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MESSAGES FROM ALUMNI TO OUR 2020 GRADUATES


To the Class of 2020, Since my graduation in 2014, I have seen how the alumni community continues to embrace their connection to the Brown School. It is our shared experiences that underline the unique connection that we have to each other. The following pages are filled with personal stories and notes from the generations of alumni that are here to celebrate this milestone with you. I hope this collection of experiences and wisdom serves as a reminder that you are part of a strong community of changemakers. I believe the significance of the collective knowledge goes beyond the sentiments shared. This sense of community helps foster the connection and belonging that is so vital in times of isolation and uncertainty. I hope you are encouraged and uplifted in this time of your Commencement, knowing that alumni from around the globe are thinking of you and celebrating your achievements. Congratulations and welcome to the Brown School alumni community! JESSICA THEIN, MSW/MPH ’14 Alumni Board President


You have just finished what is likely one of the most difficult journeys you have pursued in your life, your master’s degree. And at the finish line, instead of a joyous mixture of accolades and loved ones, your accomplishment feels like a whisper over the loud shout of our collective crisis. We hear you. We hear all the hard work, the late nights, the many pages both written and read. And we celebrate you, from all over the world, from our home offices and the front lines of direct service. We desperately need you out here with us. Never has your experience, expertise, and passion been more necessary. If you feel like a book without a final chapter, it’s because you are. A whole new story is unfolding. Graduation isn’t a conclusion, it’s a birthday. We can’t wait to welcome you to the family. Congratulations on your achievement. We are going to celebrate, soon and for a long time. Together. EMILY STUART, MSW ’10 St. Louis, Mo.


Even though you don’t get to walk across that stage, know that you earned your degrees and are stepping into the world of social work and public health at a time you are needed most! I couldn’t be more proud of the next generation of graduates from the Brown School. Congratulations! ANONYMOUS, MSW ’07

Congratulations to each of you in the graduating class of 2020. Your degree is quite an accomplishment, but your greatest gift will be making a difference for so many people. I applaud your efforts. I cherished my time at the Brown School and my career in social work and I know you will also. It was a life changing experience for me and it will be for you, too. Best wishes for an exciting future! AMY BYRD, MSW ’77 Fayetteville, N.C.

Congratulations! Go forward ... Change the world ... Heal the suffering. We need you now more than ever. Best wishes from a fellow alum. PAULA GIANINO, MSW ’83 Santa Fe, N.M.


It is during difficult times when character, moral leadership, and empathy are most important. It doesn’t matter where the next step in your life takes you, as long as you are making a difference in some small way. This will not be easy. Nothing worth doing is. I hope your time at the Brown School provides you the strong foundation it provided me. And I take comfort that we are sending Brown School graduates out into the world to make a difference right now when you are needed most. ADAM DORSEY, MSW ’06 Sacramento, Calif.


I have been through several ups and downs financially in my career, the worst was the 2008 recession. I thought I’d never survive that, but I did! This time, I’m not so scared, because I know that what I need to do now is 1) cut expenses, 2) contact everyone I know to tell them what is going on, and 3) find other ways to make money. This is basic business planning and occurs with every downturn of the “business cycle.” Cheers! You are going to be OK. KYLIE DENNIS, MSW ’85 St. Louis, Mo.

Having been privileged to graduate twice from the Brown School, the last time in a complete deluge, my heart breaks for you that you can’t have this experience. However, that does not detract from your amazing accomplishments thus far. You are the future of our profession, a future that is in your hands and does not depend on a ceremony. Go forth and make us proud while you are forging new dimensions for our profession. I hope your career is as challenging and rewarding as mine has been. I am now an assistant dean at a medical school, and I challenge you to achieve a much higher position of influence. BARBARA WHITMAN, MSW ’73, PHD ’81 St. Louis, Mo.

If you have ever wondered if becoming a social worker was the right choice, look at our world and you will know you are needed more than ever. You made the right choice. BYRON RICHOLSON, MSW ’76 Fairport, N.Y.


Congratulations, Class of 2020! The education at the Brown School is second to none, and you will progress to leadership in the fields you have studied. The alumni network of the Brown School will enrich and strengthen you professionally, as well as provide you opportunities to serve the public, and grow the professions by working with each other and past and future graduates. ANDREA CHARTERS, MSW ’96 Arlington, Va.

