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School of Social Work Summer 2020 Commencement

This is not the graduation any of us imagined. We wish we could honor your accomplishments in person and host you, your family and friends at a ceremony on campus. However, to keep everyone safe and healthy, we have created a pre-recorded commencement ceremony for you to view with family and friends. The ceremony will be posted on Friday, July 24 at 2 PM and includes the reading of every graduate's name.

Don't forget to take a photo of you, your family and friends celebrating so we can share graduation photos with the SSW community. Send your photos to

Go Blue!
The School of Social Work Graduation Committee

Letter from the Dean

Dear Graduates,

Congratulations on your commencement! As you move into your social work career, please know that the faculty and leadership of our school are proud of your dedication, your achievements and your resiliency.

During the pandemic your lives were turned upside down. While you have endured uncertainty, loss and despair, you have also developed skills to manage adversity and uncertainty, to address rapid fire change and to help those without a voice be heard. You have lived your social work values by showing compassion, by standing up to challenge stigmas and prejudice of all kinds, by supporting and building community, and by promoting health equity.

This is not the graduation that any of us could have imagined six months ago. While we can't celebrate face to face, know that you hold a special place in our hearts.

Summer 2020 graduates, you have earned respect, gratitude and admiration from the Michigan Social Work community and the university. You are the leaders and best, and we are confident that you are fully prepared to take on the challenges facing our world. You have demonstrated your tenacity, compassion and willingness to fight and lead to ensure better futures for every member of our local and global communities.

Stay Safe and Go Blue,
Lynn Videka
Dean and Carol T. Mowbray Collegiate Professor of Social Work


Keynote by Justin D. Hodge Clinical Assistant Professor of Social Work

Justin D. Hodge is a clinical assistant professor working to promote socially just policies through his engagement in governmental and political organizations.

He holds elected and appointed positions on the Washtenaw County Community Action Board and Board of Health, the executive board of the Washtenaw County Democratic Party, and is the chair of the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Community Advisory Board for Law Enforcement. He is a current candidate for Washtenaw County Commissioner. Nationally, Hodge serves on the board of directors of the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy.

Hodge is dedicated to mental health services on both a policy and individual level. He has provided therapy to children and families, case management to individuals with developmental disabilities, and has coordinated clinics for children in crisis. By leveraging his experiences as both a clinical and macro social work practitioner, he aims to bridge the gap between the two for students.

Student Speaker Remeta Hicks-Montgomery MSW Candidate

Remeta Hicks-Montgomery is a Black woman, wife, mother and community servant, born and raised in the city of Detroit. For much of her life, she unofficially engaged in social work - advocating for her family members and locating resources for them. She had no clue that there was actually a profession centered around such work.

As a first-generation student, Remeta had little guidance on how to select a college major; so she simply chose a course of study that seemed interesting and fun. She earned a degree in communication from Eastern Michigan University, but quickly discovered that the roles that spoke to her passions and interests required or preferred candidates with a social work degree. Frustrated that she had chosen a major that didn't align with her career goals and unenthused by her job prospects, she started a business in 2014 that allowed her to make an impact on her community. Her organization, First Rate HBCU Tours, made it possible for her to use her natural gifts, skills and experiences to guide marginalized students through the college admissions process. Through this work, hundreds of Metro Detroit students have been impacted.

Hicks-Montgomery also serves as supervisor for Detroit's homeless coordinated entry system, working to ensure that folks experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity are safe, counted and connected to available resources. She aspires to become more active in community organizing and policy work. Remeta credits this interest to a course she took with Clinical Assistant Professor Justin Hodge during her time at U-M, along with an unrelenting calling to do more to dismantle the systems that perpetuate white supremacy and disproportionately harm Black communities.

Student Speaker Christopher Sanjurjo Montalvo MSW Candidate

Christopher Sanjurjo Montalvo is an advanced standing MSW student at the University of Michigan. Through his internship at CHASS (Community Health and Social Services), he provided interdisciplinary care to underserved populations mitigating substance use issues in Southwest Detroit. During his time at Michigan Social Work, Christopher has been a representative for Student Union, presented at the LSWO conference in Chicago in 2019, and co-presented a workshop entitled "Decolonizing Spirituality." In addition to this, Christopher has been involved with various faculty-led research projects, including a project on the effects of COVID-19 on the immigrant workforce.

Growing up in the Bronx, NY, he lived through obstacles such as homelessness, poverty and a lack of community healthcare resources. He graduated from an alternative learning high school and enlisted in the U.S. Army before he attended UM-Flint where he thrived in the social work program. At UM-Flint, Christopher studied abroad and presented at conferences in Flint and South Africa.

Christopher plans to continue his education so that he can become a professor and focus on research involving decolonization and spirituality within social work, as well as venture into politics to attempt to make large-scale systemic changes. His ambition is fueled by his wife, Olivia, and twin daughters, Allison and Serena, who always inspire him to "reach for more."

Photos from the Ceremony

View the Summer 2020 commencement gallery on Flickr

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