First-Gen Social Work Student Redefines Advocacy

DaVonna Williams is pushing the needle towards a more progressive, fresh take on social work
Picture of DaVonna Williams smiling as she works on her laptop. She is seated in the library.

Roos don't just dream, they do. Our students and alumni turn ideas into action every day. Get to know our people, and you'll know what UMKC is all about.

DaVonna Williams (M.S.W. ’23) 
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
UMKC degree program: Master of Social Work
Hometown: St. Louis, MO

DaVonna has always been passionate about social work advocacy. After returning to UMKC to pursue her Master of Social Work, her experiences on and off campus allowed her to further explore this passion while adopting a fresh, new take on the field.

Why did you choose UMKC?

I chose UMKC because I had a really great experience here for my undergraduate degree and knew it would be the best choice for me when I decided to go back to school.

How has your college program inspired you?

My program has inspired me to continue to speak truth to power no matter my position or status in the world. It has lit a fire in me to continue to advocate for communities that have been historically excluded due to biased systems.

What does advocacy mean to you?

Working with an individual, group or organization to provide the means for them to gain agency over their own lives and help them better understand the systems that perpetuate unhealthy patterns and beliefs that can diminish their quality of life.

Have your experiences at UMKC helped define your career goals?

Definitely. During my field work, I realized that I would like to work with neighborhoods and help them be more involved in decisions that impact their communities. They need to be aware of everything that is going on and have a say in it. I've also realized that as social workers, we need to attack issues at the root a lot more. Getting involved in policy and supporting organizations that are doing that liberatory work is crucial to social change.

Are you a first-generation college student? If so, what does that mean to you?

Yes, I am. It is important to me because I have been privileged enough to further my education and take advantage of everything my parents worked so hard to provide for me.

Headshot of DaVonna Williams

What has been your favorite memory at UMKC so far?

Presenting at the 2023 UMKC Social Work Conference. I was able to present my capstone work, which involved community organizing around the issue of unpaid field work for social work students. I am very passionate about economic injustice so being able to speak about our organizing and awareness building efforts was empowering.

Who/What do you admire most at UMKC and why?

I admire Center for Neighborhoods because they are doing a lot of important work by equipping neighborhoods with the tools they need to address their own needs and meet their goals. I like that they visit and connect with members of the community.

You were president of the Master of Social Work Student Organization. What did that role mean to you?

It meant taking the lead to empower my cabinet and other students to speak up on issues that we see as social workers out in the community, as well as within the MSW program. My vision is for this organization to be engaging and fun while cultivating a sense of community within the MSW program. For instance, we created a newsletter called “Not Your Grandmother's Social Work” (NYGSW) because we wanted to promote a more refreshing, progressive take on social work.

Picture of DaVonna Williams hugging herself and smiling.

What's your favorite fun fact about Kansas City?

Kansas City is the hometown of one of my favorite artists, Janelle Monáe.

Do you have a favorite spot on campus?

My favorite spot on campus is Miller Nichols Library. It’s pretty chill and quiet, so I'm there when I want to brainstorm or work on a project.

What are three words you'd use to describe Kansas City?

Resilient. Inspiring. Fun.

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