Irina Osmolovska

With students ranging from Kentucky to New York, Texas to Wisconsin, earning your Master in Social Work (MSW) degree at the College of Social Work (CoSW) is obtainable no matter your distance from Lexington.

In May, the CoSW welcomed its first-ever summer online MSW cohort. Joining the inaugural group was Irina Osmolovska. Born and raised in Belarus, a small country in Central Europe, the roots of pursuing social work began to take hold in her heart at a young age.

“When my grandfather was dying of cancer, I was old enough to understand that in this fight, we, and other people, need not just compassion and medical care, but also understanding on how to navigate through a complex system of laws and resources to make it easier for people in need,” Irina said in her MSW application essay.

Irina first started her higher education journey by earning her first degree, a Doctor of Medicine from Belarusian State Medical University. She spent three years working with Doctors Without Borders (DWB), an independent, global movement that provides medical aid where it’s needed most. DWB works in conflict zones, after natural disasters, during epidemics, in long-term care settings, and more.

Afterward, Irina wanted to pursue a career where she could combine both her medical knowledge, experience, and skills with her passion for helping people. It was clear that social work was the best fit.

She knew she wanted to help others in need, and with a foot in the right direction, Irina started to research where and how she could earn her masters.

“I always wanted to be around people, helping, teaching, or just being a part of somebody’s story. But I was missing systematic knowledge to be successful in what I love to do,” Irina said. “[A] Master’s degree for me is not just a degree, it is a great opportunity to meet new people, explore new possibilities and get to know the country that became my new home.”

The married mom of two, now living in the Bay Area of California with her husband, came across the University of Kentucky (UK) in her research. She noted seeing the high graduation rates for UK, which was not only a sign of success for the university but for herself as well. Knowing she wanted to finish what she started, Irina began to consider the MSW program at the CoSW.

She was also intrigued by the graduate certificate in Military Behavioral Health that she could earn while obtaining her MSW. It would be an excellent segue for her career pathway. Upon graduation with her MSW, Irina wants to continue her passion of helping others by becoming a healthcare social worker and potentially working in Veterans Affairs.

“In simple words, I wanted to help people,” she said. “Maybe I sound cliche, but I really mean it.”

When Irina isn’t working on making the world a better place, she enjoys traveling and exploring new places with her family and reading real, paper books. She also hopes to start a support group for people with spinal cord injury.

And while better late than never, Irina said she wishes she started school earlier, noting that it’s not scary, but rather challenging and fun. But in the end, she’s glad she chose to make the leap toward her earning her MSW. From the great support and interactions she’s received to the coursework, Irina knows she’s destined for success.

“I feel like I made a great choice, and after my first semester, I am getting even more confident in my choice of school. Classes I’ve taken so far were great, good material, [and] amazing teachers,” Irina said.