MSW Student Spotlight: Guy Harris

by Guy Harris  |   

Guy Haris

The National Association of Social Workers Alaska Chapter recognized alumni Guy Harris as the 2023 NASW AK MSW Student of the Year. During his time at UAA, Harris was involved in multiple student opportunities, including serving as president of the MSW Student Coalition and AK LEND.


Guy R. Harris

Major: Master of Social Work (MSW)

Anticipated graduation date: May 7, 2023

Unit: School of Social Work

Hometown: Casper, Wyoming


What brought you to the UAA College of Health?

I applied to UAA because it was a cheaper option for my master's degree through the WICHE program. This allowed me to move to Anchorage, live in student housing, and focus on my degree without placing myself in a financial deficit. I chose to work toward my degree without being employed so I could focus solely on my education. Federal student loans and stipends from academic achievement were the best option to prevent burn out or becoming too overwhelmed from finances, education and work.


Why did you choose the degree you are pursuing? What would your dream job be?

I have been working towards becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). Since 2009, my goal has been to provide eco-therapy services from a mountain cabin to families struggling with addictions. I began pursuing my goal in 2013 at Casper College and received my associate degree with a specialization in social work in 2019. Following this, I received my Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) at the University of Wyoming in 2022. It was only a natural progression for me to begin working on my master’s degree.


What are you involved in on campus (IE: Clubs, student organizations, etc.)? How have they contributed to your personal and professional growth?

Throughout my short year enrolled at UAA, I have had many opportunities to participate in student organizations. Initially, I attended meetings with The Family: UAA's LGBTQ2+ student organization. The group has allowed me to become more accepting of myself by having an area to be able to socialize with people who understand how it feels to be a part of a marginalized group. I was also able to participate in the MSW Student Coalition where myself and other MSW students set up events for the UAA community and assisted with newsletters for social work students and faculty to learn about events. 

I was a member of the Graduate Student Dean's Advisory Council and shared input about experiences from myself and my peers, along with ideas on how to build engagement with others in this setting. Recently, I became a member of the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity which allowed me to honor myself and build friendships that will last a lifetime.


Have you been involved with internships, practicum placements, research, study abroad, or any other experience you’d like to tell us about? Please tell us how these experiences have shaped you personally, academically, and professionally.

I completed my practicum placement at The Arc of Anchorage where I learned how to engage in social work practice at a mezzo level. During this practicum, I developed a pictorial nutrition program for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities who live in group homes and receive Medicaid waiver services. This program included a full recipe book, Velcro menus, and pre-set menus that alternate over the course of 4 weeks. I also participated in training and advocacy efforts during this practicum placement.

In addition, I was involved in the Alaska Leadership and Education in Neurodevelopmental and other related Disabilities (AK LEND) graduate fellowship as a social work fellow. Here, I participated in educational and leadership experiences that benefit children living with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and their family. Oftentimes, they were working to understand and manage the additional services and supports that are available. 

During this fellowship, I was able to work on developing a training curriculum for direct care staff on how to build self-advocacy skills for children preparing to transition into adult waiver services. This training was used as my MSW capstone project.


What words of wisdom do you have for underclassmen or youth who are still considering their options after high school?

For all those deciding what to do following high school, I encourage you to find your passion, that spark that brings you joy and motivation. If you don’t quite know what you want to do with your life, that is okay. When you find the path that motivates you, take each small step one by one, but don’t stop growing.


What was your favorite class while here at UAA, and why?

Advanced Policy Practice, as this allowed me to strengthen my skills in understanding and advocating for policy change at an individual and professional level.

four people atanding and posing for photo with bouquets
Guy Harris (right) accepting the National Association of Social Workers Alaska Chapter's 2023 NASW AK MSW Student of the Year award.


What is a cause you care about?

LGBTQ+ and disability rights.


What is your favorite spot on campus and why?

The Pride Center, as this gave me a comfortable and welcoming environment for studying, socializing, and relaxing.


What is your plan after graduation?

After Graduation I plan to take some time relaxing and going on a month-long road trip around Alaska and Northwestern Canada, before returning to Wyoming to work on obtaining my LCSW.


What is your favorite quote? Why?

My favorite quote is actually one I came up with in middle school- “Trying to be what you are not is only pretending to be what is not real.” I came up with this quote while I was trying to come to terms with myself and the world around me. It has continued to strengthen my confidence in my own strengths and abilities.


Tell us about an obstacle you overcame.

One of the biggest obstacles I overcame was moving out of Wyoming for the first time, away from everyone I have ever known and building lasting and meaningful relationships in a new and overwhelming environment.


What is your secret to college success?

Succeeding in college seems overwhelming and impossible at times, but time management, showing up, asking questions, and reaching out to teachers and classmates has continued to strengthen my skills in managing the expectations of higher education. Just be present and be willing to step out of your comfort zone, and ask for help when you are struggling. It is not a weakness, it is the strongest and most courageous decision you can make.


What was the best advice you were ever given by a professor, staff, or classmate while here at UAA?

Feedback is meant to be a conversation, if the feedback is difficult to receive in that moment, just set it aside and come back to it later. It is okay to have difficult feelings around feedback from instructors, but they are just helping you to do your best and show the world what you really can do even if it feels harsh or critical in the moment.