Oscar Kemp: Lending a student voice to CSWE

VCU School of Social Work B.S.W. student Oscar Kemp is helping make history as the first undergraduate student representative to serve on the board of directors of the national accrediting agency Council on Social Work Education.

M.S.W. student Wendy Hernandez-De La Cruz of California State University-Monterey Bay and VCU B.S.W. student Oscar Kemp pose at the 2022 CSWE conference.
M.S.W. student Wendy Hernandez-De La Cruz of California State University-Monterey Bay and B.S.W. student Oscar Kemp of VCU pose at the 2022 CSWE conference.

Kemp, from Danville, Virginia, is the B.S.W. representative, while M.S.W. student Wendy Hernandez-De La Cruz of California State University Monterey Bay is the graduate representative.

“I am so glad to welcome Wendy and Oscar, two outstanding students, to CSWE’s leadership and know that their unique perspectives will help our organization better serve students and faculty at accredited programs,” says Saundra Starks, Ed.D., chair of the CSWE board.

Kemp’s resume was already lengthy and impressive:

  • President of the Association of Black Social Workers
  • Member of the School of Social Work’s B.S.W. Program Committee
  • Racial justice fellow for the Radical Alliance for Anti-Racism, Change and Equity, or RAACE, a racial justice task force of faculty, staff, alumni and six student fellows.
  • Intern in the office of VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D.
  • Advisory council for VCU’s senior vice provost for academic affairs
  • Past Presidential Student Ambassador for the VCU Office of the President

A first-generation college student, Kemp was inspired to pursue a degree in social work because he believes it is a pathway to empower others, improve lives and better connect members of society to one another.

“I grew up in a single-parent, low-income household as the oldest sibling of four," Kemp says. "This means that I am very observant of my surroundings and the inequities that exist. I moved many different times growing up and no matter where I moved, I noticed a pattern in the people. Those who worked hard never had time to enjoy the fruit of their labor. Those who worked to survive just barely made it past the finish line every month. My family was a part of the latter group. Empowerment and motivation to address inequalities and inequities were missing in every community I lived in.

“My time at VCU has changed my life forever. I wish everyone, including those often harmed by oppressive systems, could experience the wealth of support, love and learning that I have experienced at this university. This support, love and learning empowered me to think more critically about my place in this world and how I may help others experience what I have.”

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