens at my internship who just came to America this year. While working with them, my passion for the profession was confirmed.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: How much the School of Social Work in particular fosters strong connections with community organizations and communities. We had various speakers come into the classrooms to speak with us. This allowed us to be able to network and build connections that will be beneficial to us post-graduation.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because of the school’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. As a social work major, it is important to be able to be in a place where diversity and inclusion are significant. I was able to develop cultural competence and an understanding of the diverse population that I may serve post-graduation.

Q: Which professor(s) taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: It is hard choosing just one professor who taught me the most important lessons while at ASU because all my professors played a huge role in my academic success. I appreciate all the important lessons they have instilled in me.

There is one, however, who did go above and beyond for me while at ASU, Claire McLoone. She helped me tackle hardships that life was throwing at me outside of the classroom, and she was a big support to me during my time at ASU. Even after I finished her course, she still allowed me to come and talk to her whenever I needed.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Remember that you did not come this far to only go this far. There are many great things for them coming; continue striving for the best and becoming the best version of yourself. Although things may seem hard and impossible, your breakthrough is coming.

Q: What was your favorite spot to study, meet friends, or just think about life?

A: The eighth floor in the University Center on the Downtown Phoenix campus. We had a social work student lounge, and my friends and I would go up there to study. Fun fact: My friends and I were the ones who encouraged the staff to make it an official lounge for social workers.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would develop and support efficient and equitable global food distribution systems to reduce food waste and ensure that food reaches those in need. This may involve investing in infrastructure and technology for better supply chain management.

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