One thing Lexi Paza ‘06 loved most about Washington College was its size. Now in her second year of graduate school at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration, she’s moved from a small rural town to the nation’s third-most populous city.
“It’s a really great place for a young social worker to get started career-wise, and it’s not that much different from living in a small town because of the individual communities,” she insists.
Lexi believes the small class sizes and high expectations at WC helped her transition to graduate school.
“Washington College gave me the confidence to speak out about my opinion, and to be listen to other perspectives. It was always a discussion in the classroom, not a lecture with 200 other people,” she said.
“It was such an advantage to be at a place where you could be really, really comfortable speaking out, whether it was in class or campus activities,” she said.
Lexi was involved with many campus activities—including several honor societies, the women’s rugby team, and the Douglass Cater Society of Junior Fellows, which provided a grant enabling her to spend a summer working at the Museum of Occupation in Latvia—but it was the supportive community that defined her college experience.
“Everyone seemed genuinely invested in my success. They really cared about how I was doing and what I was going to do when I left,” she said. “Chicago is a really good school but I never would have applied if it weren’t for [sociology professors] Steven Cades and Barry Barrell.”
Cades, her thesis advisor, was “always challenging me and encouraging me to go one step further with my thesis.”
And it was a course she took with Barrell during her senior year, “Field Experience in Social Welfare,” that set her up with an internship at the Kent Family Center, an opportunity that turned into a full-time position after graduation.
“Barry Barrell was just incredible. In his internship class, he helped make all of us comfortable with social work,” she remembered.
The internship was instrumental in determining Lexi’s career path. “I thought I’d burn out if I tried to do one-on-one counseling long-term. I definitely wanted to do more macro community social work,” she said.
Her desire to reach more people led to her dual major in psychology and sociology; she added the sociology major when, she said, “I realized that instead of helping one person, you can help an entire community.”
After spending her first year as a case manager for people living with HIV and AIDS, Lexi will complete a year in the Chicago regional office of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. In the Office of Community Planning and Development, she’ll be working with federally funded housing projects and community bloc grants, which she hopes will lead to a full-time position.
“It’s a really good fit,” said Lexi, who aspires to a career in socially responsible community planning. “It just feels right.”
Cater Society Of Junior Fellows Research
I spent two months serving as an English tour guide in the Museum of Occupation of Latvia in Riga, Latvia with a grant from the Cater Society of Junior Fellows. My father’s parents were born in Latvia and lived there until their early twenties, when they immigrated to the United States. Working at the Museum of Occupation provided me with the opportunity to live and work in a country that I had only visited once before, but yearned to visit again to gain a better understanding of the people my grandparents were.
The museum in which I worked aimed to educate visitors about the three occupations of Latvia from 1940-1991 and to honor the victims of the occupations. As a tour guide, I led up to four tours a day to visitors from all over the world. I was fortunate enough to meet visitors from countries that I will never have a chance to visit myself, and I’m in awe at how many guests I still remember by name because our interactions had been so meaningful.