Mary Daye sees herself as a compassionate leader. She loves making a positive impact on people’s lives and putting a smile on loved ones’ faces. So, although she enjoyed being in University of Wisconsin-Stout’s fashion and retail program, she couldn’t picture herself in the profession.
“I did not have a full sense of fulfillment,” she said. “I sought out career exploration services at Career Services. I learned a lot about myself during this time.”
With help from Career Services counselors, Daye participated in personality and career tests. She discovered social work and researched human services fields where she could use her compassion to better people’s lives.
“I was so glad to know I had other options at Stout that ended up being the perfect fit for me and allowed me to find a career path that I truly love and am so excited to be a part of,” Daye said.
An important lens into the field of social work
Daye transferred into the rehabilitation services program and began a concentration in social work, which gave her “an important lens to view social work from.”
“The program is great at allowing students to choose their path and even create their own program to align with their internships, concentrations and future career goals,” she said.
Daye enjoyed the guest speakers who visited her classes, learning from their experiences and imagining herself in the field. She studied abroad in Guatemala, where she volunteered in clinics to help doctors spot signs of illness and helped people with prescription medications.
She gained firsthand experience during her internships at Stepping Stones of Dunn County and Star Services. “The internship process was monumental in allowing me to feel prepared for graduation and continue to have more opportunities open to me in the helping field,” she said.
Daye’s professors nurtured personal relationships and guided her toward necessary requirements, knowing she planned to move out of state after graduation.
She discovered she could apply her innovation, passion, drive and leadership skills to other areas of her life. “These skills have enabled me to advocate and do the things that I believe in.”
Finding a support system
Being a student of color on a predominantly white campus was a difficult experience for Daye. She faced challenges that many of her peers couldn’t understand.
“I had to overcome the challenge of being a minority student,” she said. “Not feeling like I fit in at times put a lot of pressure on me. The advice that I would give students of color is to get involved and find your community.”
Daye built her community of support by joining Multicultural Student Services, the McNair Scholars Program and multicultural student organizations. She felt she would not have completed her degree at UW-Stout without the support of these resources.
“MSS and McNair held me accountable while also being there when I needed to cry, I was frustrated with life and the world. These offices saw me as a person and not only a student,” Daye said.
Daye was a peer educator with SPEAK UP and served on the executive board of the Black Student Union. She hopes every student can get involved, find a community and have the opportunity to hold a leadership position on campus to learn the challenges and rewards that come with it.
“Mary does not sit idle to wait for things to happen. She wants to make a difference,” said Vickie Sanchez, Multicultural Student Services coordinator. “Mary sought out opportunities that not only reflected her values but that would enhance her growth academically and professionally. She understood the importance of creating a space where students could share their feelings and experiences.”
A foundation in social work
“Mary’s resiliency of wanting to continue her education was always at the forefront. She inspires people with her story of grit, respecting others and enhancing the community around her,” Sanchez said.
Daye was one of the first in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree and graduated from UW-Stout in May 2019. She is now in her master’s in social work at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, to which she received the Provost’s Diversity Fellowship. The fellowship is highly competitive and is awarded to only 10 professional students each year.
She is diving deeper into the social work field and learning more about which career path in human services she’d like to take. In her summer internship, she’ll help individuals, including those in immigrant populations, find work in the Twin Cities.
“The rehab program at Stout prepared me tremendously for this, and all of my learning has come back full circle,” Daye said. “The foundation is laid, and I’m ready to join the career force!”