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Zulay Hodukavich BSW '15
Zulay Hodukavich BSW '15

Growing up in rural Colombia, Zulay Hodukavich came from an environment where education was wasn’t particularly valued and encouraged.  “Education was not really a big part of the culture there,” says Zulay, now a bachelors of social work student in Portland State University’s School of Social Work.  But her strong work ethic and a supportive family helped launch Zulay’s journey towards higher education and an exploration of social work.

After studying to be a teacher in her native country, Zulay moved to the US, living in Washington DC, studying at Georgetown University and working as a nanny while improving her English language skills.  She married and moved to Oregon, enrolling at Portland Community College and graduating with honors with an associate of arts degree.  It was then that she transferred to Portland State.  "I found the program that I wanted — social work,” she says.

When Zulay first arrived in Portland, she was impressed with Oregon's beautiful natural landscapes and friendly people.  “But there was something else,” she says. "I saw people on the streets.  And that really caught my attention. It was winter and people were lying down and people just walked past them.  I couldn’t be part of that.  I wanted to be part of the change.”  It was then that she decided to pursue a social work education and career dedicated to changing public policies to break the cycle of poverty.

“I saw PSU as my best option,” Zulay says, “because it was close to me.  It was something that I could afford.”  She was also impressed with the School of Social Work’s cohort approach, which lets you study with the same group of students throughout your social work education. “I know that that in order to succeed you don’t do it by yourself.  You always need the support of others."

Zulay encourages students interested in social work consider Portland State’s School of Social Work.  “They offer you the opportunity not just to build yourself with content and knowledge and theories, but also they give you first hand experience,” she says.  “You also are not going to be alone.  You will have a group of friends who you are going to be with for two years supporting you throughout the journey."

After she graduates this spring, Zulay hopes to begin work in an agency doing front line work helping others before continuing her graduate studies.  “This experience tells me I’m in the right place. I want to be part of the change.  I have a say.  I know I can be a part of this driving force that wants a better society."