Spotlight On Humanities Alumni: Lucia Spinelli
Occupation: Social Worker
Education: B.A. English and Women’s Studies (UR), 2007; M.S.W. (Columbia University), 2009
Current city/state of residence: Chicago, IL
Community activities: I volunteer at the ACLU of Illinois and have recently started volunteering for Hollaback! Additionally, I am an active member of my local NASW (National Association of Social Work) chapter
When and how did you choose your major?
It’s actually kind of funny because I had originally applied to U of R as an engineer with a Women’s Studies minor and then decided to double major in English and Women’s Studies instead. I always had a passion for reading since I was a kid and in high school I was really drawn to the idea of literature as an agent for social change. As for Women’s Studies, I was instantly drawn to some form of feminism since my parents bought me a Spice Girls cd for my 11th birthday (my feminist views are now much more nuanced thanks to SBAI!). Reading feminist texts inspired me in a way that nothing else did so it just seemed like a perfect fit.
What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?
My senior year at U of R, I was president of Women’s Caucus and Women’s Studies Undergrad Council, Vice President of Tiernan Project and SAVVY and a Safe Zone trainer. I’ve made some of my closest friends from these clubs! Being in these clubs created a sense of community I had previously lacked. We all took inspiration from each other and I think we were all better people because of it.
What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?
I went directly to graduate school, getting my Master’s in Social Work. Social work seemed like a natural progression of the social justice work I did as an undergraduate and since I knew what I wanted to do, I didn’t waste any time and just jumped right in!
What do you do now and why did you choose this career?
Right now, I work as a social worker for a transitional housing program for homeless families. Although I knew I wanted to be a social worker, I initially wasn’t sure what population I wanted to work with and honestly I kind of fell into homelessness. During my senior year at U of R, I interned at Alternatives for Battered Women and in grad school did housing work with a tenants’ rights organization. It just so happened my first job out of school was doing homelessness prevention and now I’m so glad that this is where I am!
What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?
Having solid writing skills will come in handy in any profession and it gives me an advantage as an occasional grant writer. Also, being able to think critically has allowed me to stand out from my peers. In social work especially, nothing should be taken at face value. Being able to look beyond that has helped me better assist my clients.
Where would you like to be in five years?
I’m actually trying to figure this out now! I’ve always wanted to get my PhD and I’m slowly starting the application process. I’m really interested in looking at the effects of gentrification and lack of affordable housing and its impact on homelessness. Wish me luck!
What advice do you have for current students?
It’s okay when things don’t go exactly according to plan. Just adjust and keep going. Looking back, things that I originally saw as disappointments or accidents have gotten me where I am now. Embrace them!