Congratulations! I understand how hard you’ve worked for this degree, and it is a tremendous accomplishment. It is unfortunate that you won’t be able to celebrate your work with the traditional commencement this year, but your time at the Brown School is only the beginning of many more amazing experiences that you will be able to celebrate in the future. I wish you all the best and look forward to hearing about the amazing things that the Class of 2020 will accomplish in the coming years! BRITTANI CUNNINGHAM, AB ’13, MSW ’15 Austin, Texas


You have the best preparation possible. Have faith and hold on! It will be a fun and rewarding ride! Stay open to all opportunities: each will give you skills and help you to hone your clinical skill. Don’t be afraid to ask questions ... or to make mistakes. Be gentle with yourself, engage every challenge as an opportunity and never stop being curious. You will do great things in your life! I believe in you!

The current circumstances only make what you have achieved even more special and impressive. Your family, friends, classmates, faculty mentors, and all of us who are a part of the Brown School alumni community are sending enthusiastic congratulations from our homes around the world. If you listen hard enough, you’ll hear us. Congratulations and we can’t wait to see the positive impact you’ll make!

KRISTIN HOLDT PRACITTO, MSW ’95

ELIZABETH BUDD, PHD ’16

Bethany, Conn.

Eugene, Ore.


I vaguely remember that my graduation was in the month of May and that my husband and parents were there and I think there was a reception at Brown Hall. What I do remember vividly is my practicum my first year with Dr. Ralph Pumphrey, in which I successfully fought a redevelopment plan in my neighborhood, and my practicum my second year at Webbe Public Housing project in St. Louis, where I worked with residents to improve conditions. Jobs were scarce when I graduated in ’‑73; my first one did not require an MSW, just a high school degree. Within three years I found my niche and have had a satisfying career influencing the passage of significant social welfare legislation, first in Missouri, then in New Jersey and at the federal level. You may be facing great challenges, but use what you have learned at GWB (yes that is what we called it) to help build the new world after COVID-19. PAULA HAYES, AB ’71, MSW ’73 Shrewsbury, N.J.

Congrats, Brown School 2020 Graduates! I’m so proud of you all for your dedication and hard work, and can’t wait to see all of the wonderful things you all accomplish! Go forth, and set the world on fire! NISHITA DSOUZA, MPH ’17 Philadelphia, Penn.


Congratulations, Brown School 2020 Graduates! What a huge accomplishment. I remember all of the hard work that goes into attaining your degree, and hope you are all very proud of yourselves, as you deserve to be. I’m sorry graduation hasn’t looked as you expected. But, that doesn’t take away the importance of your joining the social work field-a field that is more critical now than ever. We need your unique skills, talents, visions and abilities to pursue equity and activism and all of the important change our country and world needs. I know all of you are going to do incredible things out there. Personally, being a social worker has been a fascinating and transformative experience—particularly now that I own a private practice—and I’m so glad to be a Brown School graduate. Welcome to the field. We are so very happy to have you in it! Congratulations again! ALEXANDRA ALTMAN, MSW ’10 Bethesda, Md.


My dear students, I totally understand that the difficult situation due to the COVID-19 global pandemic may affect you so much before and after graduation. You may have some disappointments from the unexpected changes. However, please remember the moments at Brown School, when you worked so hard, demonstrated your excellence and competence, tried to embrace the differences between cultures, and most importantly, shared knowledge and love. These all make you being potential as a real leader to counter the effects of systemic oppression and racism, and build a more just and equitable world, based on social work, social policy, and public health. You deserve all the best regards and congratulations as Brown School graduates! I am so proud of you! It is no doubt that you will keep making contributions in the future chapters of your lives, as a citizen of our world. Best wishes! JIANRONG ZHANG, MPH ’19 Melbourne, Australia

The Brown School really laid a solid foundation for my current work as a therapist in private practice. You will be able to take what you’ve learned in your program and apply it to just about any field of work. I know that you all have the skills and problem-solving ability to get through anything that comes your way. Reach out to alumni to build your network. It only takes one strong connection to walk through open doors of opportunity. Remember that, in the beginning, small steps are going to get you farther in life as opposed to taking giant leaps. Have patience with yourself as you embark on this exciting journey. I promise, it’s worth it! Congratulations! RACHEL (DUBROW) SMITH, MSW ’10 Chicago, Ill.


