Social Work students overcome challenges during pandemic, among 5,200 fall UTA graduates

Tuesday, Dec 22, 2020 Valerie Hill

School of Social Work


The School of Social Work conferred 339 academic diplomas to students this fall, officials said.

Most of the students, 245 of them, earned master’s degrees in Social Work while the remaining 94 earned bachelor’s degrees.

The Social Work students were among 5,200 graduates in the UTA Fall Class of 2020. The class was honored during a virtual celebration “Cheers to the Class of 2020” streamed at 7:05 p.m. Dec. 17 on the UTA website and its Facebook page.

Thursday, Interim University President Teik Lim commended the fall graduates - who continued their studies through the COVID-19 pandemic and national health crisis - saying they gave him hope.

“When I consider all that our Maverick students have been able to accomplish in 2020 and throughout their time here, I am filled with optimism for what lies ahead,” Dr. Lim said in a statement the university released. “Our students have shown their resilience and their ability to pivot at a moment’s notice.”

“Their dedication, grit and commitment to reaching this significant educational milestone proves they are prepared and ready for what comes next in their careers,” he said.

Dean of the School of Social Work Scott Ryan commended the students who rose to the challenges of this year and completed their studies.

“It’s been a tough year for our students, but I’m proud of how well they persevered and pushed through to completion,” Ryan said.  “Social Workers, such as those working in hospitals, clinics, schools, hospice facilities, and juvenile, mental health and substance use treatment centers are considered COVID-19 front-line workers and our students who are graduating this semester have proven they are ready to join their colleagues.”

Social Work program directors Regina Praetorius and Karen Magruder congratulated the School’s graduates in separate newsletters emailed last week to all undergraduate and graduate Social Work students.

“We are so proud of your accomplishment,” Magruder wrote to undergraduates. “We wish you the best in your Social Work career, and we hope to see you back as (graduate) students one day!”

UTA conferred more than 5,200 diplomas this fall, the Office of University Communications said. The December graduates join more than 240,000 UTA alumni. The University graduated more students in calendar year 2020 than it did a year earlier, UTA officials projected.

Among the many School of Social Work’s graduates who persevered amidst challenges and excelled academically are:

  • Antoine Gray is a 42-year-old UTA Movin’ Mavs wheelchair basketball team member. Gray earned a master’s degree in Social Work with a specialization in mental health and substance abuse. Gray is a military veteran who previously earned his Bachelor of Social Work degree here as a Magna Cum Laude. With his MSW degree, he plans to work in Dallas/Fort Worth or Houston area at a Veterans Administration facility or at a faith-based treatment facility. The pandemic caused the team’s season to be canceled. Gray believes the championship  team would have competed for another national title had the season been played. He came to UTA to play wheelchair basketball and to win a title. “I wanted both, so I opted for UT Arlington,” Gray said. “I don’t regret it.” Click the following link to a UTA News Release featuring Gray and other graduates -

Antonio Gray                     Antonio Gray

  • Lourdes Gonzalez is an MSW graduate who researched the impact of COVID-19 on expectant mothers while matriculating here. Gonzalez interviewed Spanish-speaking pregnant women, those who gave birth during the pandemic, their loved ones and the healthcare providers who were part of the women’s birth journeys for her research. Gonzalez graduated with a cumulative grade point average of 4.0 and achieved Director’s List honors. She has a specialty in Children and Families.


  • Brianna Veerasammy is a Social Work Undergraduate Student Leader. Veerasammy was forced to sit out of school in 2019 because of financial and other challenges. She returned in 2020 and worked to solve environmental justice issues while also encouraging undergraduate peers as a mentor and student leader. Veerasammy graduated with the Bachelor of Social Work degree Magna Cum Laude.



The Dec. 17 online UTA celebration included a preshow featuring students’ favorite memories and moments. University officials postponed in-person commencement exercises due to government recommendations and concerns over the possible spread of COVID-19 at large gatherings. Click on the following link to watch the Dec. 17 virtual UTA celebration:


In-person ceremonies are being considered for 2021, university officials have said, or whenever they believe they can safely host large groups again.


UT Arlington plans to invite its spring, summer and fall 2020 graduates for an in-person celebration when circumstances and health guidelines make it possible,” the University Communications press release stated.


Fall 2020 graduates will be sent their diplomas by mail.