Unmatched potential

Flurry of awards

Headshot of Austin Ezzard in a dark suit and white shirt
Austin Ezzard

In a rush one week in spring, the awards ceremonies and notifications of new honors “overwhelmed” B.S.W. student Austin Ezzard. “I have yet to process it,” he said at the time. Understandable. He earned a place as Virginia’s sole representative in the 2023 College Student Congress, a national summer public policy program; was named a student appointee to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia; won student of the year and chapter president awards from two university organizations; and earned the school’s David N. Saunders Legislative Internship Fund award. ⇨ Learn more

Rising to the challenge

Portrait of Aaron Kemmerer on the VCU campus, wearing a gray shirt
Aaron Kemmerer

Ph.D. candidate Aaron Kemmerer was emotional when he learned he had won a highly competitive national award on a subject that is deeply personal. “When I got the news, I cried,” says Kemmerer, who was selected for one of 13 national Grand Challenges for Social Work doctoral dissertation/capstone project awards. His proposal, “Transgender and Gender Expansive Southerners’ Experiences with Housing Instability,” was awarded in the End Homelessness category. “I am seeking to shift the narrative, to weave a collective story about what is going on with the Southern TGE housing justice movement,” he says. ⇨ Learn more

Fighting transgender discrimination

Headshot of Paola Roldan wearing a dark top
Paola Roldán

Ph.D. student Paola Roldán spent three intensive weeks in the 2023 ICPSR Summer Program in Quantitative Methods at the University of Michigan, thanks to a diversity scholarship. “Having this opportunity will be an unparalleled pedagogical experience that will prepare me to teach advanced statistical courses and research methods in the future,” says Roldán, whose research focuses on mitigating transgender discrimination and stigmas. She was attracted to VCU and the School of Social Work because of the emphasis on diversity and multidisciplinary research. “That’s crucial for me,” she says. ⇨ Learn more

Overcoming refugee resettlement trauma

Portrait of Muna Saleh on the VCU campus, wearing a maroon shirt
Muna Saleh

Living as Somali refugees in Minnesota, Ph.D. student Muna Saleh and her family experienced their community’s resettlement trauma, even though “there’s not a lot of talk about these collective traumas and their relationship with physical health.” Drawing on personal experience and clinical social work skills, she is seeking to improve the health and well-being of refugees in the U.S. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation named Saleh one of 40 Health Policy Research Scholars; and she was one of 10 recipients of a doctoral student policy fellowship, jointly sponsored by CSWE, SSWR and GADE. ⇨ Learn more

Finding her true direction

Brittany Watson wearing a black and white checked suit.
Brittany Watson

It took two undergraduate degrees from VCU and classes toward a nursing degree before Brittany Watson executed a course correction toward an M.S.W. degree. After graduating in December 2022, she planned to expand her birth doula business to offer more services to expecting parents and newborns. “It’s been a lot of bouncing around,” she says. “But I’m here now, and I realized this was where I belonged the whole time.” ⇨ Learn more

May Commencement

Three students in graduation regalia stand in front of a black backdrop printed with VCU School of Social Work.
From left, Ph.D. student speaker Camie Tomlinson, Ph.D; M.S.W. student speaker Elicia Carter; and B.S.W. student speaker Mya Mombrun.

More than 400 students were eligible to graduate in May across all three academic programs. Alum Anthony Estreet, Ph.D. (M.S.W.'07), the chief executive officer of the National Association of Social Workers, was the keynote speaker.

The three graduates speaking on behalf of their programs were:

  • Camie Tomlinson, Ph.D. Program: Remarks
  • Elicia Carter, M.S.W. Program: Remarks
  • Mya Mombrun, B.S.W. Program: Remarks

⇨ Go deeper on Commencement: