Written by Mary Kate Dennis, assistant professor in the School of Social Welfare
LAWRENCE - Carol and Kelly Walker are American Indian students in the KU School of Social Welfare with a special relationship – they are mother and daughter. They will both graduate with their Master of Social Work on May 13.
Carol Walker from the Arikara and Hidatsa Tribes graduated from Haskell Indian Nations University (HINU), then a junior college with degrees in dental assisting in 1972 and applied science in business education in 1975. She earned a bachelor in social work from the University of Mary. She worked as a counselor at the United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck for several years.
A change in her life circumstances created the opportunity to join her children, Kelly and Steven Walker in Lawrence where they were attending HINU. She was admitted to the Advanced Standing MSW program.
“I showed up to the MSW orientation with only a pen and notebook, but I got really nervous when I noticed the other students all had laptops and tablets,” said Carol.
She felt behind when it came to technology and using the University’s system to enroll in classes. She was offered the option to complete the program in two years and start the program more slowly as she caught up to the technology. While she had some catching up to do in one regard, she brought a great deal of knowledge and practice experience of working with American Indian youth to the social welfare community and classroom.
Kelly Walker, 23, is from Bismarck, North Dakota and is of the Arikara, Hidatsa and Comanche tribes. She graduated from HINU in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in indigenous studies with an emphasis on social work. She was crowned Miss Haskell for 2012-2013, where she represented HINU at various events and organizations. The role has social and cultural significance because she was selected for her traditional American Indian talent and knowledge as well as abilities in public speaking and leadership while representing the university as a positive role model.
Kelly attributes her inspiration and success in the MSW program to her social work mentors at HINU and KU as well as her mother, who is a social worker. While at HINU, she confirmed that her own challenges and experiences growing up on a reservation in North Dakota were similar for American Indians across the country. She has a passion and commitment to contributing her individual efforts toward building stronger and healthier environments for current and future generations of American Indians through her social work practice. Further demonstrating her leadership ability, she applied and received a full tuition scholarship from the Indian Health Service for her MSW program at KU.
Last summer, Carol and Kelly had their programs match up for the first time and they were in the same class, which they enjoyed and kept secret until the last day.
“Having my mom in my classes has been a blessing,” Kelly said. “Having my mom as my classmate and study partner means that I’d always have someone to hold me accountable. I could never procrastinate or say we had no homework, because she was my classmate with the same assignments. Growing up my mother was always our family backbone. She always encouraged us to do our best. Having my mom as my classmate and study partner meant always having someone in my corner rooting me on, through the good days and bad days.”
They completed their internships separately and shared the experiences in their practice class. Carol interned at HINU, working with women living in the dorms.
“It was almost my last day of the internship when I realized that I had now come full circle, working as a counselor at Haskell, where I was once a student,” Carol said.
Kelly’s field education experience included working with students at Lawrence High School.
“Graduating with my mom is an accomplishment.” Kelly said. “I am so very happy to graduate with my mom, and no words can explain how excited and proud I will be to share the opportunity of walking down the hill with my mom on graduation day. I’m thankful to the University for giving us this opportunity to make memories that will last a lifetime. ROCK CHALK! ”
After graduation, Carol will be looking for opportunities to work with American Indians in Oklahoma and North Dakota. Kelly will take the licensure test for the LMSW, work toward completing her supervision hours and the LSCSW and then fulfill her service to the Indian Health Service, required in exchange for the scholarship but also meets her goal of working with American Indian high school aged students. The legacy does not end there. Carol recently learned that her son Steven was admitted to the University of Kansas School of Law and will begin in the fall.