MPH Class of 2020: Very sad to know you won’t be able to spend your final weeks on campus or attend Commencement in person. But every cloud has its silver lining, and I hope you’ll be able to find it for this one. Most of our public health education took place in theory, on paper, or a classroom, but you have all had the chance to live every facet of that education in real time at a global scale. Hopefully you’ll be able to use that experience purposefully as you commence your public health careers. To the international students, many of you chose to study in the USA because you believed it to be a leader in health sciences education. Perhaps this episode serves as a reminder that there are no geographical boundaries to great science or great public health practice. While this is probably not the close to your degree you expected, life is full of surprises and maybe you can think of this as a head start. Whichever path you may pursue with your degree, may the road rise to meet you. INGRID D., MPH ’19

Congratulations on your accomplishments! We know that it took many hours of classes, books read, papers written, research and exploration in your specialization—and you have succeeded! The world is waiting for your excitement and enthusiasm. We can’t wait to have you join us, as your professional colleagues and alumnae. Bring your best to the next journey, find your place and embrace the field. Welcome! SARAH WARD, MSW ’93 Williston, Vt.


I am guessing that it feels difficult to be graduating and beginning a new phase in your life at this challenging time. However, the world needs you badly right now. You now understand systems in a way that can be so helpful as we address all of the complicated and overlapping issues that are impacting us. All of the Brown School alumni and all of the WashU alumni I have encountered in my career have been supportive and kind. You are joining a community that welcomes your energy, creativity, and new ideas! Welcome and thank you! CARIANNE SITES FISHER, AB ’92, MSW ’95 Durham, N.C.


We enjoy good fortune, but we learn and grow more in adversity. We, therefore, are both unlucky and lucky to experience COVID-19 in our life. However, we have one thing for sure. To 2020 graduates, all social workers and public health practitioners to be at the Brown School and Brown alumni worldwide, learning and growing through COVID-19 will make us better. MINCHAO JIN, MSW ’09, PHD ’14 Shanghai, China

As a mother of a high school senior and a college senior, I understand the disappointment of not walking across the stage to receive your degree. But I also know that you have worked very hard and met all the demands and requirements of your education at the Brown School. The clients and communities you will one day serve, will be helped by all that hard work and all that you have learned. It won’t matter that you did not walk across that stage. What will matter is that you serve others with integrity and that you help to make the world a better place one person at a time. Be courageous and be strong. God bless each of you, the Brown School 2020 Graduates! ANONYMOUS, MSW ’94

Congratulations on completing this educational milestone! Best wishes as you continue on to careers that serve others and contribute to the greater good. We are in a time of great distress and great opportunity. My hope is that you contribute to solutions that make the world better for us all. Stay encouraged and use your Brown School degree and training to live your best life. TRINA SHANKS, BSBA ’92, MSW ’00, PHD ’03


Many congratulations on graduating from the Brown School with a degree which is so very relevant in today’s time. Your life will never be the same once you step out of WashU and use the valuable knowledge acquired during the course of your study. Trust me, I remember every class, lecture, brainstorming, field work, challenges, smiles, frustrations, achievements even more now because all that developed me into the social worker I am today. The journey was and will always be worthwhile. Cheering for you all from India on your great achievement! PROMITA MAJUMDAR, MSW ’12 Kolkata, India

Congratulations on your upcoming graduation! It is an accomplishment to be proud of and is worthy of celebration. Please find a way to honor yourself and this important time. While my current job takes me off the front line, a social worker friend of mine is working with hospice patients who, unfortunately due to the coronavirus pandemic, are dying alone without visitors. She told me how honored she feels to be able to support people at this most critical time and said, “it feels good to be part of the helpers.” I went into social work for that feeling too--to be needed and to know that I am making a difference in this world. While you are missing the graduation ceremony that you have dreamed of, an even bigger dream will come true for you as you make your contributions in this world. Be proud. Be courageous. Be you. On behalf of the world, thank you and congratulations! ANONYMOUS, MSW ’87


I know that you must be disappointed not to be able to have a traditional graduation ceremony. But please know that while this is a difficult time, it’s also an historic time, one that you will remember being part of long after graduation day. And nothing will ever take away the fact that you are graduating from the Brown School with a degree that you can take pride and that is essential to the needs of your time. Despite the absence of a ceremony, a Brown School degree is the best of the best. My MSW and PhD have served me well throughout my long career. Your degrees will for you as well. Congratulations, Class of 2020! JANICE WOOD WETZEL, BS ’72, MSW ’73, PHD ’76 New York, N.Y.

