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College of Social Work

Social Work Five: Five questions with MSW grad Willie Lee Cook

How has the university has changed your life?

Since I was 17 years old, I only knew one culture and way of life —the U.S. Army. I retired from the Army at 35 and when you have been inundated and indoctrinated for so long to a culture, something new will undoubtedly be a culture shock. You have many different cultures in the Army, but here at UofSC it’s even more so and we all have different paths that we are on. We share a collective university experience and grow together. I came to realize that even though I am older than most in my walk, I still had so much growing and maturing to do. I had to alter and correct my thinking and perspective in so many ways and being here was a driving force in that.

And your favorite memory of UofSC? 

Social Work Professor Karen Leon Negreiros had us go around a table with each of our names on it. We were to each take one sticky note per person and write one positive affirmation for that person. So, for example, if there were 10 people in the class, including yourself, you would have 9 affirmations of positivity. I took a picture of it and still have it to this day. It came at a very low place in my life, and I never let the memory go because I needed it.

Who’s been your favorite professor?

Aidyn Iachini will always be my favorite professor in the College of Social Work. Her knowledge, expertise, patience and love for what she does cannot be matched. I get teary-eyed thinking about how much she loves and cares for her students. She is the type of social worker that I would strive to be like.

So what have you learned about yourself?

Maturity doesn't stop at a specific age. Life-long learning is not just academically; it's inwardly also.

And your advice for incoming students?  

Give yourself grace. You are going to get it wrong and you are going to get it right. Be patient with “you.” Growth and change don’t happen overnight so realize that early on and enjoy the ride — the good parts and challenging parts.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.