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Alumnae Spotlight: Tori Garity-Fernandez '22

April 22, 2024
Tori Garity-Fernandez '22
Tori Garity-Fernandez '22

What you have been doing since graduation?

Since graduating from Bryn Mawr I’ve made sure to start building my life in Philadelphia. I work as a Resource Parent Support Worker (case manager) at APM Pradera in North Philly, licensing and assisting Foster homes. I’m transitioning from full-time work to becoming a full-time graduate student this Fall in pursuit of my MSW at University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice. It will be very hard to say goodbye to all the families on my current caseload, but I’m happy to leave them in the care of our incoming case manager who I will be training to take good care of them. I am just very excited to see what will be my Field Placement for this first year of grad school!

Can you tell us about what you studied in the BiCo and why you chose it?

While at Bryn Mawr, I majored in Comparative Literature (English and Spanish) and Sociology. I was very keen on focusing on the courses that were the most fun for me. Most of all, I could not pick between Spanish Language literature courses and the English Language ones; I wanted to read everything.

How did you get involved in your current field?

I like to say I ended up in a Case Management/Child Welfare position by complete accident. It was meant to find me. I worked in an Overnight Camp for 7 years and camp-counseled the same group of girls from when they were 9 yrs old until they were 16 yrs old. I was hoping to gain new experiences and skills after college, and only applied to Administrative Assistant jobs and some paralegal positions. It was a daunting wait for interviews, but I did not want to work with kids exclusively forever. It felt like I was pushing myself into one box without ever trying out other things. But I got an interview at APM Pradera for an Administrative Assistant position and found out during my interview that they were actually considering me for the Resource Parent Support Worker position. At the time, I just wanted a job, but now I can say I love the work I do. I love field work and not having to be in the office all day, but most of all I love that the impact I have on my clients has real time results I get to see. And they have all had an impact on me. It has been very meaningful work, and I’m excited to continue to pursue a career in Social Work.

How did your years at Bryn Mawr prepare you for your professional life?

At Bryn Mawr there are so many opportunities to gain leadership skills, but you have to push yourself to truly get the most out of it. Bryn Mawr taught me to be a self starter. You can spend your time however is best for you, but I would have felt like I wasted my time if I didn’t involve myself in clubs or my majors. I loved being a TA at the Spanish Department, it kept me creative and taught me how to extend my skills managing a room of kids to having to manage a group of young adults, which is very different. I was able to practice and learn to connect with people on a professional level that were of a similar age as me, which I had never had to do before. I also was the Major Representative for both the BiCo Comparative Literature Program and Sociology Department, which I feel taught me to be a self-starter. Lastly, Bryn Mawr taught me that the connections I make, be it in an academic setting or a professional one, are the most valuable part of any experience. I would not be as confident in my skills or my plans for the future without Professor Shiamin Kwa’s mentorship and encouragement.

Why did you decide to major in Comparative Literature?

The semester I took Staging American Families with Prof. Gail Hemmeter, and Drama y la sociedad en España with Prof. María Cristina Quintero made it clear to me I could not pick a single language or culture to read about when it felt like everything I was reading connected. While exploring different centuries, languages, and cultures that semester I found myself drawn to the same central themes and even referencing the same theories across my different classes, including my Sociology course that semester “The Family in the Social Context” with Prof. Sarah Adeyinka-Skold.

I chose to study Comparative Literature after that semester, because it was instinctual to want to do everything, connect all my thoughts etc, because none of the ideas I had or the themes I was exploring existed in a vacuum. Their interconnectedness was a crucial part of my interest in them. Comparative Literature encouraged that pursuit. And Bryn Mawr allowed me to explore it all further in my 360 cohort “Decolonizing Knowledges” which threaded Physics, Literatures in English, and Sociology. It felt like the perfect way to end my time at BMC and I am forever grateful to Prof. Jennifer Hartford-Vargas, Prof. Kate Daniel, and Prof. Piper Sledge for putting it all together!

What advice do you have for current undergraduates?

Take every opportunity to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Make as many connections as possible. Most importantly, use all your resources, it would be a waste if you didn’t!