Empower! Inspire! Serve! I know this must be a challenging time as you graduate with less fanfare then normal, but keep your eye on the mission and core values of our profession. Be of service to others, heal, empower, support, and listen. We are needed more now than ever. Embrace what is and build a career with confidence and integrity. Thank you for joining us to build more equitable and just communities around the globe. A Brown School education is a gift not to be taken for granted. Now go, share that gift with others. BRIAN HALDERMAN, LMSW, MSW ’07 San Antonio, Texas

Your work will be more important now than ever! A challenging and rewarding career lies ahead of you. Congratulations on your upcoming graduation! NATALIE EVANS KALISH, AB ’11, MSW ’12 Philadelphia, Penn.


Hello, amazing Brown School 2020 Graduates! What a year to be stepping into the next chapter of your story; I recently had a hospice patient tell me he thought he would ‘never get to see 2020’ (he always had poor eyesight!). What a thrill when he lived to see New Year’s Day this year! You come to us in a time when we need a clear vision and creative insights to meet unprecedented challenges. While your graduation year will look and feel different than most, it is certainly historic—really one for the record books and reminiscences. I wish for you a positive outlook and a resilient spirit right now and as you embark on all that the future holds for you, and for all of us as we welcome you into the field! BARBARA KENNEDY, MSW ’93 Grand Junction, Colo.

Congratulations, 2020 Graduates! I sincerely hope the knowledge, tools, and above all relationships you have gained at the Brown School will serve you as well as they have served me over the years. As a hospital COO, I leverage my Brown School education daily as I work to build collaborative, mission-focused teams. I see the importance of passionate individuals in guiding change, and leading organizations and communities forward. As Brown School graduates, you have shown that you are individuals prepared not only for the unprecedented challenges of today, but also the unseen challenges of tomorrow. Our individuals, families, organizations, and communities are lucky to have you stepping forward in service and leadership. Congratulations and best of luck! KEN MORTIMER, MSW/MHA ’07 Huntington, W.V.


You are a distinctive class! But your lack of having a graduation ceremony is not what will define your life. You have much to give. This is but one milestone in your contributions to your fellow man. This degree gives you the tools to make an impact. Your commitment and integrity is what will make a difference in whatever path you choose going forward. The lack of a graduation ceremony will not define your person. CONGRATULATIONS on your learning and obtaining knowledge to make a difference. JIM HARTING, MSW ’69 Swansea, Ill.

Congratulations, Class of 2020! You are closing an important chapter of your career, and I hope you are emerging with a sense of purpose and readiness. It was at the Brown School that I met some of my closest friends, connected with valuable mentors, and began to evolve into the person I am today. I learned to challenge my own thinking and approach complex problems with both empathy and logic. Our work can be messy because it’s human-centered, but it’s work worth doing. You are graduating at a difficult time, and you’re not alone. Each cohort is influenced by the events surrounding them. My class was forever impacted by the death of Michael Brown and the activism (and division) that followed. These are the times where the lessons in social work, public health, and social policy are put into action. I can’t wait to see what you do. ELYSE MURRELL, MSW ’14 St. Louis, Mo.


After graduation from WashU, I worked in St. Louis for a year as a medical social worker at St. Louis City Hospital, now long closed for decades. I moved with my husband to San Francisco, and settled into the city. At the point of beginning to look for a job, I attended a meeting of social workers in the city to learn that there were over 400 people also well educated looking for jobs. But I found an opportunity for a half-time job at a hospital that was a great opportunity in a very small department, that offered me friendships that have lasted over 50 years. The point is: don’t be discouraged if the challenges to finding a rewarding situation seem overwhelming especially at this very difficult time. It takes perseverance to find the right thing, but even something half-time can lead to a better place. ANNIE PETERSON, MSW ’69 Lake Stevens, Wash.


