Mason’s Next Generation of Social Workers


Students in the BSW program reflect on their aspirations to become social workers.

From helping families affected by domestic violence and food insecurity to educating others on mental health and helpful resources, social workers increase access to support services, build stronger communities in the areas they serve, and play a fundamental role in public health. Students beginning the Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program this academic year share why they aspire to join the profession and their excitement to join a supportive community of students and faculty.

On August 18, new BSW students attended an orientation led by Daniel Freedman, BSW program director. During the session, students learned about the course requirements and resources for Mason students and gained insight from seniors in the program, who shared advice and spoke about professional development opportunities.

Josselyn Ruano, a junior who changed her major from business management to social work, joined the program to work in a field that aligns with her passions. “[Social work has] always been something I am really passionate about,” Ruano says. “My older sister graduated from Mason, and she was a social work major, so seeing how she enjoyed her college experience as well as what she is doing [in the workforce] now has always interested me.”

Eager to learn new skills that will help her support others, Ruano views social work as an opportunity to become someone she has always wanted to be. “I want to be the person I didn’t have growing up,” Ruano says. “As a first-generation student, it’s like I’m breaking barriers, something my parents couldn’t do. Now I have an opportunity to give back to people who do need help.”

For junior Amy Burkhart, the ability to help people has been the driving force in deciding her major. While exploring her options, Burkhart became interested in social work after taking a personality test. “All of the results were either counselor or social worker, so I was like, ‘What does a social worker do?’ And that’s when I realized they were literally underground heroes,” Burkhard says. “It’s like we are supposed to see a problem in society and fix it.”

Both Burkhart and Ruano look forward to joining a community of students who share common interests. “You don’t hear about social workers a lot, so it’s kind of lonely when you realize you have a passion for something, but you don’t have any community in your normal, day-to-day life as a young adult,” Burkhart says.  

“I definitely think within the program and by attending this [orientation], there is a strong sense of community, and everybody is in it to help each other,” Ruano says.

In a show of that community spirit, several accomplished BSW seniors—Abdelaziz Hasen, Nia Hutson, and Casey Nelson—spoke at the orientation to offer advice and share information on professional development opportunities for future social workers.  

“I was encouraging them to get involved and take advantage of the resources that we have here,” says Nelson, who is the president of Social Workers at Mason (SWAM). “There are a lot of research opportunities and club opportunities, like SWAM. I also told them to put themselves out there, talking to [others] with similar passions, because it’s really nice to talk with like-minded people who want to see change in the world.”

Hutson and Hasen both spoke to the new students about the importance of having confidence in themselves as they begin the program and confronting any fears they have about learning new skills. “I think that if you understand your fear and confront it, you will find room to grow, find your strengths and weaknesses, and be more open-minded to things,” Hasen said at the session.

When asked about their experience in the program, the seniors felt prepared and motivated to join the social work field after graduating. “I am really thankful that I found a major and a career field that I am 110 percent into and I know that I’m going to enjoy,” Hutson says.