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Briana Tetsch

"I am extremely grateful"

Briana Tetsch, MSW '20

  • Concentration:
    Social Policy and Evaluation
  • Practice Area:
    Community and Social Systems (minor: Management of Human Services)
  • Field Placement:
    Washtenaw County Health Department

I am extremely grateful to have had this opportunity to get emergency funding, and I am grateful also to have a School of Social Work Scholarship. Both were life-changing. I am a first generation Latina, and in my case that comes with a lot of intergenerational poverty. Everyone wants representation in the academy, but when opportunities are presented, they usually come with a cost.

We often speak in this space about the impressive level of scholarship support the School of Social Work provides its master's students. That support typically covers at least a part of students' tuition and living expenses. But what about emergencies? Field work assignments can be far from Ann Arbor, and cars do break down. Roommates break leases. Laptop screens suddenly go blank. Families cannot always help in these situations (a student's emergency may actually be a family financial crisis), and, even if a student's schedule allows for part-time work, it may not provide significant income. Last spring, the COVID-19 pandemic left many students abruptly unemployed. What to do? Enter the hardworking folks in the school's Office of Student Services (OSS). They manage the school's Student Emergency Fund: one simple form and a student has emergency help in a matter of days.

Below, Briana Tetsch, a recent graduate, tells of her sudden need and of how OSS quickly delivered help. If you would like to donate to the school's Student Emergency Fund, please visit https://leadersandbest.umich.edu/find/#!/scu/ssw

"I moved here last July from Los Angeles, so I am supporting myself financially. I don't come from a family of means, so I literally used up all my savings to get to Michigan-it was a hard drive, but my mom supported me with the move-and to cover the first few months of rent and to get started here.

"It pained me to be away from my community. I was used to speaking Spanish every day. Few people here spoke Spanish, or looked like me or my family.

"In December 2019, I felt I had to go back and make sure my family was okay, but I didn't have the finances to do so. My program's schedule did not allow me to hold a full-time job. Flights were expensive and I wasn't going to drive all that way alone. I heard about the Student Emergency Fund from a colleague. I went to the Office of Student Services and they gave me the documents I needed to apply. It was really helpful to go back and visit my mom and my aunt who has a chronic illness. It was important to know that I did not have to be isolated in Michigan, that I was not stuck here, but could still be a resource to my family. You can only give so much emotional support from 2,000 miles away.

"I am extremely grateful to have had this opportunity to get emergency funding, and I am grateful also to have a School of Social Work Scholarship. Both were life-changing. I am a first generation Latina, and in my case that comes with a lot of intergenerational poverty. Everyone wants representation in the academy, but when opportunities are presented, they usually come with a cost.

"Scholarship donors are investing in people who are going to make change. Right now I can't give back substantially, but I did donate as an undergraduate, because I was helped with emergency funding then, too. I encourage everyone who can to give. Every dollar counts. People are never a waste of money. I am really proud of where I come from, and I am filled with conviction, but I needed support to finish my graduate program.

"As my time in the program reaches its end, I will continue to support social change efforts in my community."

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