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Mother and Daughter Graduate UA Little Rock Social Work Programs Together

Tammy Carpenter and her daughter Trinity Van Dusen celebrate their shared graduation.

Tammy Carpenter and her daughter, Trinity Van Dusen-Allen, have twice the reason to celebrate as they are both graduating with social work degrees from UA Little Rock.

“For me, it’s hard to put into words to describe how far we’ve come together,” Carpenter said. “I am super proud of my daughter. She didn’t always have the best growing up. It seems like just yesterday that she was a baby, and now we are graduating together. I feel like we are changing the trajectory for future generations.”

Carpenter is a first-generation college graduate who is earning a Master of Arts in social work, while Van Dusen is receiving a Bachelor of Arts in social work.

Van Dusen said it’s inspiring to see her mother complete her education after so many years of putting her children first.

“I had to watch my mom be a single mother of three kids who put her education on the back burner,” Van Dusen said. “It makes me proud to see her graduate now and to do it together. I’m glad she was able to finally chase her own dreams.”

Carpenter started college at National Park College in 2009, but had to stop taking classes so she could concentrate on working and raising her kids. When she later went back to school at UA Little Rock, her work as a teacher’s aide is what led to her desire to become a social worker.

“When I was a teacher’s aide, I realized my passion was helping kids who had less than ideal home situations,” Carpenter said. “At the root of all of it, my passion for social work is to be the person I didn’t have growing up. It was a rough childhood. There are so many people who need a voice and need someone to fight for them, and I want to be that person.”

When Van Dusen started college in 2017, she was eager to follow in her mother’s footsteps with the ultimate goal of becoming a therapist.

“I went to therapy when I was 14, and that led me to want to be a therapist,” Van Dusen said. “I wanted to help people with their mental health, and I found that social work is the way to do that.”

After struggling during her first few years of college, Van Dusen said it was the birth of her daughter, Tatum, and support from her husband, Tyler, that really motivated her to do well in college.

Tammy Carpenter and her daughter Trinity Van Dusen both graduated from the Social Work program in May 2023.  Photo by Benjamin Krain.
Tammy Carpenter and her daughter Trinity Van Dusen both graduated from the Social Work program in May 2023.
Photo by Benjamin Krain.

“Before getting pregnant with her, I was an all-C student,” Van Dusen said. “She gave me a motivation I had never had before. It was like a switch had been flipped, and now I am graduating with honors.”

During college, the mother and daughter duo from Hot Springs completed internships that gave them invaluable experience. Van Dusen interned at the Jackson House, a community crisis center.

Meanwhile, Carpenter completed three internships at the Cooper-Anthony Mercy Child Advocacy Center, High Impact Movement, and Harbor House, a drug and alcohol residential facility.

“I learned that I am definitely in the right field, as I had a passion for all three places,” Carpenter said. “We are all just one move or choice or mistake away from a life that could look very different based on a series of events or circumstances, and we should have grace instead of judgment. I also knew there was a problem, but I did not know to what extent until being in the program. It is a top priority to fight for justice and equality for everyone.”