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Fall Social Work graduates honored at hooding and pinning ceremonies

Students and faculty of the UND Social Work department held their hooding and pinning ceremonies for Fall graduates via Zoom on Dec. 15

UND Social Work graduate students gathered at Half Brothers Brewing Company to celebrate during the department’s hooding ceremony. Screenshot.

Despite being held in December on one of the coldest days of the year, the UND Department of Social Work’s Winter pinning-and-hooding ceremony was marked by its warmth.

For example, a blizzard forced the proceedings to be held online, rather than in-person as is the tradition. Nevertheless, more than 100 beaming attendees populated the Zoom meeting as the 11 o’clock start time approached. The ceremony was held in connection with Winter Commencement, and marks a traditional and special recognition for graduates with Social Work degrees.

Isaac Karikari, director of the department’s Master of Social Work program, began the hooding ceremony by expressing his gratitude to students, citing their “can-do spirit, industrious attitudes and ever-present flexibility.”

Speakers at the ceremony included Department of Social Work faculty, College of Nursing and Professional Disciplines Dean Maridee Shogren and student representatives selected by their peers.

Student speaker Maria Wolf-Burdick sustained the event’s warmth during her speech, in which she offered a look into the graduates’ profession and community. “The great thing about social work and obtaining this degree is there are so many ways we can celebrate our unique gifts and honor values by giving back to such a diverse field.”

“Thank you for bringing your wisdom of the field and compassion for the population to serve,” she continued, addressing her cohort. “Thank you for serving our country during this program. Thank you for showing the education learned from working knowledge. Thank you for demonstrating self-advocacy and advocacy for others.”

In addition to celebrating the achievements of the department’s students, the department recognized Don Schmid. Schmid, a UND graduate and benefactor, has helped secure federal and state funding for the department’s Child Welfare program. He also personally funds a scholarship for current UND Social Work students.

Department Chair Bret Weber announced at the ceremony that Schmidt would be the namesake of the hooding ceremony in the future. The honor is a fitting tribute for a man who is dedicated to the department and who cares greatly about its history and service to the community, Karikari said.

As a year-round program, with classes and students graduating fall, spring and summer, Social Work hosts the third largest graduate program at the University, including the 26 master’s students who were hooded at the ceremony. Each student was recognized for their independent study projects, whose topics reflected the profession’s diversity.

UND Master’s of Social Work graduate Kate Wussow is hooded by family during department’s ceremony. Screenshot.

UND’s Social Work program dates back to 1905, when the University started offering its first social work courses. A degree was formally offered starting in 1939, and a fully online counterpart began in 2016, an event that marked Social Work becoming one of the distance education leaders at the institution.

During the Myrna Haga Pinning Ceremony, named after the longtime UND professor and social work practitioner, undergraduate students of the department were recognized.

“These ceremonies are important,” said Bret Weber during his speech. “They mark a key milepost in a long career trajectory of today’s graduates. They offer an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the students’ achievements. It is both a celebration of completion and of new beginnings.”

Speeches at both ceremonies emphasized the importance of perspective and self-care as professionals who regularly engage with stressful situations while delivering service and care.

“This truly is the profession for me, and I am so excited to do this work,” said student speaker Nadia Lewis as she highlighted the opportunities offered by the department. “And to be a social worker. I did my internship at our Community Violence Intervention Center here in town. I’m so excited to be part of an organization that does so much good for our community.”

Many students who spoke during the event expressed gratitude for one another, offering a glimpse inside a cohort that provided friendship and support.

“I am also excited to see what all of us graduates do in the future,” Lewis continued. “These students all made the program so much better and helped me grow as a person. I truly enjoyed getting to know you all, becoming friends with you and learning from you.”

Sage Stansell, also a new graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Social Work, agreed. “The cohort and the mix of people that I was with have been so kind, and it’s been really nice to have a community,” Sage said.

“And I feel the same way about what the pinning ceremony represents. It’s just special. It’s personal to the department and the people that you’ve been through this with. It’s a very big thing for me as an accomplishment and a symbolic closure.”

Associate Professor Craig Burns poses with Social Work graduate Joshua Strannigan at Half Brothers Brewing Company celebration. Screenshot.

“I enjoyed my experience with the social work program that UND offers,” said Nicole Oliver, a member of the MSW distance program. “I really enjoyed the Zoom portion of the classes, as it was more like attending them in person and I could get to know my classmates. Everyone that I worked with was helpful, and the department did its best to accommodate us during COVID.

“Our cohort started in January 2020, and I’m so happy that we all were able to make it through.”

Oliver, a student from Manitoba, traveled to Grand Forks to meet the other students of the online master’s cohort. Despite the campus closure and Zoom transition, she and her colleagues organized to meet at Half Brothers Brewery in Grand Forks, where a projector displayed the event for students and their families. In addition, Assistant Professor Craig Burns was present to hood students.

“It was awesome to be able to be there with everyone and their families, and to be hooded by a member of the faculty,” Oliver said. “It was a great moment.”