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School of Social Work Spring 2023 Commencement

April 29, 1:30 PM ET

Power Center
121 Fletcher Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Event Details Directions to the Power Center

Health & Safety

  • Commencement will operate in conjunction with the current University masking policy allowing masks to be optional.
  • All students, faculty, and staff must complete the ResponsiBLUE screening prior to entering campus buildings.
  • Guests must complete the ResponsiBlue guest screening.

The School of Social Work Commencement will be held in-person. MSW Graduates must register their guests planning to attend SSW Commencement via the link sent to them. Registration is required. An event registration confirmation is required to enter the Power Center auditorium. Please email with any questions.

The SSW Commencement will be livestreamed on this page and on the front page of the U-M School of Social Work website.

Letter from the Dean

Dear Graduates,

Congratulations! We are delighted to celebrate your hard work and dedication together with your friends, families and loved ones.

You have earned your MSW during difficult and historic times, requiring focus, tenacity and determination. Your academic efforts and success have prepared you to become skilled and effective leaders, prepared to face the challenges of our field.

University of Michigan social work graduates have a reputation for their expertise, dedication and achievement. Today you join 17,000+ alumni who lead the field as policymakers, agency directors and foundation leaders, who improve lives as accomplished and effective social workers. We look forward to hearing how you apply your talents for the good of people and communities.

You are the leaders and best. On behalf of the Michigan Social Work community, I wish you every success as you reach out, raise hope and change society.

Go Blue,

Beth Angell
Dean and Phillip Fellin Collegiate Professor of Social Work


Keynote Speaker Jason Smith, MSW ‘10
Executive Director
Michigan Center for Youth Justice

Jason Smith

Jason Smith currently serves as the Executive Director of the Michigan Center for Youth Justice (MCYJ), an organization that promotes fair and effective youth justice policies in Michigan. Smith has worked in various roles for MCYJ since 2014.

Smith's journey in the field of juvenile justice began as an intern with the Ingham County Circuit Court's Family Division, which sparked his passion for advocating for youth in the system. After earning his bachelor's degree in social science from Michigan State University, he worked as a direct care provider at a transitional home for justice-involved youth and later as a case manager within Wayne County's juvenile justice system.

Determined to deepen his knowledge and skills in justice reform advocacy work, Smith pursued a Master of Social Work degree at the University of Michigan, where he interned with the Washtenaw County Michigan Prisoner Reentry Initiative and MCYJ. His commitment to juvenile justice led him to co-manage a youth diversion program in Skokie, IL, and become a 2011 Youth Justice Leadership Institute Fellow with the National Juvenile Justice Network.

During his time with MCYJ, Smith has served in governor-appointed roles on the Juvenile Justice Task Force for Reform and the standing Michigan Committee on Juvenile Justice.

Smith lives in Ann Arbor with his wife, Cristy, and two young daughters.

Student Speaker Ayah Chehade MSW Degree Candidate

Ayah Chehade

Ayah Chehade is a poet, community organizer and researcher based in Michigan. Born and raised in Chicago to Lebanese and Moroccan parents, she centers her work around psychology, faith and justice.

Chehade graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a BA in English and international studies. Her lifelong fascination with the power of words inspired her 2018 TEDx talk, “What’s In a Name,” which explores how language shapes identity. She believes that creating social change also begins by resisting and reclaiming a deeply engrained lexicon.

She served as a creative producer for the ZAKAT Foundation of America. While on assignment in Turkey, she recognized the power of storytelling as a tool for decolonization and healing.

As an MSW student, she interned with the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS), where she helped develop an activities-centered group therapy program for young adults. She also interned at the Arab American National Museum, where she worked on the Cultivate & Grow oral history project to celebrate and commemorate the opening of the new heritage garden rooftop.

After graduation, Chehade plans to further her studies in Arabic and the Islamic sciences, and work to cultivate community spaces and resources centered around holistic wellness and the arts.

Student Speaker Kacey Richardson MSW Degree Candidate

Kacey Richardson

Kacey Richardson (she/her) is a Master of Social Work candidate in the Interpersonal Practice in Integrated Health, Mental Health, and Substance Abuse pathway. She graduated summa cum laude from Western Michigan University with her Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Gender & Women’s Studies in 2020.

During her time as an MSW student, she has developed a service-centered social work practice through her experience as a counselor at the Center for the Education of Women+. She has striven to empower individuals in the University of Michigan and surrounding communities by serving as an advocate and providing resources to help them reach their academic, financial and professional potential. Through a holistic approach to her clients’ needs, she demonstrated the ability to connect them to appropriate resources, facilitate exploration of their career/educational goals, and provide encouragement to them as they embark on their professional journeys. She also served as a graduate student instructor for three terms. This allowed her to make deep connections with students and faculty at U-M, find ways to best support students’ academic growth and personal well-being, and witness community organizing in action in the fight for workers’ rights.

After graduation, Richardson plans to fulfill a lifelong dream of hers to work for the Walt Disney Company before returning to Michigan to continue her advocacy work in higher education.

Commencement Program

Photos from the Ceremony

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