Alumna cares for children and families through social work

Sep 14, 2023
Serena Hanson

Alumna Serena Hanson is a seasoned social services professional. 

She got her start nearly 25 years ago and has grown her skills and knowledge ever since. Hanson holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and family counseling from Barclay College in Haviland, Kansas, and later attended Newman University, where she earned her Master of Social Work (MSW) in 2010. She chose the program because it was close to where she lived, but she also liked that it focused on family systems. 

“I appreciated the Newman program offering both clinical training at the master’s level, as well as some direct practice and policy training,” Hanson said. “I also really valued the great professors who were brilliant.”

Hanson pointed out former Director of Social Work and Associate Professor of Social Work Kevin Brown in particular, who she felt offered a wealth of knowledge about research within the field of social work. She also valued Michael Duxler, associate professor of social work, who brought clinical experience into the classroom. She enjoyed seeing how real-life instances applied to the theoretical principles she was learning. 

For most of her career, Hanson has focused on child and family services, including adoptions, foster care and youth transitioning out of the foster care system into adulthood. She’s worked for organizations such as the Oklahoma CASA Association, Kansas Children’s Service League and the Kansas Department for Children and Families. 

Serena Hanson (Courtesy photo)
Serena Hanson (Courtesy photo)

Today, Hanson’s plate is full as she is the director of the Bachelor of Social Work program and assistant professor at Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kansas. She’s also an adjunct faculty member for the University of Oklahoma’s MSW program and is a school social worker with USD 259. 

Though Hanson has achieved a lot throughout her career, what makes her most proud is when she can help put services in place to help families stay together. 

“Any time I’ve been able to work with a family that has prevented a child’s reentry into foster care after adoption, that’s been a success point that feels really good,” she said. 

Hanson herself grew up in foster care, which is what inspired her to get into the field in the first place. 

“I had an early exposure to social work and the systems of care that are out there to take care of families,” she said. “I always knew as a kid and teenager that I’d want to give back to that system. I still feel really committed to serving families and kids.”

In all that Hanson does, she values a generational approach. 

“I believe that if we do good work with kids and families today, we’ll potentially create new opportunities for future generations of that family to not have to deal with some of the same trauma,” she said. “Everything I do, I try to do with future generations of that family in mind.”

Everything I do, I try to do with future generations of that family in mind.

Serena Hanson ’10, Master of Social Work graduate

Hanson also wants to encourage current social work students with this piece of advice:

“Social work is a hard profession. It’s emotionally draining. We’re exposed to trauma and assume a lot of people’s trauma every day in the work we do. It’s really important to stay the course and take care of ourselves so we can help take care of others as well.”

Earn a degree in social work

Social work is not just a job, it is a helping profession rooted in dedicating oneself to continuous growth, learning, change and becoming the best version of yourself.