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College of Social Work

MSW Students of the Year Announced for Charleston and Greenville Sites

May 8, 2019
Chris Woodley • 

Three graduating Master of Social Work students have been named MSW Students of the Year for the College of Social Work’s Charleston and Greenville sites. Elizabeth Mitaro and Rochelle Wright were honored from the Charleston site, while Madison Pate from the Greenville site was also recognized.

Elizabeth Mitaro
Elizabeth Mitaro graduated from New York University in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in international affairs. After working for an international non-profit organization and a public relations firm in New York City, she moved to Charleston and began her MSW studies in 2016.

​“It's an unexpected honor to be recognized by the College of Social Work faculty,” Mitaro said. “As an MSW student, I believe strongly in the college's mission to promote social well-being and social justice with vulnerable populations. I feel empowered to know that the college supports me in continuing to advance those values after graduating.”

Mitaro has a passion for helping raise awareness of immigration and refugee families. She is grateful for the college’s support to gain a better understanding and help spread the awareness of immigration issues.

“My professors in Charleston have consistently encouraged me to explore opportunities within and outside our community, including providing additional insight and support related to my field practicum with Lutheran Services Carolinas Refugee and Immigrant Services,” Mitaro said. “Professor Dalina Rainey provided the opportunity for Charleston students to advocate for policy issues with local representatives, including improving access to higher education for DACA recipients in South Carolina.”

Mitaro has also worked with professors in Columbia regarding immigrant and refugee families.  

“I worked on an independent study with (Clinical Assistant Professor) Patrice Penney related to trauma-informed practice with displaced populations and with (Assistant Professor) Ben Roth on specialized knowledge regarding social work practice with unaccompanied minors,” Mitaro said. “My classmate Lydia Rosario volunteered to participate in the mentorship program I designed as part of my field placement and provided culturally-sensitive mentorship support to two unaccompanied youth living in Charleston. I am extremely grateful for the college and classmates support in advancing this cause.”

Mitaro plans to continue to advocate and provide social work services to immigrant and refugee communities in the Southeast. She also intends to engage in life-long advocacy for vulnerable communities globally. 

“Elizabeth has raised awareness among students to immigration issues and the realities and needs of migrant and refugee families,” said Charleston site coordinator Margriet de Zeeuw Wright. “She has also been a quiet presence in class, stepping up to advocate on behalf of classmates and negotiate aspects of the MSW program when needed.”

Rochelle Wright
Rochelle Wright came to the College of Social Work’s Charleston site with professional experience in engaging at-risk children, families and vulnerable adults to facilitate their individualized evidence-based family group decision making. She has also worked closely with adolescent females transitioning out of foster care and supervised, supported and advocated adults released from incarceration who returned to their families and community living.

“I am humbly honored and in awe,” Rochelle Wright said. “This award demonstrates that passion and hard work in all spheres will be recognized when you least expect it.”

Wright decided to pursue an MSW to better understand human behavior and how socio-economic systems impact vulnerable groups. She also wanted to become a more skilled professional. In March, Wright helped coordinate a panel of local elected officials in class who discussed urgent social issues, such as affordable housing, education, and health and mental health.

“Charleston offered a unique opportunity for intimate practical learning experiences,” Rochelle Wright said. “The faculty were genuinely supportive and available. My classmates and I became a cohesive cohort and genuinely cared about one another. It felt like a family.”

Wright intends to pursue a doctorate in social work in community practice and ultimately provide executive leadership in an organization dedicated to ensuring the healthy development of youth.

“Rochelle has been a voice for students and helped coordinate a town hall to frame and raise concerns,” Margriet de Zeeuw Wright. “She has brought her professional experience and passion and added value and energy to the learning journey.”

Madison Pate
Madison Pate graduated from the University of South Carolina Upstate in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration management. She worked as director of marketing for nearly three years before becoming a community outreach associate for Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System.

“Winning the MSW Student of the Year award is a huge honor,” Pate said. “I am grateful to be recognized considering the excellence of my peers. Throughout my undergraduate studies I knew that I wanted to earn my master’s degree and become a social worker. But it took me a few years to get back on track to that dream. I was working in marketing and sales when I decided to live my life's purpose. I switched to a job that was community focused and applied to the college.”

Pate also appreciated the flexibility of the MSW program at the Greenville site.

“I loved that I could go to school on Saturday and be at my internship where I live in Spartanburg. It saved me a lot of travel time,” Pate said. “My manager was also extremely supportive of my continuing education, and I cannot thank her enough.” 

Pate plans to remain at Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System but eventually wants to be a bariatric counselor and work with the causes, prevention and treatment of obesity. 

“During her three years in the MSW program, Madison has consistently shown excellence in class engagement and academic performance, Greenville site coordinator Michelle Scott said. “Her instructors describe her as ‘thinking outside the box’ for social work solutions, having a strong grasp on social work concepts, and working hard in the classroom and field. Madison has also served as a leader in her cohort and previously represented Greenville students on the Dean's Advisory Council.”

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