Student News

‘Behind the Blue’: UK grad finds passion for global social work through Explore First

Cierra Couch will graduate today with a bachelor's degree from the UK College of Social Work. Photo by Sophia Mesch Shoots.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 3, 2024) — Cierra Couch, a representative of the University of Kentucky May Class of 2024, is a first-generation college student who came to UK in 2020 with a strong sense of determination, but without a clear roadmap.

As a Robinson Scholar from Hyden, Kentucky, Couch instantly found community through like-minded peers who were also from Eastern Kentucky. As time went on, she began to curate her college journey through resources like UK’s Stuckert Career Center, Student Support Services and her first-generation advisor. These services helped Couch first learn about the multitude of opportunities in the field of social work.

But it was later in her academic journey when Couch stepped into a UK student involvement fair, where, by chance, she learned about Alternative Spring Breaks (ASB), a program that connects UK students to service and learning opportunities across the U.S. and around the world. After becoming involved in ASB, Couch discovered a passion for social work and working with immigrant and refugee populations.

But perhaps Couch’s most transformative experience happened through Explore First —  an education abroad program designed and implemented intentionally to equip and empower first-generation students at UK, like Couch. She was part of the inaugural cohort of students to take part in this trailblazing program, which launched in the summer of 2023. Students traveled to London and Dublin for a three-week course, which emphasized career readiness within a global context. Couch says this experience helped her solidify her career goal to work in global social work.

On this episode of “Behind the Blue,” Couch reflects on her time at UK, her experience with the Explore First program and what’s next after she walks across the Commencement stage this Friday with her degree from the UK College of Social Work

"Behind the Blue" is available on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher and Spotify. Become a subscriber to receive new episodes of “Behind the Blue” each week. UK’s latest medical breakthroughs, research, artists and writers will be featured, along with the most important news impacting the university.

For questions or comments about this or any other episode of "Behind the Blue," email or tweet your question with #BehindTheBlue. Transcripts for this or other episodes of "Behind the Blue" can be downloaded from the show’s blog page.

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