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UK College of Social Work holds virtual ceremony for 24 graduating Army officers in MSW program


By Lindsey Piercy
University of Kentucky

Many students around the country are missing milestones. Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, schools and universities are making the tough decision to cancel or postpone commencement ceremonies.

Though it’s inevitable that academic celebrations will look and feel different, it’s important to note — the achievements of the Class of 2020 should not be diminished.

“The fact that they were able to achieve what they did — under these conditions — should be celebrated in any and every way possible,” said Jay Miller, dean of the College of Social Work.

On April 17, the United States Army and the University of Kentucky College of Social Work (CoSW) did just that — honoring 24 graduating officers through a virtual ceremony.

The Zoom event was a fitting culmination for weeks’ worth of unprecedented efforts. “We collaborated with our faculty and staff at Fort Sam Houston to move all classes to a virtual platform,” Miller explained. “We also worked with field agencies to reconceptualize field work. Without question, it was tough, but everyone did what needed to be done. Social workers and military personnel have a lot of commonalities — perhaps the biggest among them is the ability to adapt. And, that is what we did.”

Last week, the graduates successfully completed the Army-University of Kentucky Master of Social Work (MSW) at Fort Sam Houston. The ceremony that followed, which was live streamed through the CoSW YouTube page, included remarks by Col. Theodore Croy, Dean Miller, and UK Provost David Blackwell.

“The university’s roots with the U.S. Armed Forces run deep. We are profoundly proud of this program, because it reflects who we are at the University of Kentucky. It extends our land-grant mission and deep connection with the military into the 21st century,” Blackwell said. “I am confident in and proud of the young, intelligent Wildcats who leave our campus and serve our country in the Armed Forces.

“But, I’m even prouder when they choose to give back and continue to lead lives of meaning and purpose.”

Among the graduates was Jamie Webb, who was not only recognized for her exceptional academic excellence but was also recently named the National Association of Social Worker’s (NASW) – Alamo Area Student Social Worker of the Year.

“I chose the social work profession because I have a sincere passion to support individuals who are vulnerable or disadvantaged. It has been a privilege to be a part of a range of service activities while studying in the Army-UK MSW Program,” Webb said. “I feel incredibly lucky to have a supportive command team that empowers me to be creative in my service and who allows me to take risks for the benefit of others. I have grown as a student, a soldier and a person because of their support and encouragement.”

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Another graduate, Shaniek Tose, was given the Outstanding Student Award during the virtual ceremony.

In October 2016, the CoSW established a partnership with the Department of Defense to offer a one-of-a-kind master’s degree.

A satellite site was established within the Army Medical Department Center and School at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. The satellite implements the full-time, 60-hour CoSW program. The curriculum is delivered in a condensed format over 14 continuous months of study, and all classes are administered through the Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston campus.

The goal is to develop well-qualified clinical social workers to fill positions across military service branches.

“The partnership has been outstanding. UK has provided an excellent curriculum, unwavering support and the flexibility to teach and evaluate military social work competencies producing superb Army social workers, well-qualified to provide clinical interventions to service members and their families,” Col. Nathan Keller, director of the program at Fort Sam Houston, said in a previous article.

“The Army-UK MSW program is essential to the success of the Army social work mission, as 75 percent of required active-duty social workers will graduate from this program.”

And those graduates are needed now more than ever. “They are certainly shifting into an area of post-pandemic social work practice — the likes of which we have never seen,” Miller said. “I find solace in knowing that they were adeptly trained with an education to deal with the contemporary realities facing society.”

For more information about the Army-UK program, please visit the CoSW website.


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