October 6, 2021

SWAAP is a new alumni initiative that connects social work alumni with current and prospective BASW, MSW and PhD students, as well as early career alumni. The acronym SWAAP stands for Social Work Alumni Advocate Partners—an apt description for this group of equity-driven mentors who have volunteered to answer questions, provide feedback, and share their stories with a new generation of social work students. 

The newly formed SWAAP committee will coordinate activities such as advising prospective students, mentoring current students and recent graduates, offering professional advice regarding resumes or job searches, or planning School events. A survey was distributed this spring to gather more information on alumni preferences on events, such as type, frequency and location. More than 300 grads responded.  

Key findings showed that more than 74% of respondents prefer hybrid events (in-person and virtual), and most wanted to hold in-person events in the University District versus other Seattle neighborhoods. In addition, more than 65% of those who responded would like more opportunities to connect with fellow alums, indicating they remain in touch with many of them.

The survey also asked alumni to comment about their recent experiences on the front lines of social work during the pandemic. The questions opened a floodgate of opinions, feedback and general observations. Many of the respondents highlighted the importance of being flexible and patient during a crisis, operating with compassion, grace and a dose of humor. 

“I learned that we are more adaptable than we think,” said one alum. “I also learned that social connection is very important and creating ways for ourselves and clients to continue supportive relationships is necessary.”

One respondent said the pandemic made them “more acutely aware of disparities because of poverty and minority status.” Another pointed to the transformative experiences and training received at the School of Social Work. “Again and again, I’ve returned to my training in thinking about people as situated within a complex matrix of micro to macro forces that shape our experiences.” 

Alumni also shared their thoughts on what it means to be a School graduate. “I am proud to be affiliated with a school and program that is well-known for anchoring its curriculum, program content and public engagement efforts in racial and social justice,” said one. “I went from being a homeless street kid in Seattle to obtaining a master’s degree so that I can help those who are still experiencing homelessness,” said another. Another noted: “Being able to use my educational training to advocate for cultural heritage and to cultivate a justice-center practice.”  

The SWAAP program is managed by the School’s advancement and admissions offices. For more information or questions, please contact swaap@uw.edu.