Commencement 2012: Experience at AU prepared social work major to meet needs

Gwen Tsuji, BSW '12, was honored with the 2012 GWC Legacy Social Work Award during Honors Convocation on April 20.

It seemed like a crazy idea at first to pitch tents on the Quad and convince Aurora University students to spend a cold night sleeping outside. A senior social work major at the time, Gwen Tsuji was hopeful that her classmates would embrace the event as a unique way to raise awareness for homelessness.

So with the support of the Wackerlin Center for Faith and Action, Tsuji and a small group of students planned the first-ever Sleep Out on the Quad in fall 2011. The result amazed Tsuji, as more than 200 AU students participated in the event that also included speakers from a local homeless shelter and corresponding campus donation drive.

“It’s true that AU students want to help,” she said. “I think it has to do with the values of Aurora University and George Williams College. Service is really something that is strongly emphasized.

“Because the AU community is so close, we encourage each other to get involved and participate.”

Tsuji, who also helped plan the semiannual campus days of service organized by the Wackerlin Center, said the opportunities offered during her four years at AU have prepared her for a career in social work. Originally from Woodstock, Ill., she plans to move to Chicago this summer and find a job in the city.

“With my social work major, my AU experience aligns perfectly with my desire to be exposed to a diverse community where I can assess and meet needs,” she said.

For her commitment to the social work profession, academic success and personal growth, Tsuji was honored with the 2012 GWC Legacy Social Work Award given annually to a graduating senior.