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College of Social Work

Sharing the Gift of Experience

November 2017

Individuals often aspire to leave a legacy. Author Shannon Alder once wrote, “Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” College of Social Work alumna Dr. Katrina Spigner is using her personal experiences, struggles and financial resources to help students.


I came to USC as a single mom with two small children and newly separated after 11 years of marriage. It was horrific trying to navigate school, internships, writing papers, exams and two part-time jobs. As they say, the struggle was very real.

Katrina Spigner, MSW 2003


Spigner is currently a consultant for community engagement for the University of South Carolina College of Social Work’s I. DeQuincey Newman Institute for Peace and Social Justice and an instructor in the college’s Master in Social Work program. In September of this year, Spigner established The Dr. Katrina E. Spigner Endowed Fellowship Fund to honor her experience at the College of Social Work while earning her Masters of Social Work degree. Since Spigner received her degree as a single mother raising two children, the endowment will help single custodial parents who are MSW students and facing the challenges of pursuing an education while raising a family alone. 


A close association

Spigner’s association with the College of Social Work began in 2002. After earning her bachelor’s degree in social work from Columbia College, she immediately enrolled in the Advanced Standing Program.

“I came to USC as a single mom with two small children and newly separated after 11 years of marriage,” said Spigner. “It was horrific trying to navigate school, internships, writing papers, exams and two part-time jobs. As they say, the struggle was very real.”

Despite her challenges and busy schedule inside and outside the classroom, Spigner graduated with her MSW in 2003 and earned the faculty’s highest honor for academic achievement. After working as senior program director for the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina for 10 years, she returned to USC as an instructor in May 2015.


A return to the classroom

“In 2002, I was challenged by having to navigate everything that came with being a single mom and student,” said Spigner. “Now I was returning to the classroom as a professor and seeing the faces of women who, like myself at one time, were thinking, ‘How am I going to do this?’ or ‘How am I going to care for my child and go to work and school?’”

Spigner easily related to some of her students’ situations. This made it easier to share her own story of overcoming adversity.

“I shared my own story each semester, since I recognized what I was seeing and hearing,” said Spigner. “It gave these women permission to share their stories with me. They shared their plight and challenges, such as lack of resources, limited transportation, days without childcare, and deciding whether to buy medicine or food.”

Spigner listened to her students’ stories and eventually felt a call to action. This was her inspiration for establishing the endowment.


A call to action

“It was time for me to do something,” said Spigner. “I thought, ‘What is that something?’ It was to do what I could to make resources available for single custodial parents to help them address some of their challenges. It was important for me that these were high-achieving students who were really focused on their schoolwork. I wanted to include that in the fellowship since that was very important to me.”

Spigner has emphasized the power of social workers’ voices for advocates and underserved populations. Since social workers are positioned to have a voice as caregivers, teachers, service providers, consultants and coaches, they must use the power of their own voices before becoming a voice for others.

“This fellowship is important to me because I want future practitioners to harness the power of their own voices, so they can master their influence when they’re in the field,” said Spigner. “USC’s social work program is where students learn to harness the power of their voices before they step out into the field to help others do the same.”


A devotion to education

Spigner has devoted her time and effort to helping educate the social work leaders of tomorrow. Now, she can help financially support others who have experienced similar struggles as her own experiences.

“I’m so excited and thrilled to give back in this way,” said Spigner. “But I want to challenge others, so it just doesn’t stop with me. I really want to use the fellowship to leverage other giving and encourage more women to give, especially those who were in the same struggle as myself. I want to challenge them through my giving.”


How you can help

Please consider making an online gift to support the College of Social Work through the Dr. Katrina E. Spigner Endowed Fellowship Fund. If you have any questions or need assistance, please call the College of Social Work at 803-777-7185 or email


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