School for Social Work to Award 134 Degrees at Aug. 19 Commencement

Celebrations at last year's Smith College School for Social Work Commencement.

The Smith College School for Social Work (SSW) will award 134 degrees—including 121 master’s degrees and 13 doctorates—at Commencement Friday, Aug. 19, at 4 p.m. in John M. Greene Hall.

CarmenLeah Ascencio, a public health social worker, life coach and therapist who specializes in working with survivors of violence and abuse and queer and trans people of color, is this year’s Commencement speaker.

Ascencio—who has more than 14 years of clinical and program management experience with agencies such as the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center and the International Rescue Committee—integrates artistic, spiritual and body-centered practices into her work.

Friday’s graduation ceremony will be live-streamed on the SSW’s Facebook page.

Two outstanding educators will receive Day-Garrett Medals at Commencement from Smith President Kathleen McCartney and School for Social Work Dean Marianne Yoshioka. The 2016 award recipients are:

  • Edith Fraser, an adjunct instructor at the SSW who earned a doctorate from the school in 1994, and;
  • Susan Donner, SSW professor emerita, who earned a doctorate from the school in 1987.

In addition to making lasting contributions to the field of clinical social work, the two honorees “have improved the lives of countless individuals throughout their careers,” Yoshioka said.

“In the care they provided to underserved populations as well as through their engagement with students here at Smith, the impact of both of these scholars has been tremendous,” Yoshioka said. “As we honor them at Commencement, our graduates will get to see what they, too, can achieve in the years ahead.”

Yoshioka’s address to the 2016 graduates is online.

Fraser, a professor emerita at Alabama A&M University, is a national expert on the treatment of victims of crime, domestic violence, child abuse and on the treatment of other minority populations. A family life minister and family life director for the New Life Seventh-day Adventist Church in Huntsville, Ala., Fraser was inducted last year into the University of Alabama School of Social Work Hall of Fame.

Donner, who entered the Smith College School for Social Work’s doctoral program in 1978, taught in the MSW program while she was a student. She later became an assistant professor and director of field work at the SSW. Donner, who also served as associate and acting dean of the school, played a critical role in the SSW’s Anti-Racism Task Force.

Established in 1978, the Day-Garrett Awards are named in honor of the late Florence Day and the late Annette Garrett— two leading social work educators and storied SSW administrators.

Two graduating students will speak at Commencement: Maki Camacho is this year’s MSW speaker, and Carolyn Mak is the Ph.D. speaker.

Following a longstanding school tradition, SSW Commencement celebrations will begin with a baccalaureate created by members of the graduating class Sunday, Aug. 14, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Helen Hills Hills Chapel.

A full schedule of this year’s SSW Commencement activities is available online.