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Thursday, September 21, 2023

Academics & Research

Ph.D. program celebrates 20 years of accomplishments

In 1993, the first doctoral candidates began their journey toward advancing their education in social work. This year, the Graduate College of Social Work’s doctoral program is celebrating  its 20th anniversary.

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The Graduate College of Social Work has had 71 Ph.D. graduates since 1993 and many came to celebrate the 20th anniversary. | Courtesy of Connease Warren

Professor Patrick Leung served as the first program director and helped make the program a reality.

“I am very excited,” Leung said. “It touched me a lot because I was the first director, and the program kept growing and growing and it has had a wonderful impact on the community.”

Director of the doctoral program Sheara Williams is proud that the College has been able to sustain the program.

“We’ve had 71 graduates in 20 years, so I think that speaks to the fact that we are serving a need and that we are helping to develop scholars who are all around the country and even the world,” Williams said.

International students seek out the GCSW for the work they do in other countries, Williams said. They enroll, graduate and take what they’ve learned back to their countries and contribute to the social causes that are important to them.

“The 20 years means that we have accomplished — we are accomplished. We have our roots, we have stability and this gives us an opportunity to reflect and look forward and think about what we do next, what we can do better and how do we get ready for the next 20 years,” Williams said.

The year-long celebration started with a cocktail reception at the National Association of Social Workers conference on Labor Day weekend in Austin. The next two events take place in November and January at other conferences in Texas. The last celebration is during the weekend of April 25, when the college will host its scholarship gala and have an alumni reunion.

Social Work Dean and professor Ira Colby said technology and the influence of the global community dramatically redirected and reframed doctoral education throughout the years.

“The anniversary provides the faculty, staff and alumni a time to reflect on the program and the many accomplishments of its graduates,” Colby said.

For alumnus and research professor Larry Hill, it’s a surreal experience to be on the other side of the spectrum, calling some of his former professors colleagues.

“I still feel as though I learn a lot from the different professors, but I think they give me room to grow, so in a sense it feels a little strange, but on the other end it feels like it’s completing the circle,” Hill said.

As the program continues to celebrate its anniversary, Williams wants to let all GCSW alumni know that “you have made us very proud. We want to hear from you; we want to celebrate your accomplishments and come home and see us.”

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