UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN River Falls
Name: Selena Moen
Hometown: Cameron, Wis.
Position: Case Manager, Northwest Oasis
Major: Social Work
Selena Moen has always been a helper. And a survivor. It’s not surprising that she chose social work as her major. The road to graduation for her hasn’t been easy.
“When I walk across that stage, I know I’m going to tear up,” she says.
The Cameron native always knew that college was her opportunity to get somewhere in life.
“I go down the road where I’m stuck somewhere, or I’m going to go down a road where I have opportunities and choices for my future,” she says.
Selena was the middle child and helped raise her younger sister while her family was dealing with some challenges.
“My older sister went to college and it was important for me to show my little sister that college was important for her, too,” she says. “I wanted to show her that it’s important to want something more for yourself.”
Selena chose UW-River Falls because it was close to home, affordable and she liked the vibe of the campus.
“It’s small and feels like home,” she says. “I developed a really good friend group. It’s easy to have that in this campus.”
The first couple semesters on campus were difficult. Being away from the challenges she faced at home brought other issues to the surface.
“I struggled initially being away from home and with my mental health,” she explains. “My grades were terrible. I was depressed. I was ready to give up.”
She realized that she needed to make some changes. With the help and encouragement of her roommate and her professors, she started counseling.
“I had to look at myself in the mirror and figure out what’s going on,” she says. “This part of my life has been one of the biggest stepping stones in my life.”
She also changed her major from psychology to social work.
“I realized that I wanted to get out in the field right away and I didn’t want to go for my master’s degree,” she explains. “I’m a really hands-on person and that’s when I switched to social work.”
Things turned around for Selena and she started to thrive. She focused on building her resume. She worked with people with disabilities and those in hospice care. Her internship placement was an outreach social work intern with the Barron County Restorative Justice program, so she could build experience working with children and teens.
Selena notes that Career Services played an important role in helping her prepare for post- graduation.
“I loved the mock interviews,” she says. “To be able to bring your resume in and sit across from a true employer in a true interview situation was the best experience I ever had.”
Through it all, she’s found that her life experience has helped her help others.
“I have true empathy,” she says. “I’ve worn the same type of shoes. I have walked the same path. Let’s walk it together. Let me take your hand and guide you.”
When Selena graduates on May 11, she’ll be a full-time case manager for Northwest Oasis, an all-male teenage group home in Hayward.
“These five years of school have paid off and the struggle that I’ve gone through my whole life,” Selena added. “I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.”