Merrimack Master of Social Work Alumnae Panel Highlights Achievements of Recent Graduates

The inaugural cohort of Merrimack's Master of Social Work graduates returned to campus for a special alumnae panel.
A group picture of five alumni panelists.
From left to right, the panel featured Sara Elkerm, Haleigh King, Saira Saez, Kiara Torres and Blanca Valencia. Each alumna showcased their unique journey and experiences, shedding light on the impact of their education at Merrimack on their careers in social work.

The inaugural cohort of graduates from the Master of Social Work program returned to campus for a special alumni panel. Sara Elkerm, Haleigh King, Saira Saez, Kiara Torres and Blanca Valencia, who graduated this past spring, shared their journeys and success stories. 

The director of Merrimack’s Master of Social Work program, James Howland, M.S.W., Ed.D., hosted the event. Dr. Howland’s guidance and leadership have played a crucial role in shaping the program and fostering an environment where students can thrive both academically and professionally while preparing to be agents of positive change. 

The Master of Social Work program at Merrimack has proven to be a stepping stone for success for the inaugural cohort, with all graduates securing full-time positions in the field. Additionally, they are preparing for the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Licensure Examination that is required to become a licensed social worker. Each alumna took the opportunity to reflect on their current positions and attributed Merrimack’s innovative social work program with laying a foundation for their success.

Kiara Torres started by offering valuable advice learned when finding her job as a social worker at Lowell High School, sharing, “You’d be surprised where life takes you. Just be confident and feel like you can do it, because you can.”

Saira Saez and Sara Elkerm have both assumed roles as Clinicians at Vinfen, a nonprofit health and human services organization. Their positions reflect the practical application of the skills and knowledge gained during their studies. Reflecting on her experience at Merrimack, Saira highlighted the supportive community fostered by the faculty in the Social Work program. “The professors were amazing, and if you let them know that you’re struggling or you can’t make the deadline, they always helped. I think having that communication with the professors made it so much easier.”

Sara Elkerm emphasized that finding support among your classmates and colleagues is also important, stating, “Use your peers as help. Rely on the people that you have in your corner, because everyone’s rooting for you. If we didn’t have each other, it wouldn’t have worked out for each of us.”

Panelist Haleigh King echoed the sentiment, emphasizing, “I think during those difficult times in graduate school, you must recognize it. You give yourself grace, you recognize that it’s okay and lean on your classmates.” Haleigh now serves as a Counselor and Program Advocate at The Center For Hope and Healing Inc. She interned there during her studies at Merrimack and was hired full-time upon completing the program, showcasing the program’s ability to facilitate the transition from academic studies into a professional role.

Also during the panel, Blanca Valencia shared her personal experience navigating the professional landscape. She is currently working as a Developmental Early Intervention Specialist.

Addressing the audience, Dr. Howland expressed pride in the accomplishments of the inaugural cohort. The event not only celebrated the individual achievements of the graduates but also showcased their collective success, illustrating the transformative impact of Merrimack’s social work program.

As the panel concluded, the gathered alumni, faculty and current students engaged in a meet-and-greet to build connections among established practitioners, early-career professionals, and aspiring social workers within the Merrimack community.

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