Loyola University Chicago

The President’s Medallion

Rebecca Witheridge

PHOTO: Heather EidsonRebecca Witheridge has a perfect 4.0 GPA—but still finds time to volunteer at Mercy Home for Boys and Girls. “I feel so privileged to have the opportunity to build relationships with these smart, resilient, and challenging youth,” she says.

School of Social Work 

Rebecca Witheridge

Rebecca Witheridge is serious about school and service.

As a graduate student, Witheridge carries a perfect 4.0 GPA and leads tutoring sessions for her fellow classmates. She’s also traveled to Canada to make a presentation at an international symposium for social workers. And outside of her busy school schedule, she works with young people at the Mercy Home for Boys and Girls.

Here, she talks about all the Loyola professors who inspire her, how graduate students can manage a heavy course load, and why she loves working so much with at-risk children.

What’s your favorite Loyola memory?

My favorite memory has absolutely been presenting at the International Association for Social Work with Groups (IASWG) symposium in Calgary, Canada. It was an honor to represent Loyola alongside a group of such talented and dedicated peers and faculty. As fledgling social workers, having our work seen, discussed, and validated by such prominent figures as Dominique Moyse Steinberg and Andrew Malekoff (whose work we have read in class) was truly inspiring.

Talk a little about a professor or mentor who inspired you.

It is impossible to choose just one professor. I have admired Christie Mason’s sharp intellect, Shirley Simon’s avid devotion, Priscila Freire’s grit and guidance, Kathy Lyndes’s passionate curiosity, Ivan Medina’s wellspring of hope, Michael Lloyd’s sense of humor, and more. I was profoundly fortunate to witness Lynn Boyle’s heartfelt embodiment of the values of the social work profession. She is dearly missed by the Loyola community.

Tell us about your volunteer/service work and what it means to you.

I’m interning at Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, a residential facility for adolescents who suffer from behavioral problems and complex trauma. I feel so privileged to have the opportunity to build relationships with these smart, resilient, and challenging youth. I know that I will be a better social worker for having known them; I am striving to repay them with the best therapeutic support I can muster.

Any advice you would give students about how to get the most out of their education?

Be invested in your own learning. Graduate school is a battle some days, and it is impossible to do everything perfectly all of the time—but it is important to do the readings, show up for class, and take it seriously. Prioritize, organize, and do stuff early when you can. Explore the topics that get you fired up. And call a friend when it all seems like too much!

Any spots on campus or in Chicago that you’ll miss?

I will most miss the Internships and Student Services office of the School of Social Work. As their graduate assistant, I have had the exciting chance to make tangible contributions to the school. I am so grateful for their support, and I doubt that I will ever have as much fun collating handouts in future jobs as I did these past two years.

And finally, what do you hope to be doing 10 years from now?

I would love to be in a leadership role at a nonprofit doing arts- or activities- based programming for at-risk youth or youth with complex trauma histories. I believe that young people thrive when they have the chance to express themselves creatively, master interesting challenges, and play. I’d also love to pursue research efforts on the effectiveness of these types of interventions.