Amazing Students Profiles

Alyssa Larsen

Alyssa Larsen

When Alyssa Larsen received her bachelor’s degree, she realized the quality of a University of Georgia education was top-rate. Like many students, she graduated and got a job. She got married and moved to suburban Atlanta. When it was time for graduate school, she wanted to go to UGA, and the part-time master of social work degree program at UGA’s Gwinnett campus fit her needs perfectly. She is completing her degree while she works full-time. Meanwhile, Larsen and her husband just adopted a son from Georgia’s foster care program. She has also been able to take advantage of many of the opportunities available to more traditional students, including a chance to volunteer at a camp for children who have been burned, which is a service-learning initiative in UGA’s School of Social Work. After graduation, Larsen plans to continue working and eventually get her doctorate and clinical licensure.


Lawrenceville, Ga

High School:

Collins Hill High School

Degree objective:

Master of Social Work

Other degrees:

B.S., psychology, University of Georgia, 2004

Expected graduation:

Spring 2010

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

Being nominated for the Amazing Student Award is a highlight, for sure. I am also proud of myself for maintaining an A average while working full-time and going through the grueling process of adopting a child.

Current Employment:

I work for a non-profit organization that serves adults with disabilities. Specifically, I provide services for only one family whose son has been profoundly disabled since birth. I help Scott learn life skills so that he can live more independently. I enjoy his personality so much and love seeing the progress he has made in two short years.

Family Ties to UGA:

My sister graduated from UGA the same year I did, thus marking the only day in my entire life that I ever got to do anything at the same time as my older sister.

I chose to attend UGA because…

…I was jealous of my sister’s college experience in Athens and wanted to get out of Atlanta. I transferred to UGA and got my bachelor’s degree in 2004. I chose to attend the part-time MSW program at the UGA Gwinnett Campus in 2007 to pursue a graduate degree in social work because it was located near my workplace and the program was rated well. Also, it offered the convenience of night and weekend classes.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

In Athens, I love to walk through the Founders Memorial Garden. I like to look at the nameplates of all the plants. I usually sit on the benches there and daydream before I go to the SLC to study.

When I have free time, I like…

…to take my husband, son, and our dogs to the parks around our neighborhood. Picnics are one of my favorite things to do! Of course, with the dogs around, you must keep an eye on the food. Really, it’s just a good excuse to not cook a meal. I also love to drive around with the windows down on sunny afternoons. My son regularly asks me, “Mom? Where are we going? On an adventure?” It’s relaxing for me and fun for him!

The craziest thing I’ve done is…

When my husband and I found out that our favorite little boy would be going back into the foster care system after an adoptive placement did not work out, we immediately sprang into action. After only three months, we had a four year old living with us! It has been such a wonderful and fantastic experience, but, boy, was it stressful! I would say that it qualifies as the craziest time in our lives and the best thing we have ever done. Other than that, I think the craziest thing I ever did was let a snake kiss me on the mouth at burn camp.

My favorite place to study is…

When I have a chance to go to Athens, I love to study in the MLC. The building is so academic-looking that I can’t help but get caught up in my studies. At the Gwinnett campus, I like to get to class early especially when the student affairs department has Coffee and Culture. I can sit and listen to eclectic music while I look over my notes or prepare for an exam.

My favorite professor is…

…Betsy Vonk. She is amazing. She has the highest expectations for academic integrity and is always available for students. She is the epitome of professionalism and has been my model for professional behavior. I try to channel her cool calmness every time I am in a stressful situation.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…

…my great grandmother. She died when I was five, so I did have the chance to meet her, and I have a few memories of her, but the more I hear about her, the more intrigued I become. She wore pants and built a house! She wore bright red when other women were wearing navy and gray! She worked hard and rarely complained. And she could pull together a nice meal on a moment’s notice.

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

…start my own non-profit organization. I would love to have enough land for an animal shelter in a small, quaint community. I would serve disabled children and adults and teach them job skills, take the animals to nursing homes as therapy animals, have a garden and a kitchen for organic food preparation, camps for troubled teens and those with behavior disorders and a coffee shop to bring the community in to see what we were doing. It would be fantastic.

After graduation, I plan to…

…work for a few years and enjoy being a mom while my son grows up and then go back to school for a doctoral degree and work on clinical licensure. After making a career in my first profession, I will start that non-profit I have been dreaming about.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

…burn camp. I was able to see that my purpose in life is to be a social worker. Sure, the work was hard, the days were long and there was a lot of emotional processing to be done, but I grew as a person in ways I never imagined. When I returned home, I had hard time adjusting to life outside of camp. I never thought that a week at camp could really teach me anything that I had not already learned in the world of social services, but it was one of the best experiences of my life.