“I’m grateful for my experience at FSU and especially to the College of Social Work.”
Third-year Florida State University graduate student Kapria Lee is on the cusp of reaching her lifetime goal of becoming a social worker equipped with the skills to make a positive impact in the lives of entire populations of disadvantaged people and, more specifically, the life of an individual.
Lee is on track to complete FSU’s joint graduate degree program in social work and public administration this spring. The program is one of the few in the nation that gives students an opportunity to pursue master’s degrees in those fields simultaneously.
Getting to this point has been a long winding road, requiring Lee to navigate some unexpected challenges along the way.
“I always wanted to do social work, but I was discouraged in high school from pursuing that kind of job because people tend to discourage careers in social work,” Lee said. “I came to FSU unsure of what I could contribute to the university and society. Fortunately, my academic and extracurricular experiences boosted my confidence and ability to make a meaningful impact.”
The joint degree is offered through a partnership between the College of Social Work and the Reubin O’D. Askew School of Public Administration and Policy. It is designed to prepare students for jobs at public, private and nonprofit human-service organizations.
Lee said FSU professors have helped her develop and clarify a viable vision for her future, and their personal encouragement has provided extra motivation to make it happen.
“I’m grateful for my experience at FSU and especially to the College of Social Work,” Lee said. “Everyone in the college has invested a lot in me.”
Lee has tried to make the most of that investment by keeping an open mind about the many opportunities available at Florida State. She decided to check them out even when she wasn’t sure where they might lead or what level of commitment they would require.
It proved to be the right attitude.
That can-do mindset helped Lee win a competitive scholarship from the College of Social Work, which is offered to only two students a year. It waives the fees of up to nine credit hours for graduate students.
That success was a big motivator. Lee dove into academic challenges and extracurricular activities. She became an FSU Student Ambassador for the chance to help other students and organize school events, and the experiences proved to be rewarding.
“As a joint-degree student, I’ve had the ability to combine my interests in social justice and public policy and administration,” Lee said. “Many of my projects have looked at pressing issues facing Florida’s communities, particularly in the criminal justice system. My projects have examined topics such as human trafficking, prison programming, marijuana policy and reentry programs.”
Lee served as a graduate research assistant on the College of Social Work’s Medicaid Long-Term Care research team. It was a collaborative project with the College of Medicine, and the experience gave her the opportunity to examine topics such as the quality of life of Medicaid recipients.
Lee also joined the Florida Gubernatorial Fellows program, designed to cultivate the future leaders of Florida. That role opened the door for her to conduct research in the Bureau of Medicaid Policy at the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration and develop policy solutions for the state of Florida.
Jennifer Farinella, the College of Social Work’s graduate student adviser, praised Lee’s academic performance and contributions to the FSU campus and beyond.
“Kapria has exemplified excellence in academic work, paired with a strong commitment to engage with her college, university and community,” Farinella said. “Kapria is an excellent representative of the Florida State University community, and she embodies the institution’s values in all of her endeavors.”
Lee has received many academic awards, including the 2018 College of Social Work Academic Leadership Award presented to students who excel in the classroom and exemplify leadership. She holds a 3.9 GPA.
Lee has earned myriad academic scholarships, such as the FSU College of Social Work Lamar Everette Award, FSU College of Social Work MSW Class of ’75 Award, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Spouses’ Education Award, FSU Black Alumni Association William R. Jones Award, Phi Alpha National Honor Society National MSW Award and the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society Love of Learning Award.
Lee hopes to work as a public servant after graduation and continue using her expertise in policy analysis and program administration. She said her time at Florida State has been special because it offered so many opportunities to learn and grow, as well as give back.
“I believe my work has positively impacted the FSU community because I’ve encouraged others to pursue their dreams, and I’ve had opportunities to lead in the classroom, on campus and in the community,” Lee said. “I believe the best leaders build other leaders and inspire others to act.
“As a first generation, low-income African-American graduate student, I know my experiences can be quite different from my peers, and I think they have appreciated my perspective on issues. I appreciate FSU’s commitment to providing a diverse and inclusive environment for all students, as well as the ability to receive a debt-free education at FSU.”