Four Corners MSW Graduates
For Shayla Walker, MSW ’20, and Shannon Slinkey, MSW ’20, the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work Four Corners MSW Program provided them with the knowledge, skills and confidence to launch their careers. They are among 22 Four Corners MSW students graduating this spring.
Walker and Slinkey participated in the Fort Lewis College/DU (FLC/DU) partnership in which undergraduates can earn a bachelor’s degree from Fort Lewis and MSW from DU in just five years. Students come in as part of a cohort, so a new group of students starts every two years. This spring, seven FLC/DU students are graduating — a record since the partnership began a decade ago.
Walker, whose hometown is Durango, says the program allowed her to achieve her dream of becoming a clinical social worker.
“The Four Corners program was the best-fit program for me, as I learn better in smaller group environments. I wanted to help people, and GSSW offered education and experiences for a wide range of professional opportunities,” Walker says.
While in school, she interned at the Durango-based Pediatric Partners of the Southwest, an integrated behavioral health clinic. Walker says the practice treats patients holistically, with mental health professionals and medical doctors working together to treat patients. The practice recently hired her as a behavioral health counselor.
“I am responsible for doing preventative visits to help children who are going through transitions, such as children going from middle school to high school,” says Walker, who received a stipend and specialized training through the Collaborative Learning and Innovative Educational Models of Behavioral Health Program (CLIMB). “We also educate and provide support to those experiencing depression, anxiety and other mental health struggles.”
Program Liaison Megan Connolly says Walker has an innate ability to connect and make people comfortable. “Shayla’s internship recognized her for those skills that are so important and validated them by hiring her,” Connolly says.
With classes held in Durango, Colorado, the Four Corners MSW Program offers educational access for students living in the mostly rural region. Living in Gallup, New Mexico, Slinkey’s weekly commute to Durango was over 300 miles round trip.
“The classes were held on Fridays and Saturdays. Fortunately, my employer was flexible with my work schedule. I made the most of the commute by listening to coursework in audio format,” Slinkey says.
She was drawn to the program because it answered the need for more Native American social work practitioners like her within rural and tribal communities. She interned at a middle school in Colorado’s Montezuma County.
“GSSW’s curriculum helped me to develop a strengths-based and client-centered approach for the school’s social and emotional learning program,” said Slinkey. “As a Navajo woman, I hope to bring to the table the commonality we share for the benefit of our children and their futures.”
Slinkey organized a presentation to her school district colleagues on culturally responsive teaching, emphasizing how the negative effects of historical trauma reflects in children within the school system.
“It brought much needed awareness to the negative impacts of colonialism, acculturation and assimilation that manifest in society today,” Slinkey says. A scholarship from the John and Sophie Ottens Foundation supported Slinkey’s education, and the San Juan Board of Cooperative Educational Services and Montezuma-Cortez School District funded her internship.
The district recently hired Slinkey to continue her work. “I will continue to do my part in helping our educators develop effective teaching methods in a diverse community,” she says.