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Social Service

Dr. Thomas Starkey decided to become a teacher to recapture the human element of social work.

After earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work, the Dallas-area native jumped directly into the workforce as a social worker at various psychiatric hospitals, first in Mesquite, then Dallas and then Greenville.

“I did individual, group and family therapy,” Starkey said. “I also worked on multi-disciplinary teams with doctors, nurses and psychologists in treating primarily elderly patients suffering mental health issues, like depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s and early-stage dementia.”

It was while Starkey was in Greenville that he switched to teacher mode, began pursuing his doctoral degree at the University of North Texas and started looking for a university faculty position. He found a job opening in ASU’s fledgling social work program online and was intrigued by the possibilities.

“When I heard social work was a brand- new program at ASU, I wanted the job even more,” Starkey said. “When I was working in health care, I would go to various hospitals and open out-patient clinics. I like being in at the beginning of projects and getting them going.”

“I also liked the fact that I didn’t have to leave Texas,” he continued. “I really liked that ASU is a smaller school, and everyone was very friendly when I came and interviewed. But I mostly liked that I would have the opportunity to help build a new program here at ASU.”

Under Starkey’s direction since August of 2011, the social work program has grown steadily and now has about 160 students. In addition to a Bachelor of Social Work degree, it offers a collaborative Master of Social Work degree with the University of Texas at Arlington. In February, the program received its Initial Accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education’s Commission on Accreditation.

“Accreditation for the social work program,” Starkey said, “means that our students will be able to sit for the Texas state licensing exam and that our program is on par with other B.S.W. programs around the state and nation.”

In addition to spearheading the social work program, Starkey has fully immersed himself in campus life. He is a member of the Faculty Senate and several other committees and is the faculty advisor for the Student Social Work Association.

“I wanted to get acclimated to the university environment,” Starkey said. “It is a different entity from the corporate world and has a different philosophy. Getting involved helps me better understand my situation and make adjustments to my teaching style.”

“You know those cartoons when you can see the light bulb go on over someone’s head?” he continued. “When those light bulbs go on when the students get it, and seeing them grow and develop and actually go out and start working with real-life clients, that is the best part. The vast majority of our students have gotten jobs through their internships or gone on to graduate school. It’s great to see them flourish.”

Starkey and his wife, Nickie, a social worker with the local Veterans Affairs Office, are also flourishing as a result of choosing ASU.

“We really enjoy the culture of San Angelo,” Starkey said. “It’s a great change of pace from the big city because it’s big enough, but it has a small-town feel to it. The faculty and support staff at ASU have been great to us, as well. I love my job here.”

  • Tom Nurre

    Tom Nurre

    Tom Nurre is a news and information specialist at Angelo State University. 
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