Abbey Malbon, Class of May 2022
- School of Social Work
Illinois was the only school that I applied to for social work. After getting in I met with the School of Social Work Undergraduate Affairs Coordinator Laura Graven to learn more about the program. She talked about how I could apply my interests and right off the bat I was really interested in social work on a macro-level more so than the micro-level. I was really happy to know that at Illinois I would be able to coordinate the program to work toward my needs and interests. After that meeting I was like, “Yep, I’m going here.”
While at Illinois I was an I STAR campus tour guide. I love talking to people about Illinois, because I feel like so many people have the same story of like, “My family member went there, so I’m not going there,” which I relate to because my older brother did go there and I was like, “I’m not going.” Also, being from the suburbs of Chicago, I feel like a lot of people from my high school went there, and I just was looking for something different. And then I ended up at Illinois, and I loved it like everybody does. But it’s just really fun to share that story with people and be like “There’s so much here for you.”
I was also a part of Business Council, an interdisciplinary professional organization that serves the Gies College of Business but isn’t only for business majors. I think that I was the only social work major there, but it was a really amazing opportunity to develop my professional skills and network with people, even meeting some of my best friends.
The School of Social Work is the smallest school on campus, so it really gives students an opportunity to grow close with their cohort and professors. Carol Wilson Smith is one of my favorite professors to this day. She was super influential in the path that I chose. I wasn’t obsessed with the idea of going to grad school. I finished my undergrad in 3 years and I was like, “I just want to be done with school” and then, lo and behold, I’m at grad school now. I had such awesome professors I couldn’t imagine what my future would look like if I didn’t have them.
I’m now at the University of Michigan, which is the number one school for the Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. They also have something really unique. Their MSW program is divided into specific pathways; one pathway focuses on Policy and Political Social Work which is really uncommon, and which really appealed to me. Plus, if you already have your bachelor’s in social work, you can get your MSW in a year through the Advanced Standing program. At Michigan I have a lot of courses with students that aren’t in social work, such as public health and urban planning students. I’ve also been a Research Assistant with an organization called Poverty Solutions which has been something that I’ve really been trying to get involved with for quite a while. And Master’s courses run a lot different than undergrad courses in terms of their flexibility and openness to conversation and discussing new things. It’s been an amazing journey thus far.
In terms of the future, right now I’m applying for a global independent study at OsloMet (Oslo Metropolitan University) in Norway. I’m hopefully going to participate in some qualitative, interdisciplinary research about how social workers interact with communities and how they influence policy. I currently interact a lot with people in a variety of related fields like public health, policy, and business, and we also work with a lot of teachers as social workers. I think it’s super important to understand how to network with a wide variety of people beyond the classroom setting and understand professions beyond your own. Other than that, I’m looking forward to graduating and getting my foot in the door and starting to work beyond what I’ve been doing as a student.