5 MSW@USC Graduates Who Are Making a Difference
MSW@USC graduates leave our program ready to create significant change in their communities and throughout the world. Our rigorous curriculum prepares students to be leaders in social work, and the variety of our focused concentration areas allows students to individualize their coursework based on their own unique goals and aspirations. Graduates are passionate about making a difference, and the MSW@USC program gives them the tools to do just that. The following five MSW@USC graduates are great examples of how our students have used their education and experience in unique and innovative ways.
1. Ashley Rhodes-Courter
Concentration: Families and Children
Born to a single mother, Ashley Rhodes-Courter entered Florida’s foster care system when she was 3 years old. After moving between 14 different homes, she was finally adopted when she was 12. Despite her challenges, Ashley is a firm believer that “it's not enough to complain about something if you're not willing to be a part of the solution.” Now an MSW@USC graduate, Ashley commits herself to advocating for other foster children. She wrote a memoir about her challenging childhood, Three Little Words, which is now being made into a major motion picture. Her second book, Three More Words, was published in June and expands on life beyond the foster care system. Through her perseverance, Ashley has become an internationally recognized speaker on foster care, adoption, education, child welfare, human rights, families, youth advocacy, women’s issues and overcoming adversity.
It's not enough to complain about something if you're not willing to be a part of the solution.
2. La’Kita Williams
Concentration: Social Work and Business in a Global Society
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in communications, La’Kita Williams started her professional life working in the insurance industry, where she held a variety of different positions, including leadership roles in sales and training. After experiencing a personal tragedy, she re-examined her life and her career path. She started thinking about what kind of work she could do to increase her impact on individual lives and decided to pursue a career focused on improving the workplace for employees.
“The MSW from USC allowed me to restart my career in a totally new area. It redefined how I understood the nature of work and how impactful the work environment is on employees’ lives. I have no doubt that my degree and my training led me to the position I have now.”
The MSW@USC proved to be the perfect program for her. The school’s focus on the expanding roles for social workers was ideal for a nontraditional social worker like La’Kita. After graduation, she began working with Amazon.com as an Engagement Coach and Consultant, measuring employee engagement and working to understand the obstacles that affect engagement.
The MSW from USC allowed me to restart my career in a totally new area. It redefined how I understood the nature of work and how impactful the work environment is on employees’ lives,” she said. “I have no doubt that my degree and my training led me to the position I have now.
3. Dana Thompson
Concentration: Families and Children
Sub-Concentration: Military Social Work
As a spouse of an active-duty Marine, Dana Thompson had an intimate understanding of the military community and the effects of war and deployment on families. Dedicated to earning her degree to better serve this population, Dana knew that an on-campus program would be difficult due to the frequent PCS (permanent change of station) moves military families experience. After learning about the military sub-concentration through the Marine Corp Times, Dana knew that the MSW@USC was the program for her.
I looked at their mission statement and at all their different programs, and it was as if the organization had been made based on my wish list. I was so grateful that my placement coordinator was able to find this amazing internship for me.
When it came time for her field assignment, the MSW@USC field placement team put her with Hope For The Warriors®, an MSW@USC national field partner. “I looked at their mission statement and at all their different programs, and it was as if the organization had been made based on my wish list. I was so grateful that my placement coordinator was able to find this amazing internship for me,” she said. Through her work, she identified a need for support not only for the veterans, service members and their families, but also the caregivers who work with them daily. For her capstone project, she designed a Military and Veteran Caregivers Program, which was put into practice by Hope For The Warriors® and is still being used. The program’s unique holistic approach provides wellness programming to military and veteran caregivers nationwide. Programming includes retreats, counseling, workshops, blogs and a radio talk show, and it employs techniques such as therapeutic yoga and art therapy. Impressed by Dana’s hard work and commitment, Hope For The Warriors® offered her a full-time position after graduation, and she has since been involved in program creation, policy and procedure documentation and training.
4. Steven Su
Concentration: Mental Health
Steven Su was originally in the retail management industry — working as the personal assistant to celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck — but realized that he was not fulfilling his desire to connect to people in a meaningful way. Having experienced psychotherapy from a social worker in his past, Steven made the life-changing decision to pursue an MSW and a career as a clinician.
Every step was reaffirming that this is what I’m supposed to do. These are the people that I’m supposed to work with.
Now an MSW@USC graduate, Steven provides therapy services to inmates at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s California Institute for Men. He works to help inmates cope with mental health disorders and with being disconnected from family and society. “Every step [of the MSW@USC program] was reaffirming that this is what I’m supposed to do,” he said. “These are the people that I’m supposed to work with.” Steven says he is excited to go to work each day because he gets to help make a difference on a daily basis.
5. Corrine St. Thomas
Concentration: Community Organization, Planning and Administration
Corrine St. Thomas started her career in the Westminster Police Department in California as an investigator on juvenile delinquency cases. From there, she was asked to help develop statewide training on identifying and preventing human trafficking of minors. In addition, she became an active member of the Clinton Global Initiative, sharing her knowledge of human trafficking on a global level and acting as a mentor on topics including criminal justice, delinquency and foster care. Allthe while, Corrine was working on completing her MSW.
“[I thought an MSW] would provide me with an all-encompassing cultural view as well as the underlying psychology ... that would lay a stronger foundation for understanding crime,” she said.
Her MSW has allowed her to take the next step in her career. Corrine is currently working for the Orange County, Calif., District Attorney’s Office as an investigative assistant to prosecute felony human-trafficking cases. Now, with her MSW, Corinne is able to counter human trafficking and exploitation on a larger scale and is proud to represent the Trojans as an alumna at the Clinton Global Initiative.
[I thought an MSW] would provide me with an all-encompassing cultural view as well as the underlying psychology ... that would lay a stronger foundation for understanding crime.
We are proud to be preparing strong, passionate social workers who are making a difference in communities around the world. Learn more about our graduates and the impact we've been making together.