MSW + MA in International Human Rights
Social work dual-degree grad Rosie O’Connor supports refugee youth in long-term foster care
Rosie O’Connor says two of the courses they took at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW) were life changing.
“Disrupting Privilege with Nadine Bridges and Critical Race Theory with Michele Hanna literally changed the way I view and move through the world,” O’Connor says.
O’Connor graduated in 2019 with dual degrees: a Master of Social Work with a mental health concentration from GSSW and a Master of Arts in international human rights with a concentration in human trafficking and project management from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies.
O’Connor was drawn to GSSW because of their desire to go into international social work. At Refugees Northwest, they work with unaccompanied refugee minors in foster care.
“I support 15 unaccompanied refugee youth who are in long-term foster care. In any given day, I might be supporting one youth navigating immigration hearings, another applying to college and another with a recent breakup. As a social worker, I also serve as a support for foster parents around bridging and understanding some of the cultural differences,” O’Connor says.
One of O’Connor’s favorite aspects of the job is building relationships with youth, most of whom are ages 16–18 when they arrive from refugee camps or U.S. detention centers. The youth typically stay in care until they turn 21.
“GSSW helped foster a reflexivity and awareness of positionality that is invaluable in my life and work. While the content was significant, I believe relational experiences in which faculty were not only modeling but also investing in my growth through intentional questions and holding me accountable — that’s what best prepared me for the world outside,” says O’Connor.
O’Connor co-authored the article “Safeguarding the Lives of Children Affected by Boko Haram: Application of the SAFE Model of Child Protection to a Rights-Based Situation Analysis,” which was published in the Health and Human Rights Journal in June 2021.