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Recent Graduate Finds a Calling in Social Work After Returning to UK for her Liberal Arts Degree

By Jennifer T. Allen

Carrie Gilmour photoWhen Carrie Gilmour graduated high school in 1991, she thought her path was clear: attend Lexington Community College and transfer to the University of Kentucky to earn her degree. But in the spring of 1996, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and Gilmour had to withdraw from UK during her junior year to get a job and help at home.  

“My mom had to have back surgery as well and she was really down and out, so I had to leave UK,” Gilmour said. “I’m happy to say my mom is a breast cancer survivor, but after going home, I continued to work, got married, and raised a family. I just never made it back to school.” 

She eventually did make it back to school and enrolled for the spring 2023 semester through Project Graduate, a statewide initiative to assist adult learners who have accumulated 80 or more credit hours to return to finish their first bachelor’s degree. She graduated this May from the College of Arts and Sciences with a Bachelor of Liberal Studies degree with a focus on social sciences and a minor in history. 

“I've been wanting to finish for so many years and it was just never feasible,” Gilmour said. “It seems like a dream almost. It’s going to make such a difference for my family because of the income I’ll be able to make compared to what I was able to make without a degree. I’ll be making more in positions I can get now than what I was sometimes making working three jobs.”  

Having checked off her first degree, Gilmour decided she wasn’t done yet. She will begin working toward her Master of Social Work (MSW) this summer and already had an interview for a position as a social worker. 

“I want to be a role model to my kids. To show them never to give up; and I feel I have really encouraged them to seek higher education,” she said.  

She had teenagers at home in Willisburg, Kentucky, with busy schedules, so the flexibility of online classes was paramount for Gilmour to be able to finish her degree and now begin her MSW. In returning to school, she found a passion for sociology and the social work field.  

“I really want to get into helping people and victims of domestic violence and trauma,” she said. “I just really want to give back and maybe be somewhat of a role model and encourage them.” 

As a first-generation graduate, Gilmour knows she has shown her kids that education is important and that your goals can be realized with hard work and determination. Her oldest will be starting her senior year in the fall and is thinking about becoming a veterinarian and attending UK. 

“Over the years I have worked as a personal trainer, I’ve been an office manager multiple times, I’ve been a clothing store manager -- I’ve held many different jobs. This is a new experience and I’m really excited to start this new journey,” Gilmour said. “I just got lost in life and then I found my way back.”