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Sparking Change in South Carolina

Spigner K300When Katrina Spigner enrolled in the USC College of Social Work, she knew she wanted to use her master’s degree to solve problems on a larger scale than one family at a time.

Spigner, who graduated in 2003, has been using her skills to develop and facilitate the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina's catalytic grant-making program. As senior program director, she helps administer the grant review process and coaches organizations that win grants. She is responsible for strategic grants, which accounted for $627,000 of the foundation’s $2.1 million in grants in 2013. She also oversees the foundation’s Carolina Academy, an education component of the foundation's work to enhance the skills needed by nonprofit leaders to build organizational capacity.

Spigner continues as a learner. She’s now pursuing a doctoral degree in organizational leadership.

After a series of life changes, Spigner said her path veered toward social work. In  1999 changes included marriage separation and loss of her father. At 36 years old with two young children, she realized that her career prospects were limited because she had only a high school diploma.

Spigner enrolled in the Evening College at Columbia College to earn her bachelor’s degree in social work. Juggling two part-time jobs, each day she would come home, kiss her children goodnight before settling down to write papers and prepare for exams.

She graduated with honors in 2001, and decided to pursue her master’s in social work at USC through its full-time, accelerated program. She enrolled in the summer of 2002. She learned how to engage communities and advance change through courses in organizational change and organizational capacity building.

She studied under Drs. Sadie Logan and Teresa Tirrito, now both retired, and Dr. Cynthia Forrest, now a professor of social work at Winthrop University. She also worked part-time at the USC Center for Child and Family Studies. Her experiences allowed her to see that social work wasn’t confined to handling cases for a state agency.

In 2003, she graduated with the College of Social Work faculty's highest honor for academic excellence. After graduation, she served as the director of field internships and as a social work lecturer at Columbia College.

In 2005, Spigner joined the staff of the Sisters of Charity Foundation in 2005—allowing her to deepen her practice. She is able to work closely with the people she’s serving. She can hear their stories, and connect them with her own experiences. Her training from USC then helps her understand the context that allows her to work toward systemic change.

“The program opened my vision of the possibilities,” she said. “Those of us who are committed to this vocation of social work, we have the opportunity to offer others transformation.”

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