Greetings, Graduates! In this time of apprehension, it is important to remember that in times past when faced with crisis, human beings have had to relinquish the status quo and imagine a world anew. The coronavirus will possibly drive a torrent of social, economic and political changes that could pull public policies from the comfortable edge of the shore to the mainstream. In the coming years, I believe there is considerable possibility for health policy transformation, income maintenance overhaul, and fair and equitable tax restructuring. Furthermore, the pandemic has the potential to build needed empathy for others, increase active support for a greater governmental role in citizens’ well-being and advance the common good. In the immortal words of Sam Cooke, the King of Soul, “A Change is Gonna Come.” As you stay true to your chosen profession, be a part of that change, trust the process, be hopeful, and carry on! STUART FRANCIS MURPHY, MSW ’81 Jefferson City, Mo.

Congratulations Brown School 2020 Graduates! Your expertise in social work and public health has never been more valuable to society. There is tremendous good that you can bring to the world and the world needs all the good you can bring. Best of luck to all of you! In the meantime, don’t forget to celebrate your graduation! ANONYMOUS, MPH ’18

Congratulations and good luck on future endeavors. ALEXA MARKOFF, MSW ’75 Chicago, Ill.


Congratulations! You made it!! How extremely sad that our world is in such a state. Our perceptions and thoughts, I believe, have changed us! We will be aware and appreciative of many people, places, and things that we took for granted. Good luck to you in your future, your jobs, and stay safe in the world we are living in. RUTH ELTINGE, MSW ’87 St. Louis, Mo.

Nothing in life is permanent. You will find if you embrace this truth early in life, the challenges you face in life will be more manageable and the joys your experience more precious. This year’s graduates of the Brown School are learning what most of us eventually learn; there are no guarantees in life. Yet if you open your heart and mind you will find opportunities that never cease to surprise and challenge you. I have been a social worker for almost 40 years and I can not imagine having done anything else with those 40 years. Good luck to all of you. MARY WEGERSKI, MSW ’84

What you have achieved, under even normal circumstances, is a testament to your internal strength and commitment to making the world better. You should be incredibly proud to have completed your graduate degree, let alone amidst a global crisis. I hope you have all taken extra care during these times of uncertainty. Never forget the importance of self-care, now more than ever. Be persistent in your efforts going forward. It may not be easy, especially considering the state of the world, but I have absolute faith that you all will thrive. ANONYMOUS, MSW ’18


Congratulations on your graduation! Thirty-one years later, I look back on my time at the Brown School as two of the best years of my life. The friendships I made then are still the strongest I have today. I know wherever your career takes you, you will succeed based upon the strong foundation of knowledge you have gained at the Brown School. You will have the opportunity to make a positive difference in many lives throughout your career. Never take that responsibility and privilege for granted. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors, and I cannot wait to see how you improve the world. MARK KEELEY, MSW ’89 St. Louis, Mo.

Congratulations, graduates! What a time to experience such a huge accomplishment and transition! Wishing you the best of luck as you step out into the world with your degree during this time of great need. I feel continually blessed by the professional support, friendship, and inspiration I receive from my Brown School network. Just last week, I exchanged messages with a classmate I hadn’t spoken with since graduation when I was totally out of my element trying to find a vulnerable client housing during a pandemic. I don’t think I have ever reached out to a fellow Brown School alum and received a less than enthusiastic response. I hope and trust you will have the same experience. Welcome to the Brown School alum family! CLAIRE BENACK, MSW ’12 Greenbelt, Md.


As a graduate of the Brown School, you will most likely become a leader. You may not see yourself now as a leader, but the ability to think critically as well as to see a situation through the eyes of a servant leader will cause others to urge you to become one. And when you do, remember this: People will do anything for a leader who treats them with kindness, respect and empathy: who is fair, who helps them grow, not just professionally but also personally, who gets to know them as a person and not just an employee. Treat those you lead and manage as well as you treat those who manage and lead you. And if you do this, you will have a successful career and a fulfilling life. You must also strive to be sure that you take care of yourself so that you can lead others. You must set the example. Congratulations, the future is yours. I look forward to a world with more Brown graduates in it! CYNTHIA TREECE, AB ’82, MSW ’83 Dallas, Texas


If there’s one thing the world needs now, it’s increased emotional intelligence. And each of you as graduates of the Brown School are carrying the torch into a society that has been turned upside down but will be searching for new answers as we adjust to the new normal. There will be increased pressure for more equity, justice and empathy to those who have been most impacted by the pandemic, and I’m cautiously optimistic we can see at least some modest attempts at real societal structural change. You will each be on the forefront and are in the best position to apply your professional values to a world starving for new ideas. Be bold! Be strong and good luck. We’re all very proud of your accomplishments. HARRY JONAS, AB ’72, MA ’74, MSW ’74 Painted Post, N.Y.


