LSU School of Social Work Doctoral Students Receive Association for Gerontology Education in Social Work (AGESW) Fellowship

July 01, 2022

BATON ROUGE - Alisha Thompson and Rhonda Bardales, PhD students from the LSU School of Social Work, were named pre-dissertation fellows for the 11th cohort of the Association for Gerontology Education in Social Work (AGESW).

Supported by the Gerontological Society of America, the AGESW pre-dissertation fellowship program provides students with a range of professional development opportunities. Specifically, they will receive training from nationally recognized faculty experts in Gerontological Social Work on navigating the dissertation process, working with quantitative and qualitative methods, and writing for publication.
Applicants for the fellowship spanned the entire country; Bardales and Thompson are two of 10 national recipients. Representing Louisiana’s rural parishes, our honorees tell us about their education, goals, and achievements and give some advice to their fellow Tigers.

Rhonda Bardales

Photo of Rhonda BardalesRhonda Bardales is from DeRidder, Louisiana, located near the Texas border in Beauregard Parish. While she commutes to LSU weekly for classes, she tells us that it is worth every mile.

“When I chose my initial major, I did not know or understand social work. I knew I wanted to be a service to others, so I chose nursing. This quickly changed to athletic training. While I thoroughly enjoyed athletic training, I was introduced to social work as a profession by chance during my second year of college. I immediately became interested in becoming a social worker that integrated with the medical field.”

Bardales graduated with a master’s in Social Work from LSU in 2012. Within two months, she started her dream job as a medical social worker at a hospital in her hometown. “It is upon this experience where I build my professional knowledge base to further my research,” she explained.

What does this honor mean to you?

Bardales plans to continue research in gerontological social work studies and become an educator who contributes to providing high-quality education in the field. Specifically, her goal is to lead a gerontology social work program for a university; being selected as an AGESW Pre-Dissertation Fellow reinforces her confidence as a future professional.

“When the question arises in my mind, ‘Do I belong?’, this honor reminds me that not only do I belong, but I am here to lead. To share this honor with my colleague, Alisha Thompson, is special because we both represent rural, resource-deprived areas of Louisiana where social workers are sparse. It is encouraging that a national organization recognizes the importance of investing in social workers from these areas.”

Advice for Fellow Tigers? 

“It is possible, it can be done, you belong here, and now is the time. As you journey through higher education, reach out to available resources. Like a tiger spreads its paws to swim, reaching out to available resources will propel one further and faster. Reach out by asking questions, connecting with a mentor, accessing assistance with writing or other things, and keeping up with physical and mental health.”

Alisha Thompson

Photo of Alisha ThompsonAlisha Thompson grew up in Pitkin, Louisiana, situated in the west-central part of the state in Vernon Parish. She came to LSU as a first-generation college student from a low-income family, earning her undergraduate degree in psychology.

“All I knew was that I was so excited to be at LSU, I was blessed to have this opportunity, I wanted to make the people who believed in me proud, and I wanted to help people. I thought psychology seemed like a good fit for this mission.”

After undergrad, Thompson had the opportunity to serve in AmeriCorps in an organization called City Year at their national headquarters in Boston, MA. It was during this time that Thompson saw the effects that the community, social, and familial environments had on the overall well-being of individuals. This experience and other professional endeavors led her to return to LSU to earn a Master of Social Work degree.

“The ethics and core values of Social Work aligned extremely well with my personal views centered on social justice and the empowerment of people and groups who have been undervalued by society for far too long. I learned so much during the program and genuinely felt admiration for all the great instructors in my courses.”

What does this honor mean to you?

Thompson strives to succeed at the steps necessary to get to graduation; she believes this honor will help prepare her to complete her dissertation and enter the workforce more competently as a researcher and educator.

“Being selected as AGESW Pre-Dissertation Fellow means the world to me. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to represent Louisiana, LSU, the College of Human Sciences & Education, and the LSU School of Social Work… I am delighted to share this honor and adventure with my colleague, Rhonda Bardales. I am eager to meet the other members of our fellowship cohort from around the country, as well as the experts in the field of aging who will provide us with mentoring, professional development, and networking opportunities.”

Advice for Fellow Tigers 

“My advice to fellow Tigers is to work hard, dream big, and believe in yourselves. The things you can achieve will often shock you. Take time to connect with others. LSU is home to diverse and incredible people who could become lifelong friends, colleagues, or mentors. I encourage you to find an instructor knowledgeable about the student’s area of interest and connect with them about career and educational opportunities in that field. If you find a friend or instructor who realizes your potential, believe them. Tigers, you can do amazing things. FOREVER LSU!”

Bardales and Thompson genuinely believe that learning is a lifelong journey; we look forward to watching them continue to learn and grow personally and professionally beyond graduation.

About SSW

The LSU School of Social Work (SSW) aspires to be a leading school of social work, a vibrant center of intellectual development, a leader in promoting and supporting diverse communities, and an advocate for an integrated and inclusive model of social work, all within a learning environment that supports best educational practices. The SSW offers Child and Family Studies (CFS) and Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) undergraduate degrees, MSW, online MSW, and PhD. SSW is part of the College of Human Sciences & Education.

Visit the School of Social Work website.

About CHSE

The College of Human Sciences & Education (CHSE) is a nationally accredited division of Louisiana State University. The college is comprised of the School of Education, the School of Information Studies, the School of Kinesiology the School of Leadership & Human Resource Development, the School of Social Work, and the University Laboratory School. These combined schools offer 8 undergraduate degree programs, 18 graduate programs, and 7 online graduate degree and/or certificate programs, enrolling more than 1,900 undergraduate and 1,120 graduate students. The College is committed to achieving the highest standards in teaching, research, and service and is committed to improving quality of life across the lifespan.

Visit the College of Human Sciences & Education website.