Senior finds encouragement, empowerment in School of Social Work

March 6, 2020

By David Miller

Female university students pose for a photo outdoors
Shaina Daquioag, center, will earn a BSW degree in May before attending law school in Wisconsin.

As the daughter of Filipino immigrants, Shaina Daquioag can empathize with people who emigrate to the United States and struggle to adjust to a new culture.

Daquioag’s family moved to the United States when she was 3 years old. Once settled, they faced a difficult decision: continue to teach her native language and begin teaching her English, or teach only English. Her parents ultimately decided the latter, hoping a full immersion in American culture would better prepare her to grow and succeed.

Daquioag says she’s “fully acculturated” to American society, and it’s evident in her neutral accent, without even a trace of her Wisconsin roots. And though she understands why her parents opted for English-only language for her, Daquioag says it’s “sad” she can now only understand Filipino phrases.

“I used to understand [Tagalog] word for word,” Daquioag said.

Discrimination towards immigrants have been more relevant lately, and Shaina can’t help but think of her father when she reads stories about victimizing others for embracing their culture.

“It breaks my heart,” Shaina said. “It’s tough to choose between culture and being [in the United States]. That’s inspired me.”

Shaina’s road map for advocating for immigrants began in political science at The University of Alabama, with her ultimate destination of family law. She’s since taken a detour through the UA School of Social Work, where she’s been empowered and encouraged to “embrace my culture” and use her social and cultural platform for her career.

Shaina will earn her BSW in May before beginning law school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. UA commencement will also cap a year of service to the School’s BSW Ambassadors program.

“My law school statement was about me totally denying my culture since I’ve been [in the United States], up until two or three years ago, when I decided to accept it and use it to inspire my career,” she said.

Shaina’s recalibration started when she changed her major to social work, particularly after a “social injustice and advocacy” class with UA Social Work Instructor Sherron Wilkes. There, the material was relatable, a feeling she hadn’t had in political science, she said.

Through more social work classes and connections within the School, Shaina grew from a shy and reserved student to a motivated ambassador for the School.

“I wasn’t this kind of person in high school,” Shaina said. “I got [to the School of Social Work] and started pushing myself to see what I can do. Social Work has grown me to be my best possible self.”

Shaina’s growth was accelerated through the Washington, D.C. Internship program in the Fall of 2019, when she interned on Capitol Hill for Congresswoman Terri Sewell. Shaina said her experiences on Capitol Hill exposed her to more macro practice opportunities and strengthened her resume for law school.

“I would have never applied for D.C. or to become an ambassador were it not for encouragement of the faculty here,” Shaina said. “I owe my success to the professors here.”

After law school, Shaina hopes to continue her advocacy for immigrants, either has a lawyer, lobbyist or as a staffer to elected officials.