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Published May 31, 2019
Traci Keating and her daughter, Whitney Henrichsmeyer, have something unique in common besides being members of a close-knit family consisting of Keating, her husband of 25 years and their seven children.
Both Keating and Henrichsmeyer began and completed the Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program at the University of Wyoming at Casper at the same time, celebrating their graduation together at the recent Division of Social Work commencement ceremony at UW-Casper.
Keating, who is originally from Wisconsin, now calls Casper home. Her interest in a career in social work began while studying to become an occupational therapist.
“Through the educational exploration of other professions, the social work profession spoke to my heart,” she says. “Through my role as a mother to seven unique children, I found my voice for advocacy.”
Henrichsmeyer also lives in Casper and was married last October.
“I began working toward my BSW in the fall of 2017. I had heavily explored the medical field prior to social work because I knew I wanted to help others,” she says. “What really drew me to this field was the variety of career options the degree offered.”
According to the College of Health Sciences Division of Social Work website, career opportunities are available to social workers with a BSW in a wide variety of state, federal and other public agencies, as well as private nonprofit organizations and private for-profit organizations. These include hospitals, mental health centers, schools, adolescent treatment facilities, child care centers, nursing homes, substance abuse treatment centers, public assistance agencies, probation and parole offices, correctional centers, community action agencies and research facilities.
The social work program through UW-Casper takes 25 students each fall into the BSW cohort.
“What attracted me to the program was my ability to receive my education and remain in Wyoming, coupled with the fact that I could even receive my master’s and stay close to family,” Keating says. She also began working toward her BSW in the fall of 2017.
The benefits of earning their BSW degrees at the same time and at the same location have proved invaluable to both mother and daughter.
“Having my mom in the program was truly an amazing benefit and gift,” Henrichsmeyer says. “My mom has a certain wisdom and calm about her when she presents herself, and this helped me be able to keep my goals in mind and to keep the motivation going these past two years.”
She adds, “There was a good handful of times where all I wanted to do was throw in the towel, because the demands seemed too difficult for me in the moment. Because I had my mom telling me to get back up and work, I was able to finish and graduate. I don't think I would have been able to complete the social work program without her by my side.”
Supporting a family and pursuing a college degree are both challenging. Mother and daughter credit faculty members at UW-Casper for supporting them during the course of their studies. Keating and Henrichsmeyer are both grateful to Jenadene “Jen” Gray and Greta Maxfield, adjunct faculty members with the Division of Social Work, who helped create environments for thought-provoking conversations that encouraged diversity and inclusion.
“They provided me the opportunity to learn critical thinking that has resulted in my ability to utilize my education and put that into action,” Keating says.
“They are both strength-based and cared about our success, and that helped us succeed,” adds Henrichsmeyer.
For Keating, the next step will be applying to the Master of Social Work program.
“I want to continue to learn and grow so that I can best meet the needs of those I serve,” she says. “I want to speak for those whose voices go unheard.”
Henrichsmeyer plans to take some time to care for her family, including a new baby.
“Having my bachelor’s degree, I have the ability to enter the workforce in a more meaningful way in the future when the time is right,” she says.
Both mother and daughter say they would highly recommend the UW-Casper BSW program. Keating says, “The cohort style (of classes) allows you to have a group of individuals all working toward a common goal and provides immense support. The instructors in this program have vast amounts of knowledge that they bring from real-life practice.”
Henrichsmeyer adds, “I think the social work program is great for anyone looking for a career helping others. It meets the needs of each individual and creates growth on a personal and professional level for each student.”