Molly Bryant: Graduation, Ode to These Women

I have 2 weeks until graduation. The closer it gets to walking across that stage, the more sentimental I get about the past three years here - and the more nervous I am about falling on my face or passing out before they even call my name at the ceremony. I could go on and on about the incredible people that I’ve met during my MSW program who have guided me through this journey and inspired me to keep fighting for justice even when I’m exhausted and hopeless and just want to waste away watching reruns of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Instead, I will focus on three of my mentors who make me proud to be a graduate of OU-Tulsa and whose confidence in me is sometimes the only thing that makes me keep fighting during the hard days and weeks and months.

This is my ode to Kirsten Havig, Lisa Byers, and Karen Gray. Kirsten has been my champion in all things social justice. She was the one who built confidence in me, who taught me that I’m actually quite capable of deciphering state policies and that I should use my experiences to lobby for better policies. She allowed me to rave and rant about sexism and white feminism on a weekly basis and reprimanded me about my office plant’s water intake. Kirsten is the one who continues to be a cheerleader even from 812 miles away.

Lisa was the first one to teach me about intergenerational trauma and put context to my family’s bumpy history. She was the one who pushed me to confront my broken history and to carefully and delicately put it back together. She is my Tsalagi mentor and the one who tells me not to worry that I have light brown hair and green eyes but to keep fighting for my people and my community no matter what. Lisa is a quiet force within the social work department, and her dedication to community and justice is unlike anything I have ever witnessed.

Karen holds me to expectations that keep me scrambling to attain. My GA job was challenging in the best kind of way. I have gained more skills working with her than I have in any other job. She pushes me to answer my own questions, demands thoughtful research that is always focuses on meeting the needs of the clients and the community, and gives me the benefit of the doubt when I walk back into her office after a meeting with her to ask a simple clarification question that we definitely already discussed. Looking back on the two years I spent as her GA, I realize that her high expectations of me have been necessary to challenge me and shape me into the best social advocate I can be for my community.

Now please join me in three cheers for Kirsten, Lisa, and Karen!

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