I just started reading Livable Lives, the recent Brown School compilation. It reminded me of how the Brown School formed me and how deeply I have internalized our social work values. Our collective work has never been more important. Set out into this next stage knowing that you are led by powerful beliefs, supported by an incredible community, and trained by some of the best thought leaders in the field. Match that with personal passion and you have magic! My husband (a Brown School grad) and I look forward to working with you in the field. Best of luck to each of you and many, many congratulations! STEPHANIE KRAUSS, MSW ’08

Congratulations Brown School class of 2020. As I think of all you and your hard work, I reflect on my experience while at the Brown School. I developed not only some of my strongest friendships but also cultivated a better relationship with myself, all while in a constant state of intellectual growth, challenge, and vulnerability. The Brown School showed me the power of collaboration within and outside our field which has made me the social worker I am today. It provided me the opportunity to commission into the United States Air Force, where I have worked diligently to promote mental wellbeing as a clinical social worker and an officer in the mental health field. I continue to spread the wonderful lessons, tools, and wealth of knowledge gained from my experience while serving the United States of America. People all over the world know and respect the Brown School. This is just the beginning of your journey. Keep your mind open, take from what you learned, and never stop there. Cheers. MICHELLE HARTING, MSW ’15 Pordenone, Italy


There is no doubt in my mind that many of you feel like you’ve been robbed of your “special” time, but be assured that your time is now! You are receiving your degree from this great institution during one of the greatest times in history and so it is ALL ABOUT YOU! I salute you, fellow colleague and celebrate your Brown School accomplishments. I await the time that you will find your positioning amongst us in the field to help us continue the push for social welfare and justice for ALL. Congrats and welcome to a family of alumni who appreciate and love you! Now go get your happy graduation dance on :) ANONYMOUS, MSW ’02, PHD ’10

Congratulations, 2020 Brown School grads! You’ve given so much of yourselves to your studies. You’ve learned, challenged yourselves and have grown into some of the best social work and public health professionals this world will know. For those who were looking forward to the culminating moment of walking across that stage and being hooded, I am heartbroken for you -- but here’s what I know about you all: You are some of the hardest working, perspective-shifting, strengths-led and most resilient people on this planet. Take some time to mourn the end of your grad experience that you didn’t have, be sure to celebrate your accomplishments and then go out and change the world. I am SO proud of all the work you’ve put in and for all the wonderful things you will do for our communities. Thank you, congratulations and best of luck! JAYNE BERGLUND, MSW ’13 Tacoma, Wash.


Dear (it is so exciting to say this) new colleagues, CONGRATULATIONS! No pandemic can take away from this remarkable accomplishment you have achieved. Your hard work, time, dedication, and commitment have all paid off, and no spiky, microscopic adversary can ever take that away from you. I’m so excited to welcome you to the social work/public health field. I will be honest with you: it is harder than I thought it was going to be. It has challenged me in unexpected and sometimes painful ways. But I am SO proud to do work every day that celebrates the dignity and sanctity of human life. I never go to bed doubting that I did my part to make the world a better place (or at least tried). My time at the Brown School more than prepared me to start my professional journey—but then I had to be willing to, unflinchingly, with both feet into the world. It’s your turn now. The world needs you and your skills and passion now more than ever. I’m so proud to have you join our ranks! MEREDITH REUTER, AB ’04, MSW ’06 Sullivan, N.H.


Congratulations, Class of 2020! Your Brown School training on how to apply evidence to real world situations is just the preparation you will need as you step into the workforce. Now, more than ever, our field needs workers who understand and value data, but can also use this knowledge to think critically and adapt to complex problems that are different than we have ever seen before. The impact of this pandemic will be felt for years to come, and your contributions are greatly needed. Welcome to the next step in your career journey. I am honored to be working alongside you! AMY SCHNEIDER, MSW ’09 Greater Boston Area, Mass.

