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School of Social Work
School of Social Work

alumni success stories.

Gwen Howard

Nebraska State Senator Gwen Howard

I consider the UNO School of Social Work to be an outstanding resource.

I was able to take the knowledge I gained from the UNO School of Social Work and apply it to my past case management and now to my legislative responsibilities.

The interaction with other students encouraged a positive learning environment.

The key to success as a senator, as in life, is having the skills to build positive relationships. This has always been the strength of the profession of social work. That skill transcends party lines.


Gwen Howard

Rusty Gunter, School Social Worker, Integrated Learning Program, Omaha Public Schools

As a student, my interaction with faculty at the School of Social Work was always pleasant. It's been several years since I completed the program; however, each year I have an occasion to visit the school. Each time I return to the school faculty greet me with much enthusiasm and concern for what is going on in my life as a person and a professional social worker.

Since I enjoy working with children and families, I was encouraged to pursue a career in social work. In doing so, I am better equipped to pursue my dream career.

I learned while still a student the importance of having competent social workers in our American society to be a voice for social justice. The majority of students I went through the program with demonstrated great passion for being a social worker and genuine concern for social justice.

The graduate social work program has prepared me to function across diverse cultural environments with competence. Working as a school social worker has put me in a professional culture that I didn't necessarily prepare for in my graduate program. However, from a micro perspective, I feel confident and prepared to offer insight that helps to meet students’ needs and prepare them for the classroom each day. From more of a macro perspective, possessing the skill-set to help address the needs of the family helping to eliminate the disparity between family and educational environment has been useful.


Martin Steele

Martin Steele, Treatment Manager/Therapist, Edgewood Center for Children and Families

I had an incredible experience with the School of Social Work faculty. Everyone was very accessible and more than willing to take time and talk with me. When I decided to apply to graduate schools I was living in California. I considered the local universities, but decided to pack up and head back to my home state and attend UNO. I made this choice knowing that my access to the faculty would be greater and I would be in smaller classes that allow for more personal attention.

After graduating from the UNO School of Social Work, I moved back to California and within less than a month had a job. I had confidence in myself and my skills because of what I learned and experienced attending the School of Social Work. I was mentally stronger and much more confident in myself after graduation.

I made some good friends while attending UNO. The faculty and nature of the social work program is one that allows for plenty of interaction between the students. I loved being in a classroom full of students who were just as passionate as I was about certain issues. I learned about the different directions each of my classmates wanted to move in after graduation.

When I started in the School of Social Work, I arrived with some solid skills and professional experience. This base knowledge was shaped and enhanced in so many ways. It was fantastic. I entered the program knowing how to do many things in the field of human services. But when I graduated not only did I know how, I also knew why and have been able to use this to share with people I supervise and the clients I serve. I am a treatment manager in a 12-bed group home for severely emotionally disturbed children. Because I know the how and the why, I can teach skills to help make others more knowledgeable, which transfers to the clients we serve.


Scot Adams

Scot Adams, Director, Division of Behavioral Health, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services

I experienced great interactions that shaped my world views on life and work. Who could survive HBSE (Human Behavior and the Social Environment) and not be fundamentally changed forever?

Drs. Garret, Hartung, and Woody all were significant in my development, as were all of the other social work faculty members. Additionally, my practicum instructors – Barb Briggs, Pat Colley and June Schleglemilch – were important models in learning how to encourage and mentor others as I moved into the workforce.

The biggest learning moment for me from my cohorts was the diversity of this world. I learned the importance of having compassion for other people and all is not what it may appear at first blush. It is fundamental to consider multiple variables in all situations, and to consider each issue from the other's point of view.

My worldview and social work values help balance a work team that includes physicians, CPAs, attorneys, and specialists in public administration. My education and experience have taught me that social work has an important voice that needs to be heard in the formation of public policy.


Scot Adams

Mark Giesler, Assistant Professor, Department of Social Work, Saginaw Valley State University

I remember fondly my encounters with UNO faculty from the School of Social Work. They combined a rigorous approach to academia with the real-life practice experience that made the material come alive. Faculty always had time for me and my questions about assignments and the profession as a whole. I especially appreciated their acceptance of diversity and cultural competence. I was aware that I floundered in the past from discipline to discipline, job to job. I remember walking out of my first practice class at UNO and saying to myself, I've come home.

