June 9, 2023

The UW School of Social Work graduation celebration, held June 8, 2023, was a day of hope, pride, new beginnings and memorable moments.  

A total of 320 social work students received their degrees that day. Graduation 2023 also marked the last time that outgoing Ballmer Endowed Dean in Social Work Edwina Uehara would participate in the event as dean.  

When Uehara joins the faculty next month, she will be the longest-serving dean in the School's history—a tenure marked by a dramatic growth in research, resources, reputation and impact. In acknowledging the transition in which Michael Spencer will become dean of the School of Social Work, which takes place July 1, Uehara told the graduating class: “In just a few days, I will step down from the deanship after 17 wonderful years. It has been the very deepest honor and greatest joy to serve as your dean—and I have cherished every day I’ve served in this post. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the privilege.”  

This year’s keynote speaker was Justice Raquel Montoya-Lewis, the first Native American justice appointed to the Washington State Supreme Court, and a distinguished member of the UW community. Justice Montoya-Lewis received a law degree in 1995 from UW School of Law and an MSW degree from UW School of Social Work the following year.  

In her remarks, Justice Montoya-Lewis reflected on the reason most people are drawn to social work: the desire to help others. She invited graduates to join her in the struggle for justice. “As you leave your studies at the School of Social Work,” she said, “listen actively to those you serve and work with, consider that you still have much to learn, even from those you teach, and join me in the cause of justice. Together, we are building the stories that those who follow will learn from. Together, we are building a legacy of justice.” 

Of the 320 degrees awarded, 50 graduates received BASW degrees; 264 received MSW degrees, and 6 received doctoral degrees. A total of 32 students received certificates under CWTAP (Child Welfare Training and Advancement Program). Four students delivered performances during the event. 

The 2023 teaching awards were also presented during the celebration. The BASW Students’ Choice Teaching Award went to Norma Timbang (MSW ’10), lecturer, while Rachel Barrett (MSW ’05), clinical instructor, and Lara Okoloko (MSW ’05), lecturer, received the MSW Students’ Choice Teaching Award. Associate Professor Margaret Kuklinski, director of the School’s Social Development Research Group, received the Lewayne D. Gilchrist Doctoral Mentor Award, recognizing her long-standing dedication and mentorship of her students. 

 In parting, incoming Dean Michael Spencer acknowledged the Class of 2023. “We celebrate and embrace each of you as you begin your career as lifelong change agents,” he said, “working to restore and strengthen our social fabric so everyone can exercise their right to equal justice and a joyful life.”

(Photos by Victor Aque)