New Student Snapshots Continued, Belle Bocal: WHY UNE and SOCIAL WORK ASPIRATIONS?

We’ve been releasing mini interviews with our incoming cohort of MSW students asking them not only why they chose UNE  but what their social work aspirations are! Visit our initial post HERE to learn more and keep reading to hear from MSW Student, Belle Bocal.

Belle Bocal

What made you choose UNE over other options? 

Working on the Institutional Advancement team at UNE, I get to bear witness to the heart of UNE: our alumni. I hear lots of stories of how folks have gone on to do good, so I can share first-hand how special this place is! Secondly, if I was going to invest valuable time in developing myself I had to ask, “What is the ROI (return on the investment)?” And the answer was easy– the opportunities to experience interprofessional education at UNE are unparalleled, from the Center for Excellence in Collaborative Education to literally being on a campus with other graduate health professionals to expand your worldview, that is a real-life experience that is invaluable to me.

What drew you to the social work profession?

Frankly— the need for nimble practitioners in an ever-changing field (e.g. we need not look further than our current climate: COVID-19, systemic racism, and the societal unrest)! This has catalyzed my desire to further arm myself with the tools necessary not only to do good but to do it effectively and sustainably. A grounding exercise that I center myself in is thinking a lot about how I walk in the world– as a woman of color, as a first-generation Vietnamese-American, as a trilingual person, there are spaces I can navigate that others may not and those components make me uniquely suited to help.

What area of social work are you most interested in?

I think someday working with BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of color) clients would be crucial for me and ideally, I’d like to pair that with as much interdisciplinary work as possible at UNE, because I am fascinated by neuroscience. Specifically, I’m drawn to the psychological and physiological impacts of racism. There are studies out of BU (where I did my first Master’s degree in Applied Research Analytics) discussing racism and exclusion as chronic stressors that are affecting individuals’ biological, psychological, and social functioning across their lifespan (including the mechanisms through which racism is linked to disparities in health outcomes).


Do you plan to pursue any certificates?  If so, which ones? 

  • Trauma
  • Training in Ageing and Diversity

Learn how you can earn $10,000 toward your MSW through our Training in Aging and Diversity Certificate!

Do you know what you want to do when you graduate?

I hope to empower others to own their narrative and find/ build community in holistic ways.

image by Hello I’m Nik

What are you looking forward to most about living/studying in the Greater Portland Area? 

I grew up at the base of Munjoy Hill (before it was cool?), boomeranged back in 2012, and when I’m not in class or working, I enjoy running/ cycling around the city in search of ice cream.

Check out our Portland page to learn more about living/studying in Portland, Maine