Ashley Hipp, right, poses for a studio portrait with here mother, Jennifer Hipp, left, on November 15, 2017 in St. Paul. Ashley is currently earning an undergraduate degree in Social Work from St. Thomas and is currently pursuing a masters degree. Jen Hipp also earned a masters degree in Social Work from St. Thomas.

Legacy of Caring - When Social Work Runs in the Family

The St. Catherine University – University of St. Thomas School of Social Work has had more than one instance in which a parent and their child have both pursued our social work degrees. Both Abbie Thebault-Spieker ’17 BSW and MSW student Ashley Hipp ’17 BSW, '18 MSW,  have followed in the footsteps of one of their parents.

Each of the women said that their social worker parent was instrumental in influencing them to go into social work. Hipp said, “My mom [Jennifer Hipp ’12 MSW] suggested I pursue a career in health care, but I was hesitant, because she was practicing social work in a health care setting. I changed my mind when I saw the different avenues I could take as a social worker. My mom practiced in hospital and clinic settings. Now she’s with UCare. My mom always has shared the impactful things she was doing, and it seemed liked she was making a difference.”

Thebault-Spieker also started out wanting something different. “I wanted a Ph.D. in history,” she said. “I wanted to become a professor to highlight voices that are not usually heard. When I decided not to pursue that path, my dad [John Spieker ’85 BSW, ’15 MSW] talked me into a social work major instead. He thought I’d be a good social worker both because of the way I interact with others and because of the reason I was interested in history.”

Having a parent in social work – especially one who has gone through the same program you’re pursuing – provides an excellent sounding board. Thebault-Spieker has talked to her dad about topics ranging from coursework to her next career steps. And because their parents pursued social work degrees at St. Kate’s – St. Thomas, they understand where their children are coming from. “My mom is able to provide an environment where academics and professionally relevant topics are discussed in a way that allows me to hone my professional development,” Hipp said.

Not all of their classmates have known that Spieker and Hipp are part of a parent-child tradition of St. Kate's - St. Thomas social work, and when it has come up, it usually hasn’t been a big deal. Thebault-Spieker did have one time when she was concerned about her father’s role in social work, because he works for Catholic Charities and had submitted a bid for an intern. “If one of my classmates took the internship, I didn’t want to take the fieldwork class with them. I didn’t want them to be uncomfortable discussing my dad as their supervisor,” she said. As it turns out, no one she knew filled the internship, so the problem was avoided.

Not all children enjoy following in a parent’s footsteps. Some do all they can to avoid it, while others follow reluctantly. But neither Spieker nor Hipp regrets their decision. “I love it,” said Hipp. “I can’t imagine things any other way.”

Abbie Thebault-Spieker '17 BSW and John Spieker ’85 BSW, ’15 MSWAbbie Thebault-Spieker ’17 BSW and John Spieker ’85 BSW, ’15 MSW