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The “Magnificent 7” Earn Pioneering Degrees

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Author: Lois G. Russell

Release Date: May 13, 2017

Alabama State University’s 295th Commencement Exercises included the conferring of the University’s first Master of Social Work degrees.


They call themselves “The Magnificent Seven,” and they are the first students to graduate from ASU’s new Master in Social Work (MSW) degree program.

The group celebrated as they took their place in Alabama State University history as pioneers. Karlesha Watson, Keajah Franklin, Brittany Myrick, Melvin Morgan, Kiawanna Gordon-Dewberry, Kera James, and N'Keya Boone received their degrees during ASU’s 295th Commencement Convocation held on May 13, 2017, in the Dunn-Oliver Acadome.

All of the Magnificent Seven previously received their Bachelor in Social Work degrees from ASU.

The new degree program, which is housed in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, was approved by both the Alabama Commission of Higher Education and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the University’s accrediting body.

Morgan had been waiting for 12 years for his alma mater to offer the MSW degree. He earned his undergraduate degree in 2005 and has worked in the field of social work as a case worker, a supervisor and currently, as a counselor for homeless veterans.

“I wanted to earn my MSW at ASU because this is where I started, and I wanted to finish here,” said Morgan.

Dr. Turenza Smith, interim chair of the Department of Social Work and MSW program director, said ASU has offered the Bachelor of Social Work since 1989.

“Members of this inaugural class were very instrumental in the ground phases of development of ASU's MSW program,” said Smith. “They contributed by providing letters of support, participating in focus groups and in the different phases of the accreditation process. And ultimately, they became the first students to enroll in and graduate from the program.  This inaugural class will enter their communities as advanced-level social work practitioners and administrators, carrying on ASU's legacy and upholding its mission of professional competence, responsible citizenship and service.”

Smith said the MSW program helps to open doors for its graduates.

“Obtaining an MSW degree opens up more employment opportunities, as the MSW is considered the terminal degree for social work practice,” said Smith. “According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (2015), ‘Employment of social workers is projected to grow 12 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations.’  Individuals with an MSW work in an array of fields, including, but not limited to, advanced practice in the medical arena, substance abuse programs, mental health, the judicial system, as well as administration. Of all the degrees available in graduate programs, a social work degree offers some of the most diverse set of career opportunities in the most meaningful areas.”

Morgan said he feels the degree will help him to achieve his current career goal.

“Now, I would love to teach, and I would love to come home to ASU and teach,” said Morgan. “Alabama State is home for me. I learned a lot here. The MSW is going to help me further my career. I now have more tools in my professional belt. It’s going to help me to lay a foundation for others to follow.”

To learn more about ASU’s Master’s in Social Work degree program, call 334-229-4372.

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