Raquel Quinones Ubarri
In 2018, I graduated with my Bachelor of Social Work degree from Florida State University and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant from the FSU Army ROTC Program. I truly enjoyed the atmosphere of FSU and all the opportunities, organizations, and events I participated in during my time as an undergraduate. When the time came to start considering graduate schools, FSU provided a sense of community that I did not find in other schools. The College of Social Work has incredible faculty and staff, and I knew I would continue to learn a lot from them. I was also excited to continue working with the Student Veterans Center, the Veteran Student Union, and Veterans Alliance.
Motivation to pursue a graduate degree
I have always found joy in serving my community and my country. Serving in the military allows me to see firsthand the needs of military service members and their families. I feel that I have the potential to make a difference and help service members, veterans, and their loved ones wherever I go. I decided that the best way I could serve my community was to first get my master’s degree in social work (MSW) and a license in clinical social work (LCS). As a social worker, I could really utilize my passion for people and my skill sets to make an impact.
Importance of research and work
The military and veteran community has a unique lifestyle and culture. People in the military and their families have endured situations that most people outside of that population never experience, such as serving in a combat zone, six-to-twelve-month deployments, changing duty stations, field training exercises, increased suicide rates, and injuries related to explosive devices. Veterans and their families sacrifice a lot, and I believe it is important to serve them as a sign of gratitude. The Department of Veteran Affairs and Department of Defense work hard to determine what the needs of service members and their families are and implement initiatives to address those needs. In addition, there are incredible non-governmental organizations (NGOs) across the country with the same mission to serve those who have served.
Describe an aspect of your military service that is especially memorable or exceptional
I currently serve as an 88A- Transportation Officer with the Army Reserves. In 2020, my unit deployed to the Middle East, and I was tasked to lead a team of soldiers in Saudi Arabia. We worked to keep equipment moving throughout the area of operation despite a global pandemic changing everything right before our eyes. It was challenging but an incredibly fulfilling experience. I found that I grew a lot as an individual and as a leader in the US Army. I am thankful for the opportunity to work alongside incredible people from all four branches of the military, allied nations’ armed forces, contractors, and the Saudi Arabian military. One unique thing that happened that I was not expecting was attending a Saudi Arabian Culture Day hosted by the Saudi military. We learned about their history, culture, religion, and their customs and courtesies. We also got to ride camels, try traditional foods, hold a falcon, visit one of their historic museums, and try on some traditional clothing.
Tell us how your military service provided skills and experiences that you were able to apply to your graduate studies
My military service has taught me that there is no such thing as a perfect plan. Life will throw some unforeseen curveballs, but the true testament will be how you overcome and keep moving forward. Some crucial skills the Army taught me that I use every day are time management, communication, and problem-solving skills. As professionals we are expected to be on-time, to be organized, to communicate proficiently, and to find solutions rather than excuses. I would say that graduate school requires students to show the same professionalism they would in the workforce; professors expect you to organize yourself for the semester using the syllabus, submit the assignments on time, and communicate when you are struggling or confused about something.
Advice for anyone considering graduate school
Graduate school can be intimidating, but if it is going to help you achieve your goals, then do not let anything stop you. When everything is said and done, will you reflect and remember all the struggles or will look back and remember the feeling of accomplishment.
I would like to be a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) working with veterans, service members, and their families.