JACSW 2012 Alumnus Establishes an Endowed Scholarship Fund to “Pay it Forward”

Phillip Squibb with family

Phillip Squibb was the primary earner for his small but growing family when he quit his job as a special education teacher in Chicago to earn his Master of Social Work degree from UIC’s Jane Addams College of Social Work. He just had his second child and the funds for his family’s living expenses were tight, but he figured it was a worthy sacrifice in order for him and his family to have a more prosperous future.

He wasn’t expecting to leave UIC with much more than a degree. But by the time he got his diploma, Phillip’s entire worldview had shifted.

He grew up in a small town in Southern Illinois, where diversity was essentially nonexistent. Coming to UIC was a culture shock for him.

“It was intimidating for me to come to UIC,” Phillip said. “I was one of two white guys in my cohort. I was naive and lacked experience and understanding of my white privilege and the systemic oppression minorities in our country and community faced, but at UIC everyone was so compassionate and patient. They made it easier for me to open my eyes and see a bigger picture that extended beyond my existence as a straight, cisgender, white guy.”

The acceptance he felt from his peers, as well as the monetary support he received from donors at UIC to pay for school and support his family, is what prompted him to start the UIC Phillip M. Squibb Family Scholarship Fund. The scholarship will go to students in financial need, preferably those who are the primary providers for their families.

“The support I received relieved pressure at home so that I could focus on my education and experience,” Phillip said. “So I wanted to pay it forward and help people who are in the same position I was in not too long ago.”

Phillip is now a social worker in the state of Oregon, working with young adults in a residential treatment program. In addition to the lessons he learned on diversity from his JACSW classmates, he also developed a love for the profession of social work — something that prior to UIC, he had written off.

“UIC changed my life,” Phillip said. “And I want other people to have the opportunity to learn from UIC the way I did.”