Whitney Knox Lee, JD, BSW
Bachelor of Social Work '09
I started college at a different university to study psychology. By my sophomore year, I realized I cared less about the science of why we are who we are, and more about the social, cultural, and economic factors that contributed to how we approach life and the challenges we may face. After some research, I realized that a degree in Social Work is really what I was after. I transferred to SU my junior year and graduated with my BSW in 2009.
I loved the BSW program. I loved my cohort and the open conversations we had which led to deep personal discoveries for many of us. I became close with many in our small cohort and appreciated the intimate learning environment. I also learn best with hands-on learning, and found that the Social Work program at SU gave me plenty of opportunity to do that.
During my senior year practicum, I was placed at one of the public defenders offices to learn about forensic social work. I learned about the criminal justice system and the way that our life circumstances and upbringing can have a profound effect on our likelihood to come into contact with the criminal justice system. I learned about race and class are deeply intertwined with criminality and how the justice system often prays on, or fails, people of color and poor people.
My experience at practicum sparked in interest in law, American jurisprudence, and social justice. My purpose from that point on has been to affect change through law. I applied and was accepted to Seattle University School of Law, where I earned my Juris Doctor degree. I attended law school part time and worked as a case manager for Catholic Housing Services (CHS). In my work with CHS, I often worked alongside attorneys to advocate for formerly homeless women.
Upon graduation, I decided to start my career in the Southern United States. My interest was in working within communities of color, and working in less progressive communities where attorneys like myself were sorely needed. Since that time, I have been working for Georgia Legal Services Program in Albany, Georgia, the “Deep South.” A culture shock it has been. But the rewards professionally, personally, and spiritually have been like nothing I could have imagined. In Albany, I’ve learned about working with people of vastly different backgrounds from my own to achieve positive social change for a greater America.
Without a doubt, my education from SU’s Social Work program prepared me well for the work I’ve gone on to do. My experience is that the practice of law requires many times some aspect of social work. The empathy and humility that I learned during my education only aids my effectiveness as a poverty lawyer.
To those considering pursuing social work or law, or any field that requires daily interaction with communities, I highly recommend the Social Work program at Seattle University. The professor’s “get it,” and work with you to be the best advocate possible.