During this week, the College of Social Work is proud to recognize our four Bachelor of Social Work students who were recognized at the University of South Carolina’s annual Awards Day on April 15 at Colonial Life Arena. The awards celebrate the service, scholarship, leadership and character of the student community.
UofSC Outstanding Senior Award
Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida
Students who receive the UofSC Outstanding Senior Award have demonstrated major achievement in the categories of service, leadership, academics and research.
Whitney has been an excellent student in class and a leader on campus, serving as a representative of the College of Social Work in university student government. As chair of the student life committee on campus, in her honors society, and in her sorority, she has focused on mental health issues, diversity and inclusion, and sustainability.
Clinical Associate Professor Brent Cagle
What does earning the UofSC Outstanding Senior Award mean to you?
“Being a recipient of the Outstanding Senior Award solidifies that the work that I have put in during my time at South Carolina has not gone unnoticed and made an impact. I think that sometimes social work can be a thankless profession and devoting oneself to a life of serving others can be intimidating. This award only encourages me to continue to empower and advocate for others like I have during my four years here.
I cannot express in words how much this university means to me and how much I have grown in my time here. Being recognized by the school I adore so much is an absolute honor. My favorite quote is from Jane Addams, ‘Action indeed is the sole medium of expression for ethics.’ In my time at South Carolina, I have strived to ensure that the ethics and values that social workers are held to are shown in the action that I take, and earning this award reassures me that I am on the right track to do just that.”
Have you had to overcome any obstacles during your time at South Carolina?
“I have struggled with illness, both physical and mental, during my four years at South Carolina. I struggled greatly with my physical health in my freshman year. When I was five years old, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. As a freshman living in Capstone, I had my first difficult bout with my illness. I was in and out of the ER five times between Halloween and winter break. I was weak and mustering up the strength to go to class was exhausting. However, I took care of myself and saved my energy for the things I had to do, while cutting back on some of those things I wanted to do. I surrounded myself with others who made sacrifices to spend time with me in ways I was comfortable and energized enough for. I dragged myself to class and rested when I could and made grades that I was incredibly proud of and would have been proud of even if I were not fighting to feel okay.
After the struggles of my first semester, my mental health took a hit. I was anxious and worried and on edge about my own health all the time. This anxiety I felt was overwhelming, and I did not know how to handle it fully. I had to learn to take care of my mind and body. Improving one's mental health is a process and cannot be done overnight. I had to work hard to get to the much healthier place that I am in today.
These struggles have made me passionate about mental health and prompted me to become an advocate on our campus for mental health and productive discussions about it. I have become a much more determined and grateful person because of my struggles. I have carried that same determination with me since then and have faced a lot in my time here, but I know that I am stronger because of it, and I’m entirely proud of myself for what I have handled.”
What leadership positions and activities have you participated in around campus or in the community?
“I served as the first mental health chair for my sorority, Delta Zeta, and vice president of service for Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society for two years. I have also represented the College of Social Work as a student senator in both the 111th and 112th student senates, serving as the chairman of the student life committee in my second term. In addition, I’ve been a host for the mental health and resiliency focused podcast, ‘Hear Me Out,’ and as a sorority recruitment counselor (Pi Chi) for two years.”
What lessons have your learned from your studies at the College of Social Work that have helped you succeed academically?
“I could not be more grateful for the lessons I have been able to take in as a student. I believe the overarching theme of what I have learned is how to take the more abstract concepts of ethics and values and apply that concretely to the work that I do. Before my social work education, I had always held myself to a high ethical standard and had always wanted to do work and focus my learning on places and situations where they could be applied. But I do not think I would be able to do so without the lessons I have learned from the classes I have taken and the incredible individuals that have instructed them.”
What are your future plans?
“Starting in May, I will be pursuing my Master of Social Work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on the direct practice track. I hope to continue working with children and their families, potentially in a hospital setting. But each day I discover a new facet of social work that fascinates me, so I am keeping my eyes open to whatever opportunities may come my way.”