ASU social work graduate committed to working with children, youth and families

Morgan Cywinski will pursue a master's degree in social work at ASU


Photo of Morgan Cywinski

Morgan Cywinski is graduating ASU with a bachelor's degree in social work. She plans to stay on at the university to pursue a master's degree in social work, with the ultimate goal of being a licensed mental health therapist serving children and adolescents.

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Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2024 graduates.

Morgan Cywinski knows how important play can be to the well-being of hospitalized children, so, as a student at Arizona State University, she developed a resource for them.

Cywinski is graduating in May with a bachelor’s degree in social work from the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions and honors from Barrett, The Honors College.

For her honors thesis, she designed and developed “The Bedside Box of Play,” a box with play activities geared toward 5- to 11-year-old children experiencing hospitalization. 

She fundraised enough to create 30 boxes, with materials in English and Spanish, and donated them to a children’s unit at a local hospital, where they are being used by young patients. The boxes provide an easy way to incorporate play and promote mental health in the hospital environment.

Cywinski, who is from Chandler, Arizona, interned at A New Leaf East Valley After School Program for school-age children and at Everybody Matters, a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching lifelong coping and social skills to children. She was a counselor for Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times and volunteered at Banner Hospice Dottie Kissinger Bereavement Camp, Phoenix Children’s and Helen’s Hope Chest.

She received the ASU New American University Scholarship, the Garcia Family Foundation Scholarship and the Beus Community Engagement Scholarship. Barrett Honors College selected her as an Outstanding Graduate for Creativity from the spring 2024 graduating class.

As the semester winds to a close, we caught up with Cywinski to get her thoughts on her undergraduate career. Here’s what she had to say.  

Question: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment as an ASU undergraduate?

Answer: I consider my greatest accomplishment in my ASU career to be working with youth in my internships with A New Leaf and Everybody Matters. These opportunities allowed me to develop as a social work professional while strengthening my passion for working with children and adolescents experiencing mental health challenges. I am grateful to have received the Garcia Family Foundation and Beus Community Engagement scholarships. I am proud to say that my mother earned her bachelor’s degree and is now working on her master’s degree. Being a scholarship recipient has allowed for me to pursue a career I love while my mom does the same for herself.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: Scholarships were one of the reasons I chose ASU, because it would allow both me and my mom to receive a college education. Another reason I chose ASU is that it is close to home, and spending time with my family and maintaining those relationships is very important to me. Once I made the decision to attend ASU, I decided to apply for Barrett, The Honors College as well because I wanted to be challenged to go the extra mile in my education. Being in Barrett has pushed me to take personal responsibility for my education and consider how I can use what I’ve learned to make a positive impact in my community.

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

A: Being a student at ASU has given me opportunities to interact with a diverse group of students, instructors and staff. My social work courses have challenged me to consider other ways of thinking and living, which has in turn helped me keep an open mind when working with clients in social work practice.

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

A: The faculty member who has had the greatest impact on me during my time at ASU is Lilly Pérez-Freerks in the School of Social Work. She always welcomed my love for learning and supported me in expanding my knowledge throughout my time at ASU. She even gave me books on my areas of interest, including hospital social work, grief and trauma. She is the humblest instructor I have had yet. She taught me that education is to be shared, and there is always something each of us can learn from one another. I always felt a strong sense of community in her classroom and will forever be grateful to her for sharing her love of learning with me.

I am also incredibly grateful to have worked with Judy Krysik, associate professor in the School of Social Work, who was my thesis director. It continues to amaze me that I didn’t know her prior to working on my creative project, “The Bedside Box of Play,” and yet she showed me such generosity and kindness through mentorship and collaboration.

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

A: I would say that my “aha” moment of realizing social work is for me happened when I had my first social work internship. In the spring of 2022, I began my first official semester as a social work student at ASU and interned with Everybody Matters. Having the opportunity to work with students in schools and apply those foundational skills solidified my love for social work. This experience also sparked my interest in play therapy, as well as child and adolescent mental health services. I have always loved working with children in volunteering experiences, but this internship helped me realize that social work is where I belong.

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

A: If I were to give one piece of advice to those still in school, it would be to speak up, ask questions, get to know your classmates and instructors, and act for the causes you care about most. You have so much to offer to your community and to this world — don’t wait until you graduate to start making an impact in the ways only you can.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: I lived on the Tempe campus for about half of my time at ASU, and my favorite spot for thinking about life was the chapel at the Catholic Newman Center. This chapel made me feel at home on days when I felt overwhelmed, worried or alone. It became a place of peace for me in such a busy chapter of my life and helped me return to my faith in times when I questioned if I was on the right path.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation, I will be beginning the Advanced Direct Practice MSW program at ASU, specializing in work with children, youth and families. I am thrilled to be joining this program and pursuing my goal of being a licensed mental health therapist serving children and adolescents.

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

A: I would want the money to be directed towards greater access to mental health care. When we take better care of our mental health, we are better equipped to reach our professional, personal and educational goals. Increasing access to mental health care — including psychotherapy, crisis care and medication management — for individuals who need it but cannot afford it, can empower them to work towards their goals in any aspect of their lives.                

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