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Sothida Tan,
Master of Social Work alumnus from University of Washington and Master of Public Health alumnus from CSUF

Sothida Tan

Who are you? 
I am a recent MSW (’13) graduate after having spent many years in the field of non-governmental organization work and private philanthropy.  I wanted to obtain an MSW for a couple of reasons: Social Work’s values align with my own and I felt my academic background had not been as robust as my professional experience.  When I was given the opportunity to attend a graduate Social Work program, I accepted and it has been of the best investments I could have done for myself, both personally and professionally.

What field are you in and what attracted you to that field? 
I work for an international relief and development organization whose mission is to assist communities in distress, by providing them with the tools they need to overcome the effects of disasters, disease, and poverty.  As a child, I knew I wanted to work in the humanitarian field because of my own family’s history as Cambodian refugees and because I had witnessed so much suffering within the community.  It did not take long for me to develop an awareness that there are so many vulnerable communities across the world, including here in the United States, who experience ongoing injustices, disparities, and challenges.  Being at a humanitarian organization, I could work alongside other people in Cambodia and in various places to help address those issues.

How do you hope to use your master’s degree to improve the health of your community?
Social Work not only provided me with the technical skills and strategic framework I need to be an effective practitioner, it instilled in me a set of principles and a commitment for social and health justice that I strive to achieve in the work I do.  

What is a resource or advice you wish you had before starting your master’s program?
Social Work brings together a group of passionate people who will also have passionate opinions.  As students of color, we are already underrepresented in the field, but we have a great deal to contribute.  Take advantage of the academic space to offer opposing viewpoints, encourage uncomfortable but respectful dialogue, and engage in real and critical discussion.  Do not underestimate or stifle yourself—it is part of the learning experience for yourself and equally as important, for your peers.

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