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Historic online MSW graduating class

Three years ago, Natasha Riley-White pondered her postgraduate options in social work:

• She could pursue a master’s degree in her hometown at the University of Houston.
• She could enroll in a program at the University of Southern California.
• She could stay home and study for a new online degree at the first school of social work in Texas at Our Lady of the Lake University.

“I chose OLLU because I wanted a program that promoted cultural diversity,” Riley-White says, “and I got it.”

On May 3, Riley-White, 43, made history. She became part of the first cohort of national online Master of Social Work graduates from OLLU. Thirty students from nine states will received their MSW at commencement.

To earn her master’s, Riley-White completed a 500 hour internship. For her, that meant serving at The Beacon, a program that serves homeless men, women and children in Houston. “I loved it,” she says. “It was more than what I had hoped for. I can’t believe how prepared I am. I am recommending OLLU to all my friends.”

A field instructor at the program, Regina Walker, says Riley-White stands out from the dozens of interns who have served at The Beacon.

Walker: “ Natasha was great! Her enthusiasm, willingness, as well as her flexibility, enabled her to have a variety of experiences, which is not always the case with other students who have interned with us. For many reasons, students are not able or are not willing to be as flexible as Natasha. She was able to do her internship in the evenings, as well as on the weekends.

“Natasha has an excellent work ethic, is always professional and is able to set appropriate boundaries with clients. She was able to identify with some issues presented by clients from personal experience.”
OLLU’s online Master of Social Work is one of only three social work master’s degree programs in the country with a concentration on direct practice with Hispanic families and children.

“Students are continually telling me how impressed they are with their educational experience compared to their peers,” says Dr. Rebecca Gomez, assistant professor in the Worden School of Social Service. “Field instructors are also telling me that Worden students are the best interns they have ever had.”

Beatriz Martinez-Olascoaga served as a student intern at Fresenius Medical Care, a dialysis clinic in Eagle Pass. Field instructor Diane Castillon raves.

“Beatriz did a great job as an intern,” Castillon says. “She displayed professionalism, understanding of her social work values and ethics, as well as asking questions to gain a better understanding of the many things that go on in our clinic.”

Martinez-Olascoaga, 23, is thrilled to have completed her graduate work. “I’m the first one in my family to get a master’s degree,” she said. “I’m excited to be part of this first cohort.”

Other graduating members of the first online MSW cohort include: Eunice Arzate, April Badala, Stephanie Birdwell, Alvernise Boyd, Letisia Burrell, Michelle Chew, Sarina Coello, Alejandra Covarrubias, Maria Culp-Picciotti, Cametrica Eddings, Carlithea Farrington, Brooke Fehringer, Carmen Goode, Heather Hardie, Lawanda Kyles, Shaveya Luevano, Kimberly Phillips, Elizabeth Powelson, Allison Richardson, Michelle Riley, Katie Sciba, Ashton Siess, Shannon Shayne, Margaret Van Hooser, Janise Wallace, Dorian White-Luckey, Tiffany Woodard and Stephanie Wynn.

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