My time at UNO inspired me to be a competent, reliable, and trustworthy social worker upon graduation. My experiences working as a child/adolescent therapist, an emergency services coordinator, and a substance abuse counselor/administrator encompassed the real-life perspective I received from my professors. In other words, I was readily prepared for the real world of social work, with all of its challenges and joys. My MSW program also made me hungry for more academic training. Subsequent to UNO, I received my Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska in educational leadership. I also was inspired as a result of my social work training to explore being a foster parent. I am now the proud adoptive father of two boys, who came to us through the foster care system. The UNO School of Social Work has impacted me both personally and professionally in profound ways

I appreciated the support I received from other students. I remember actively seeking not only assistance with assignments, but also – and perhaps more importantly – emotional support. At the time I was a student, the School of Social Work felt like a genuine community, where individuals reached out to one another for their best interests. The competitive edge that sometimes pervades academic programs was never there.

It was the encouragement from UNO professors that brought me to my current position as an assistant professor of social work at a state university in Michigan. I recall more than one occasion that professors would suggest I submit my writing as a journal article. That validation gave me self-confidence that made me believe I could make it in the world of academia. I still use some materials I received from my time at UNO for my present students. More importantly, I use the wisdom and sense of ethics that were given to me as a student. In that way, UNO will live on in my work for a very long time.

Martin Steele

Beatriz Gonzalez Social Worker, Horizon Therapy Group

Faculty members were always available to meet with me. They provided meaningful, thought provoking discussions and learning tools that contributed to my experience. Faculty also took a special interest in my thoughts and ideas particularly in the area of my Latina experience.

The social work program provided a foundation of learning. Many of the classes were thought provoking, but after graduation and in the career field, I was inspired to learn more about certain areas. The program provided excellent faculty and other networking opportunities that continue to serve and support. I have become more aware and knowledgeable about the issues people are confronted with, and I am committed as an agent of change in my community.

I learned my fellow peers were compassionate and determined to work in many areas of social work. I appreciated the diverse perspectives and experiences students shared in class.

I am familiar with graduates of the program who are working in the field and offer a networking and supportive environment as a professional. Knowing graduates of the program broadens my resources and referral base, which I can share with clients/community members. It has been a wonderful opportunity to develop and expand my skill base in many areas in the social work profession.

Erin Porterfield

Erin Porterfield
Executive Director, MACCH (Metro Area Continuum of Care for the Homeless)

During my education at UNO, I had the pleasure of serving as Claudette Lee's graduate assistant and completing a practicum with Professors Ann Coyne and Robin Russell. What an invaluable experience to interact with facult, pondering the issues found in diversity and solidarity of the social work profession. Varied views were exchanged with passion, humor, and insight. Little did I know the future would bring me back to the UNO School of Social Work as an adjunct faculty. Many times I've reflected on my early days as a social worker/graduate assistant and the rich learning that happened among great social work thinkers and doers.

I entered the School of Social Work as more of a behaviorist and left a strengths based, systems practitioner. Courses in generalist practice and institutional racism challenged my assumptions of people and institutions. Group exercises and projects honed skills for change, with micro and macro focus.  Upon graduation, I entered social work employment as a family therapist for child protective services. The role I thought would be primarily micro was equally macro. Gratefully, I found social work skills and concepts reliable in my new role and useful across sectors.

Relationships with fellow students resonate as a significant highlight. The sweetest and hardest times of learning came when we passionately presented different views. We opened ourselves to a fresh understanding of each other. I would have missed the boat had I not ventured to the vulnerable place of opening myself up to different paths of thought and practice. Small group work can be tedious and intimidating, but working together helped find our strengths and value in each other. We found ways to work through differences and frustrations, and the skills necessary throughout the change process. We practiced the interventions we expected clients to learn. Today I see fellow graduates in influential positions, practicing the very skills we learned side by side. I'm still learning from them in their public work. They still inspire me.

My current role as executive director of a small nonprofit collaborative was powered through my education at UNO’s School of Social Work. It was there that I believe significant change is possible through the strategic work of few. It continues to be a resource for service-learning projects, research, collaborative efforts, and camaraderie. The culmination of concepts, practice, relationships, and the Social Work Code of Ethics guides my everyday work.