After earning a master of social work degree from Spalding University, Kyee Young was eager to begin the doctoral program at the UofL Kent School of Social Work. In this Q&A, Young explains how she determined social work was right for her and describes her dissertation on the system of racism.
How did you decide to pursue the social work profession?
I always knew I would be in one of the social sciences. Initially, I began my studies in psychology. With psychology the practitioner is looking only at the individual and with sociology the practitioner is looking only at group of people. In social work, we look at the reciprocal nature of the person in and with their environment — this enables us to get a much better picture of what’s happening with or to the person. In turn, we can better tailor interventions to empower the person and give them tools to cope with society or curtail behaviors that limit their full potential.
Why did you choose the Kent School?
Not only did they offer me a fellowship, I also saw myself in the faculty. A lot of them are young, passionate and actually believe they change the world. Sometimes, when you do social justice work for a long time, you can get a bit down wondering if things will ever change. At Kent, I’ve learned so many strategies for change work that I know society will keep getting better. Their hope has rubbed off on me a bit.
What area of social work are you pursuing?
I am a macro practitioner. I primarily focus on policy drafting and analysis, needs and community assessments, and positively shifting mezzo level cultures (e.g. communities and corporations). In doing all of that, I am a social justice warrior through and through. I want to make sure the structural barriers to receiving the best services are eliminated or limited as much as possible. I focus on eradicating barriers to education, health and opportunity rooted in racism, sexism, classism, ableism, homophobia, xenophobia and intersections of such. In my research, I focus on understanding the complexities of systems of hegemony –the dominance of one group over another. I also look at the best ways to engage oppressed populations into striving for their own liberation.
Where did you complete your practicum?
In undergrad, I did my first practicum at the Neighborhood Place and my second at Volunteers of America Mid-States. My master’s practicum was as a research assistant looking into ways to increase the diversity of faculty in and outside of the social work department. I was very blessed to receive a fellowship for my PhD so there was no practicum or assistantship of sorts. I also work closely with Dr. Shawnise Miller with the MSSW program and I serve on the Diversity Committee with Dr. Emma Sterrett-Hong.
Can you tell us briefly about your research and dissertation?
In short, I study systems of hegemony. I do this via a critical educational theory called conscientization. This theory helps me to investigate the needs of a community relative to their oppression and then ally with community members to fight for equality and justice. My dissertation is focused within the hegemonic system of racism. I’m looking into the cognitive, emotive, and social processes Black Americans progress through when learning of racism. More importantly, I’m interested in their process of deciding to resist the internalization of racist rhetoric and fight against implicit and explicit racism on a micro, mezzo and macro level.
What professional interests would you like to pursue after graduation?
I’d like to obtain my LCSW and eventually become a professor.
Do you have any advice for students considering a doctoral education in social work?
Intellectually, if you aren’t prepared to work independently to fill in the blanks, go get knowledge on your own, decide what’s important to research, etc. Then maybe take a summer to read in your area. It’s better for you to come into the program knowing what some might consider ‘too much’ than not knowing enough and having to catch up.
There is nothing that can prepare you emotionally for a doctorate. One minute you’ll be up emotionally and the next you’ll be down. It’s all worth it in the end. I look back at my time at Kent with fondness. I’ve learned so much and grown so much. I feel truly ready to enter academia. Kent didn’t try to change me into a stuffy professor, they helped me make professorship fit my style, values and goals.