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Lisa Hayden-Gray goes straight into graduate social work program after earning bachelor’s online

Lisa Hayden-Gray has 20 years of experience working in logistics, but a life-changing event is steering her career in a different direction.

“I went through my own recovery, which sparked my interest in counseling,” she said. “I was in an intensive trauma treatment center for 72 days. It was amazing, and it radically changed my life. I decided that I would give back what I got.”

Hayden-Gray, 55, started Boise State University’s online Master of Social Work one week after graduating from the online Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies in 2022.

“I knew I wanted to go to grad school when I started,” she said. “I am studying to get my clinicals so I can become a therapist. I wanted to find a program that would get me to grad school the fastest.
“I loved the online bachelor’s degree program at Boise State. The classes were so cool and helped me get ready for grad school.”

After one year in the online Master of Social Work, Hayden-Gray is planning a move to Florida to complete her second internship and be near her mentor, Will Shlifer.

“I can go anywhere and be anywhere while working on school,” she said. “Florida is also the rehab capital of the world. I want to work in trauma and addiction. I also plan to work where I do my internship.”

With her first internship at Auburn Crest, a hospice facility in Boise, Hayden-Gray gained valuable insight to go along with what she has learned in the coursework.

“I learned a lot about applying research to modalities,” she said. “I had to do a lot of research to figure out what worked. It gave me more of a broader education and I know more about social workers and what they do.

“Hospice is an area of social work I am interested in, but it’s not what I want to do. Another great thing about the social work degree is there are a thousand other things I could do with it.”

Third Time’s a Charm

Lisa Hayden-Gray portrait in a field
Photo provided by Lisa Hayden-Gray

Hayden-Gray, who is from Idaho, was plenty familiar with Boise State when she enrolled in the online bachelor’s degree program. She previously attended the university in the 1980s as a communications major and again in the 2000s as an economics major.

“I really wanted to finish a degree,” she said. “I would go back and pick up classes when I could. I don’t know how many times I went back and chipped away. My kids [Kaitlyn (31), Maddie (28) and Kole (26)] are all raised now, so the timing is good.”

Although she had some apprehension about doing an online program as a returning student, Hayden-Gray thrived in the format.

“I love it,” she said. “My worry was not having that classroom interaction, but the way they have it formatted with the discussion boards worked great.

“You see your classmates’ faces over and over again when you’re doing group projects or synchronous sessions with the entire class. You get to know them. I’ve made friends.”

With graduate school on her radar, Hayden-Gray needed only to decide between a master’s degree in counseling or social work.

“The Master of Social Work online program fits better with what I could do on my timeline,” she said. “I loved the online program so much. I am in sync. I love the 7-week courses.

“Everything moves very fast, so there’s no such thing as procrastinating and being successful. It also keeps things fresh. Online is the right thing for me at this age. It’s perfect.”

So far, Foundation and Application of Trauma-Informed Practice is Hayden-Gray’s favorite course in the curriculum.

“I am taking it right now,” she said. “I adore it. The thing about grad school is it’s so much reading and writing. I am excited about the reading for that course. You see neurobiology throughout the courses.”

Blue (and Orange) Skies Ahead

Hayden-Gray’s return to higher education is extra special because it coincides with one of her daughters returning to college, as well.

“I only have the family that I made, but they are excited for me,” she said. “My eldest daughter went to the College of Idaho. In my first year back in school, my youngest daughter decided to also go to school at the College of Western Idaho. I am hoping to lead by example.”

After missing out on walking at commencement for her first degree, Hayden-Gray said she will not miss her second opportunity next year. She is a first-generation college graduate.

“It’s exciting,” she said. “When I am done with the master’s degree, I have a state exam. After I pass my licensing, I will work under a supervisor to get my clinicals. It’s still a process. I have a ways to go. I’m not sure if I will stay in Florida or come home.”

For now, Hayden-Gray looks forward to the remainder of the online Master of Social Work program and laying the foundation for the next chapter of her career.

“I have definitely got good value out of the master’s degree,” she said. “I was worried about the first year being so far from what I wanted to do, but that’s not true.

“I can apply every class that I take to the things I want to do. It’s a broad education that I find specifics in. I am grateful for that.”

Learn More About Boise State’s Online Social Work Program

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