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College of Social Work

Alumni Spotlight: Antwan Aiken, MSW/MPA '13

Jan. 9, 2019
Chris Woodley,

After receiving his undergraduate degree from the University of South Carolina, Antwan Aiken, LCSW, MPA, decided to remain in Columbia to take advantage of the college’s dual degree program in social work and public administration.

Aiken is currently a psychotherapist for Southside Medical Center in the greater Atlanta area. He provides psychosocial interventions, behavioral health assessment, diagnostic assessment and psychotherapy to patients in a community health clinic and emergency room settings. Aiken is also a behavioral health therapist for WellStar Hospital and an adjunct instructor at Georgia Military College.

Why did you decide to study at the USC College of Social Work?

I minored in social work as an undergraduate student at the University of South Carolina from 2007 to 2011. One of my undergraduate social work courses was on services for older adults with Dr. Kendra DeLoach. I fell in love with social work because of her, and she persuaded me to consider the MSW program.

What is your favorite memory of the College of Social Work?

During my SOWK 793 (Evaluation of Social Work Programs) course, our class was split into different groups and worked closely with a non-profit organization. My specific project consisted of obtaining and providing feedback from client recipients to the leadership of the Harvest Hope Food Bank. Our group administered in-person surveys at a mobile food pantry in a rural South Carolina community. I enjoyed this process as it furthered my interest in research and how it correlates and informs policy decisions, even on an agency level. 

Why did you decide to pursue a dual degree in social work and public administration?

After taking my first policy course during my first semester with Dr. (Maryah) Fram, I learned for the first time and became very interested in how social workers could impact clients on a macro-level. I wanted to learn more about public policy, policy process and government, so I applied to the Master of Public Administration program at UofSC during the first semester of my MSW program, and I was accepted that same semester.

It was very difficult to manage both programs because I had to take 18 credit hours each semester and had to go to summer school full-time. But it was manageable since the MPA courses were strictly in the evenings, and I took most of my MSW classes during the day. Also, unlike the MSW/Master of Public Health dual degree program which had more of an organized course of study, the MSW/MPA duel degree program was not as popular and had no organized course of study. I managed to complete both degrees in two-and-a-half years.

What advice would you give someone enrolled or considering the College of Social Work’s dual degree program?

I would advise students to have a solid time management plan in place so that they do not fall behind. Have some clear career goals and aspirations for how they will maximize the use of their dual degree. As a young professional, I still struggle trying to balance professional and civic roles that utilize both my MSW and MPA.

How did your work as a graduate research assistant at the College of Social Work help enhance your studies?

It helped me to better understand how research informs data and policy decisions that can both positively and adversely impact clients.

What do you enjoy most about working as a psychotherapist?

I enjoy helping clients, patients and client-systems connect all the dots in their life and give them useful tools that they can use to live their maximum potential.

What do you think is one thing people do not understand about social workers or the social work profession?

I think people generally do not understand that our field has scientific, evidence and research-based approaches that guide our interventions with individuals, families, groups, communities and organizations that we serve. People assume that we act solely off instinct and emotions, and while some of this may be true in some aspect, there are certain approaches, theories, philosophies, values and principles that are unique to our profession.

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