Andrea Ulloa's father told her to “live a life of service and leave your mark” while growing up in Salinas, Ecuador, South America. She accompanied her mother several times each year to deliver toys and other items to children in an underprivileged school. This and other experiences to connect with people directly helped establish a foundation for her future social work career.
Ulloa moved to the U.S. 11 years ago and graduated from the University of South Carolina Upstate with a bachelor’s degree in experimental psychology with a minor in child advocacy studies in 2014. She also interned at the Child Advocacy Center of Spartanburg. Ulloa is currently in her second year in the Master of Social Work Part-time program at the Greenville site and set for graduate in 2022. She is also pursuing the Drug and Addiction Studies graduate certificate from the College of Social Work, and the Psychiatric Rehabilitation graduate certificate from the University of South Carolina School of Medicine. Ulloa is an Area Health Education Consortium Scholar, giving her the opportunity to learn more about primary care, health education, and health care in rural settings.
Why did you want to pursue a social work career?
“I always knew my passion and mission was to help people. The social work field is one of the most rewarding professions because of giving and serving others. I was diagnosed with severe asthma when I was four-years old, requiring me to have a restricted diet, environment, and physical activity. As a result, I became more aware of people’s feelings and emotions, and better understood caring and compassion for disadvantaged children.”
Why are social workers important to society?
“Social workers focus on issues affecting all facets of life, including supporting and fighting for social justice. They serve society to improve everyone’s well-being, especially those who are disadvantaged, stigmatized and vulnerable. Social Workers are a force for change and use their voices to bring attention and education to relevant topics.
Social workers help individuals nurture their inner strength, gain control of their lives, and reach a healthy quality of life. I personally look up to social workers because they unselfishly care for others and possess important qualities, including active listening, problem-solving skills, leadership, and kindness.”
What do you enjoy most about the College of Social Work?
“I enjoy getting to know my classmates and their passions. I’m inspired by everyone and love sharing classes with people of like minds where we want to continue to learn, have discussions, do collaborative work, and support one another in our journeys. The MSW program focuses on a holistic assessment and intervention of the individual, and approaches in the community sector. It is also diverse and flexible, providing for professional growth and community impact.”
What do you enjoy most about the field education program?
“Field education gives students the opportunity to experience on-site training and see firsthand how an organization works. My field placement last fall was at The Carolina Center for Behavioral Health in Greer, South Carolina, where I was assigned to the crisis management unit and served adults with severe mental illnesses who needed stabilization. It was a wonderful internship where I learned about severe and persistent mental illness, assessment, the discharge process, master planning, group therapy, and follow-up protocol. I witnessed how a multidisciplinary team works together to help a client and met people in the mental health field to start building my professional network.”
What impresses you most about the College of Social Work instructors?
“My professors care about students and are always happy to meet with us to provide guidance and additional resources for professional development. Not only do they bring experience as instructors but relevant work and personal experience that enrich our classroom learning.
Many of my professors are still practicing and are licensed professionals. As a graduate assistant, I have had the privilege to work with Dr. (Benjamin) Roth and Dr. (Candice) Morgan and learn more about their important work and causes. They have also allowed me to explore my own interests, and I am grateful for their mentorship.”
What are your future plans?
“After taking the licensure exam, I hope to provide therapy in a mental health facility. My long-time goal is to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and focus on integrative mental health providing therapy for children and adults that combines traditional with alternative approaches.
A large part of my mission will be working with immigrants and disadvantaged Latino families. Being Hispanic, I not only want to inspire but educate and support my community. There is a great need of more Latino therapists that can serve this population by offering resources and tools in which Hispanics can relate to and represent our culture. I would eventually like to have my own independent clinical practice in the Upstate (of South Carolina).”