Alumni Spotlight: Ashley Williamson

Ashley Williamson, MSW 2017

Co-Executive Director, The Giving Grove

Ashley Williamson graduated from KU’s Master of Social Work (MSW) with a specialization in social work macro practice program in 2017. Today, she works for an urban agricultural organization called The Giving Grove. 

Ashley WilliamsonWilliamson is currently the chief replication officer for The Giving Grove. She helps different states start their own orchards following The Giving Grove’s model. Williamson helps with the strategic planning and funding aspects of the program. 

“Some of the best leaders, the best administrators that I know have a background in macro,” Williamson said. 

Williamson shared her experience with KU’s MSW macro specialization program for a Q&A.

Video editing and graphics by Lizbeth Villanueva

Q&A with Ashley Williamson

What drew you to macro social work? 

Helping and connecting to resources and understanding how to navigate our systems -- that's where I kind of like dove in and said, this seems like having policy, advocacy, administration -- those skills to go into an organization and look at it in a different way and apply those lenses to any type of work. That's what initially drew me to kind of look a little deeper into that. 

What’s the most rewarding part of macro social work? 

Recently, I got to bring a speaker to our organization. Her name is Karen Washington, and she talks about food apartheid, which is a term that she coined.  

So, Washington talks about how green space is inequitable and the way that we are using our language and our words about what we actually care about, can be very telling.  

She created that term to push back against terms like food deserts and food swamps, to say, no, this is intentional and this is systematic. We need to see this in a way where we're connecting policy to people. 

How has your KU MSW degree played a role in equipping you for your work today? 

There are different classes that pop up in random ways, I’ll tap into some of those memories and the beginning development of those skill sets.  

When it comes to understanding staffing and how to plan, how to build a budget and starting to look at full-time and part-time staff and the benefits that go along with it.  

These are important things that I didn't necessarily think would be directly applicable, because I didn't necessarily see myself in a role like this. But that's becoming more and more relevant, especially as I'm working with some of these different organizations. 

What should aspiring social workers know about macro practice? 

The people that I know that are doing this work, the people that were in my class, they're all doing amazing things -- all completely different.  

They are making ripples, and they are making changes in the work that they're doing. And I think it's so special to be part of this little cohort. 

This article is fourth part of a Q&A series featuring KU Master of Social Work graduates who completed a specialization in social work macro practice. Learn more about the master's degree program on the Master of Social Work program overview page.

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