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Interview with Dean’s Excellence Scholar Gracie Stagliano
November 5, 2021

We recently had the opportunity to speak with Gracie Stagliano, an MSW student and Dean's Excellence Scholar, about their journey to the field of social work. Gracie Stagliano

What made you decide to enroll in an MSW program?
After graduating from Villanova University, I didn't quite know what I wanted to do with my degree, only that I wanted to effect positive change in the world. I decided to participate in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC), which is a year-long service program focused on the principles of social justice, simple living, spirituality, and community. I worked as the student life coordinator at a local charter school, which helped me to understand that I did not want to be an educator. We had two social workers at our school whose jobs seemed more suited to me. As I began to search for jobs I might be interested in after my year in JVC, many of them required a social work degree, so that's when I knew it was time to go back to school.

What drew you towards the Rutgers SSW? What are you most excited about at the School?
I was drawn to Rutgers because I knew the social work program is highly ranked. My uncle also works at a social services organization in Camden and is a part-time lecturer at Rutgers School of Social Work, so I've had some familiarity with the Camden community and the social work program at Rutgers. I hope to get involved in prison and police abolition work in Camden, and hopefully have a field placement geared towards this.

Tell us about your background and involvements at Villanova University.
I majored in English and French at Villanova and was involved primarily with the arts. Although I am pursuing a different path now, I absolutely loved both of my majors, which involved a lot of reading and writing essays. Outside of class, I was the layout designer for one of Villanova's literary magazines and Vice President of the Villanova Poetry Society. I also hosted my own radio show and occasionally helped design costumes for the musical theater department! During my senior year, I became more involved in campus activism, and helped to organize several protests aiming to push Villanova's administration to do a better job of addressing the climate crisis.

I understand you completed a semester abroad at Universite Catholique de Lille in France. Can you share a bit about this unique experience?
As a French major, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Lille, France, which was a wonderful experience. All of my classes were in French, with some counting towards my major, and others towards my general degree. Although it was daunting to be so immersed in the language and culture of France, by the end, I didn't want to leave. Last year I was able to return to the same region of France to teach English through the French department of education.

I see you have had many meaningful professional experiences. Can you touch upon each of them and highlight the impacts they’ve had on you?
I taught in France this past year, which not only greatly improved my French, but also helped me to be more confident as a professional in any field. Once you've been the new employee at a school in another country, it becomes a lot easier to be the new person anywhere else. I had a lot of fun working with my students, and they were esctatic to have an American in the classroom. It was exciting to share my culture and language with them.

Prior to teaching in France, I worked as the student life coordinator at a charter school during my time with the JVC, as mentioned earlier. I wanted to participate in this year of service to learn how I could best serve others. Because the program is a full year, it is a great way to immerse yourself in your service to others, and to reflect on what that service means. I coordinated extracurriculars for about 300 students and got to know almost all of them. It was truly an honor to serve them, and I had so much fun! Between the book fair, field trips, and electives, I got to experience so much joy with my students, and I am so grateful for that. 

What was your reaction to being named a Dean’s Excellence Scholar?
I was absolutely delighted to be named a Dean's Excellence Scholar, and I hope that I will be able to live up to the academic excellence expected of me in this position.

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