By Samuel Leibowitz-Lord '21
While the transition from the undergraduate to graduate level can seem overwhelming, Rutgers School of Social Work student Alexa Garvey is undaunted.
Garvey graduated with the Class of 2019, earning a BA degree with a social work major, and is already two years into an internship with All-In Solutions Counseling Center. After speaking at her undergraduate commencement in May, Garvey has embarked on a path to receive her MSW degree from Rutgers School of Social Work.
Garvey was initially drawn to the field because of her own experience with addiction and recovery. She found that social work reflected her core values of social justice, human dignity, and equality. “I’ve always been active in my activism,” Garvey said, recounting her journey.
While searching for undergraduate programs in social work, friends pointed Garvey to Rutgers. Through her own independent research, Garvey found Rutgers School of Social Work was highly rated, and knowing her friends had positive experiences, she settled on the program in Camden.
Early on, she found a dedicated team of faculty members that encouraged and mentored her every step of the way. DuWayne Battle (Associate Professor of Teaching, Director of the Baccalaureate Program and Coordinator of the Camden Program), Sara-Beth Plummer (Assistant Professor of Teaching and Assistant Director of the BASW Program) and Richard Stagliano (Part-Time Lecturer) proved instrumental in guiding her towards her degree. They were relentless in offering support and compassion.
Garvey found the student life at Rutgers–Camden was exactly what she was looking for as well. “I loved the diversity of Camden,” she recounted. “All identities were represented in my classes.”
Despite being offered admission to other graduate social work programs, Garvey chose to stay at Rutgers, preferring to remain within the diverse and supportive community she had already found.
When asked if she felt prepared to move on to the graduate level, Garvey credited the structure of the undergraduate social work program with helping her adjust to the graduate level. “Graduate classes are a bit of a shock, but I already took master-level classes as an undergrad,” Garvey said. “I don’t feel unprepared.”
Garvey had a profound impact on her peers as well, being selected to speak at commencement by Dr. Gail Caputo (Director of the Women and Gender Studies Department) and Dr. LeeAnn Westman (Associate Director of Women and Gender Studies). In her speech, Garvey opened up about her journey through her fears about returning to college while recovering from substance abuse. The speech earned her a standing ovation from the crowd of over 1,000.
“It was wild,” she said. “I think there’s still so much stigma around having a substance abuse disorder, and a lot of misinterpretation of the people who suffer it.”
Looking forward, Garvey plans to continue her current work with addiction and substance abuse as she seeks her license in clinical social work. Eventually, she would like to attend law school and teach social work in a university.
Soon, Garvey will join the many Rutgers School of Social Work alumni who find promising and fulfilling careers in the field.