And so, here we are. On the cusp of going out into the world beyond school, taking your energy and passion to involve yourselves in the lives of others. That is the point, isn’t it? Not to have gathered this fantastic education to keep it to yourself, but to take it out into the world and meet people where they are, and help them to navigate their neighborhoods, their societies, their lives. That’s a bit grand, but here’s another view. I took what I learned and met with neighborhood groups trying to take charge of changes coming to their neighborhoods through architecture and development. I learned from the Brown School how to build trust, listen to those who were not design experts, but experts in how they live, experts in seeing the challenges in their daily lives, and having a strong hand in how any changes to their neighborhoods would benefit them directly. Then, we could design, only after showing that we listened to them. Welcome to the world, colleagues. MICHAEL WILLIS, AB’ 73, MARCH ’76, MSW ’76 Oakland, Calif.


Congratulations on this exciting achievement! I wish that your celebration could be as full of pomp and circumstance as it deserves. But please know that you are needed, now more than ever. It is a need that exists for every one of you to bring action, justice, compassion and connection to your work and communities- to ensure that equity moves to action and that all voices are present in our political, medical and economic spheres. You can do it, and I look forward to learning from and with you all. Be well and know: YOU DID IT! ANONYMOUS, MSW ’98

CONGRATULATIONS!! You are joining the alumni of the best social work school in the USA. Take a moment to step back from your daily rush (perhaps a bit slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic) to remember the many high points in the last two years, take pride in the accomplishment you have achieved, and join (at correct social distance) with your family and/or others who have been your support system. They are as proud of you as you are thankful to them. I know that you are disappointed to not “walk,” and that you cannot have that family picture with those iconic WashU backgrounds. Those are special moments, but they are just one snapshot in time. I envy you: I remember the energy and enthusiasm I had as I stepped into the world and made a difference, founding a nonprofit to fill a need. That is the gift given to you by the amazing Brown faculty: walk or no walk, you are the tomorrow of your field, the future of our society, the people who will make a difference. DIANE STRICKLER, MSW ’98


What a time to be entering the world as a newly minted MSW, MPH or MSP! Though there is a massive amount of doubt and uncertainty that would be expected even if you weren’t graduating from the Brown School during an epidemic, this flexibility, patience, and grace we’re all learning can be used for good. The world needs people like you, now more than ever. JORDAN WORTHINGTON, MSW ’18 St. Louis, Mo.

Congratulations on completing your master’s and beginning a meaningful, rewarding career. I’m sorry that you are unable to have a commencement. Consider it your first action for the greater good of society. It feels significant to be writing this message 10 years after graduating from the Brown School. The time has flown by, and there are a few things I can guarantee you: this work will excite you and exhaust you; you will experience humbling gratitude and feel like you do a thankless job; you will have moments questioning your career choice and moments of certainty that you’ve chosen the right path; and you will grow and develop in ways you never anticipated. Best of luck and make the profession proud! CHRISSY FLATHERS, MSW ’10 Ames, Iowa

Congratulations on this important milestone! Make sure to take a moment to celebrate. There is a lot of work out there for us to do. It is now time to repair the world, together! No matter how hard we work and no matter how smart we may be, this is a lifelong and trying journey. Therefore, in the words of Sir Winston Churchill, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Godspeed! JOSH YUDKIN, AB ’11, MPH ’12, MA ’16


Congratulations on earning your degree. But know this isn’t the end of your journey for knowledge. Keep learning. Celebrate the things you do well. Work to improve the things you do poorly. To do well, you will learn to continually adapt to changing environments, circumstances, and policies. Congratulations also for being a Washington University alum. My wife and I have attended six universities between us (we share one). WashU, by far, is the best at reaching out to and engaging its former students. Attend the annual dinner, learn from renowned alumni about fascinating subjects. Know that you are valued by your alma mater, welcomed by it, and supported by it. And in return I hope you will become an active partner in shaping the future of Washington University and the Brown School. KEVIN KENWARD, PHD ’83 Chicago, Ill.


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Founded in 1925, the George Warren Brown School was named with a generous gift from Betty Bofinger Brown in memory of her late husband.

Messages From Alumni to Our 2020 Graduates  

Messages From Alumni to Our 2020 Graduates