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Online graduate Magdalena Butler aims to continue serving Latinx population

After returning to college from a seven-year hiatus, Magdalena Butler graduated from Central Washington University with a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 2021, and then from Boise State University’s online Master of Social Work (MSW) program.

“It was part of the plan since I graduated from high school, but life happened and took me down several different paths,” she said. “My goal and desire have always been to pursue higher education. It’s something my family and I value. I want to pass that significance and importance to my kids.”

Butler also landed a new position as a clinician for Catholic Community Services in Vancouver, Washington, one month after graduating from Boise State in December 2023. She and her husband, Daniel, also a Boise State alum, have three children — Lily (14), Jacob (11) and David (9).

“I had the momentum of finishing my undergrad,” she said. “I thought, ‘If I slow down, I might not be able to pick this back up.’ We weighed the options and logistics of how it might impact our family, then said, ‘Let’s go for it.’”

Boise State’s mission-driven online Master of Social Work program was a good fit for Butler in more ways than one. One of her sisters, Ydalia Yado, has a master’s degree in public administration from Boise State, while her other sister, Yliana Villegas, works for the school.

“I did a search and looked for top colleges in the school of social work,” she said. “I also wanted something affordable. I liked that Boise State didn’t have that added out-of-state tuition. I also wanted a connection.

“I have family in Idaho. Boise State felt right. I knew I would feel connected to the teachings of the program and to the university. I felt that way going through the program. Most of my professors made me feel connected.”

Closer to the Heart

Butler was born and raised in Dinuba, California. She relocated to Idaho with her family when she was 11 years old. She felt a calling to serve others from a young age. Butler graduated with an associate degree from Treasure Valley Community College in 2013.

“I like the field a lot,” she said. “The degree in social work is very versatile. If I am burned out in one area, I can jump to another. I am able to work with different populations and age groups.

“The MSW gives you not just a broad understanding of social work, but it opens that door to be able to tap into different sectors within the social work realm.”

Working with the Latinx population is especially close to Butler’s heart. She served as a program manager at Latinos Unidos y Floreciendo for seven months while enrolled at Boise State.

“Growing up in a household where you get to be the interpreter for your parents, you see the importance of having more people like you in the community,” she said.

“It’s me giving back to my parents and neighbors who were in my life, who raised me and helped me get where I am today. I told my [current] supervisor I want to work with the Spanish-speakers.”

Human Development and Trauma Informed Care was Butler’s favorite course in the online Master of Social Work curriculum.

“The course not only applies to the population and clients we are serving, but it gives me a different perspective and a different lens on the people that I engage with day-to-day who are not receiving services,” she said. “That was helpful.

“I just started my job, but I am doing a lot of training. I haven’t had a lot of experience with direct care or applying practices, but the training I received in the program is integrated into the teachings and systems in place at Catholic Community Services.”

Mission: Possible

Magdalena Butler at the MSW graduation ceremony
Photo provided by Magdalena Butler

Butler’s journey to a master’s degree was longer than she expected, but she believes that it made crossing the finish line all the sweeter.

“My family and friends were really happy and proud,” she said. “A lot of it was because I did it while raising a family and working and volunteering [for Meals on Wheels]. I had a couple of friends who decided to finish their bachelor’s degree because I did it.

“My kids were all proud, which made it worth it on the day of commencement. It was a good example. Mine was a little non-traditional, but it was very cool for them to see that life happens and to keep working.”

Now that she has achieved her goal of earning a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, Butler plans to use her education and knowledge to help her community further.

“Down the road, I see myself being more integrated with the Latino population and community here,” she said. “Long-term, I’d like to maybe open my own non-profit that focuses on providing wrap-around services for the Latino community.

“I want to do clinical, but more wrap-around with resources and connections. There’s so much work that can be done with financial literacy, etc.”

Although earning an online master’s degree was tough with such a busy schedule, Butler appreciates the effort Boise State puts in to make it manageable for most any student.

“I appreciated the setup of the online program being consistent,” she said. “You can expect when your major assignments are due. That made it easier for me to work around my schedule of job and family.”

Butler also credits Boise State’s faculty and staff, including adviser Donna Haney, for making the experience a good one.

“I was fairly open with a lot of my professors regarding anything I had going on,” she said. “I knew that door was open. They made it very clear in the beginning of courses they’d be available, which I took to heart.

“Trust in the program. Trust in the professors they hire. They are good humans who enjoy the work they’re doing. They want to see the next generation of social workers make that impact on the world. Boise State picks a great caliber of professors. And rely on your academic adviser.”

No matter which direction her career takes her, Butler knows that having a master’s degree will make a big impact on her opportunities.

“It’s a combination of opening doors and having those social work values,” she said. “It’s having competence in the field and being able to help people where they are, understanding each person has their own experience and lived experience. This degree has helped me see that a little bit better for myself, as well.”

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