UWM: A great place to explore your options

Phylicia Rivera

The University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee is a great place to explore career, extracurricular and academic options, according to two May graduates.

Both Britney Morrow, who earned her master’s degree in social work, and Phylicia Rivera, who earned her B.S. in sociology, benefited from a wide range of experiences at UWM.

Morrow had earned a bachelor’s degree in education from UWM, but discovered that teaching wasn’t the right fit for her. After working for Professional Services Group, a supervisory agency for children in foster care, she discovered she had a real passion for social work.

“I loved what I was doing,” she now says, “and decided to look into social work as a career.”

So, 10 years after earning her bachelor’s degree, she returned to UWM to pursue a master’s degree in social work.

Britney Morrow

This time, she says, “the journey was amazing.” Morrow says she discovered the difference between studying what you think you want to do and exploring what you actually have a passion for. “This time around, I enjoyed going and being in class, participated in discussions – and my grades improved dramatically.” Morrow had attended Milwaukee’s German Language Immersion School when she was younger and had the opportunity to study abroad in Austria during her time at UWM.

Like Morrow, Rivera enjoyed exploring what UWM had to offer. In addition to her degree in Sociology, she earned minors in Global Studies and History. “If I could do everything I wanted,” she says, “I’d be graduating with a lot of degrees.”

Rivera, who came to UWM as a Chancellor’s Scholar, has studied abroad in Ireland, served as president of the Multicultural Student Coalition for three years, and worked in UWM’s Sociocultural Programming office for two years.

She also was one of several student representatives involved in the Inclusive Excellence project to support diversity on campus, and contributed to a report on campus climate

A graduate of Divine Savior Holy Angels High School in Milwaukee, she was considering a number of universities when she was offered the Chancellor’s Scholarship. “My mom is a single mom, and this was an awesome opportunity.”

Rivera liked UWM’s diversity of cultures, ages, economic and family backgrounds, and enjoyed being part of the effort to make the campus a better place for all. “I knew if I wanted to see changes, I’d have to go to work to help make it happen.”

Both Morrow and Rivera have started to lay out plans for their future. Morrow is working part time as a substitute school social worker. “I love working with kids and families, and always knew I wanted to work in a school, but couldn’t figure out in what capacity. The social work piece brought it all together.”

She hopes to be hired full time as a school social worker after passing the required certification exam and submitting her portfolio. While her work so far has been on the elementary- school level at Alexander Mitchell Integrated Arts School and Elm Creative Arts, she may take a leap into working at the high school level.

“I’d love to act as a mentor for teens and encourage students to keep their grades up and see themselves going to college and studying abroad like I did.”

After juggling studies, an internship and a part-time job, Rivera’s post-graduation plans include a short break to plan her fall wedding.

“I’ve had an incredible experience at UWM,” she says. As part of student advisory group that came up with the idea for an Inclusive Excellence Center, now established on campus, she feels she gave back. “It’s really awesome to actually see a good idea come to life.”