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School of Social Work
School of Social Work

current students.

The Grace Abbott School of Social Work takes great pride in introducing some of our students.  They are passionate about social work and learning skills to enable them to fulfill their destiny of helping people from all walks of life.  Social work students are engaged in service-learning projects around the metropolitan area, they are presenting projects at local and national conferences, and partnering with professors and the community to complete research projects. 

Erika Jacobson, an MSW student, submitted her project on California's "Three Strikes You're Out" law to the University wide service and creative activity fair. Her project examined the policy, which sentences people to 25 years to life for offenses ranging from check fraud to murder. Erika created a policy analysis on the history, effects, and ramifications of this law. She concluded "Three Strikes" has bankrupted the state of California, in addition to over running the state with prisons instead of higher education. The law will be up for repeal on the 2012 ballot, and Erika's perspective is Obama's re-election bid might be enough to draw the right voters out to finally change this disturbing policy.

Sarah Hanify
Sarah Hanify, with Chancellor John Christensen and Senior Vice Chancellor Teri Hynes, receiving the Service-Learning Award

Last spring, Sarah Hanify was one of four master of social work students who chose to participate in a group focusing on prostitution issues in southeast Omaha. In addition to working on a campus educational forum on the complex topic of prostitution and creating a report that researched local and national programs that addressed solutions to prostitution problems, Hanify took the initiative to contact and work with a variety of community partners. She developed excellent relationships with officials from Destination Midtown, a documentary filmmaker from the Nebraska Coalition for Women's Treatment for Health and Human Services and a variety of other area stakeholders. The project became the basis for proposals to Nebraska's annual social work conference and to the Midwest Consortium for Service Learning in Higher Education's Annual Conference. The report has been widely circulated in local law enforcement, court systems, social services and philanthropic sectors.

Sarah is the winner of the 2011 Service-Learning Award for her advocacy on behalf of prostitutes in the Omaha metro.

Alison Bourek

Alison Bourek is currently pursuing the dual MSW/MPH degrees. Alison has always had an interest in the health field, but feels her talent and passion lies in social work. The MSW/MPH was the perfect way to combine her interests, which range from the aging population and end-of-life issues, to international social work. Currently, Alison is employed at the Friendship Program, Inc., which is comprised of two day programs, one for adults with severe and persistent mental illness and the other for aging adults. She expects to graduate with both degrees in May 2013 and would like to practice in a medical or international setting.  

Eric Depue

Eric Depue is his second semester of the advanced standing MSW program. Eric began the MSW foundation program in 2010. Prior to starting at UNO, Eric wanted to become a police officer but had a change of heart and started worked for Child Protection Services in Sioux Falls, SD. Due to this experience, Eric has developed a strong interest in the child welfare system and has gained valuable experience working with children and families while still finding time to attend school. Upon his graduation, Eric wishes to become a school social worker and coach, while also staying busy raising his two beautiful daughters with his wife Jillian.

Eunises Casillas

Eunises Casillas is a senior in the BSSW program, and expects to graduate in Fall of 2012. Growing up, Eunises saw the impact of how important is to help those in need. Having this desire at an early age gave Eunises the motivation to help those that are less privileged find social justice.  Eunises is bilingual in Spanish and in English, and has always had a passion for working with the Latino population;  she is ecstatic to be able to work with this population through her practicum at OneWorld Community Health Center.  Eunises cites working integrated health model as something she enjoys most about this practicum placement.  She currently works as a case worker at Heartland Family Service’s shelter Safe Haven,  serving victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault.

Mindy Janssen

Mindy Janssen is in her first year of the BSSW program.  At UNO, she is actively involved in Student Social Work Organization and Disney Recruiting.  Mindy's interest in social work began with many years of volunteering in the community primarily with children, adolescents with developmental disabilities, and the elderly. Mindy completed an internship with the Walt Disney World company in the fall of 2010 and believes that is where she truly began to understand her calling was social work.  She worked as a fairy godmother in the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique where she met people from all over the world, teaching her the beauty in diversity. Eventually, Mindy hopes to pursue a career in a hospital working with pediatric oncology patients.  She plans to apply to the MSW program upon graduation. Mindy believes in order to make a difference, one must "be the change they wish to see in the world." -Mahatma Gandhi

Shirley Nollora

Shirley Nollora is in her final semester of the MSW-Advanced Generalist Program and will be graduating December 2011. She is the current MSW Graduate representative for UNO Student Social Work Organization. Her interest in social justice and change in the community brought her to the field of social work; through her studies, she has learned about the benefit of applying therapeutic theories to macro settings.

Her interests are heavily focused on the plight of human-trafficking. She is currently following research regarding the implications of homeless youth and susceptibility to domestic human-trafficking. She presented a poster presentation at UNO's School of Social Work Research Fair where peers, community members, and staff awarded her project, “Human Trafficking: Nevada Comparative to Model States” with the People's Choice Award. She currently volunteers as an ambassador for a national anti-human trafficking agency bringing awareness and providing local community members education to the injustice.

She also advocates for adequate medical and mental healthcare amongst Native Indian and minority populations. She currently works for a mental health rehabilitation facility providing services to those with severe and persistent mental illness. In her current service-learning course she is working with a Native Indian community health agency in developing practice-base approaches for families. After graduation her goal is to work towards her Forensic Certification and to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. 

Asther Okamkpa

Esther Okamkpa is a senior in the BSSW program.  Esther is interested in social work to help those less privileged and strive for social justice.  From her classes, Esther has learned useful skills such as empathy and empowering clients to make their own decisions.  She has learned the importance of demonstrating warmth and genuineness when working with clients.  Esther states, “Given that I was not born and raised here, there are certain challenges I encounter.  I have been able to overcome some of these challenges, thanks to my instructors.”  After graduation in May 2011, Esther hopes to work with the elderly in adult protective services, a nursing home, or a hospice setting.

Doug Peters

Doug Peters is in his second year of the dual degree MSW/MPA program. He received a BSSW from UNO in 2008. A volunteer opportunity in high school at a local homeless shelter led him to social work and a dedication to social justice. From the undergraduate program, he learned the basic skills needed to be a social worker. The graduate program has allowed him to learn more about specific issues such as the lack of social justice in the world.

Doug had the opportunity to attend a Legislative Day event in Lincoln, which focused on how social workers can make a difference on a large scale by influencing legislative policy. He was the BSW student representative and is now the MSW student representative for the school’s Program Committee. In the undergraduate program, he participated in a service-learning project that focused on building stronger neighborhoods by identifying and addressing problems with public safety, housing code violations, and neighborhood infrastructure. Doug states, “It was a fantastic experience in that I was able to work with a community organization and with neighborhood residents interested in improving the area in which they live.” After graduation in spring 2011, Doug hopes to work in a setting with children and focus on social justice. Ideally, he would like to be a school social worker or working in a Title I program within the school system.

Cindy Waldo

Cindy Waldo is in her second year of the advanced MSW program. She recently completed a Graduate Certificate in Gerontology. Cindy is the vice president of the UNO Gerontology Honor Society, Sigma Phi Omega. Her desire to be in a field where she could make a difference brought her to social work. Cindy’s husband was diagnosed with cancer in October 2003 and died a year and one week later. The help of social workers was invaluable to her.

From the graduate program, Cindy has learned about social work theories that will be helpful in therapy practice. Her skills and insights have been sharpened through the guidance of professors. Cindy states, “I am gaining knowledge about the problems and needs of the elderly, especially Baby Boomers, and how to best provide clinical therapy to these clients.” After graduation in Fall 2011, Cindy hopes to become a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker and practice individual therapy. She is very interested in focusing on Gerontology.