Outstanding MSW graduate endured family hardship, supports students with disabilities

Lynsey Fenter in front of a blooming tree.When Lynsey Fenter’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, she wanted to limit the time she dedicated to education. Fenter’s mother insisted she stay on track to reach the finish line. Fenter is now there as an outstanding graduate in the School of Social Work at Colorado State University for her commitment to education and passion for working with individuals with disabilities.  

After completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Idaho, Fenter knew she wanted to pursue a graduate degree. 

Originally Fenter was looking at clinical psychology degrees, but mentors in her life advised that she look into social work. It didn’t take long for Fenter to realize she had found her passion. 

“I finally looked into the values and ethics of social work, and it felt like home. It finally felt like my own values matched the field I was interested in. Social work identifies that a person is the expert of their own life, which was a value I had, but didn’t have the words for,” Fenter said. 

With legislative decisions impacting higher ed in Idaho, she looked outside the state, uncovering a newfound sense of belonging. 

“When I first visited Fort Collins and CSU there was a sense of familiarity. While I had never visited Colorado prior to this, I immediately envisioned myself as a part of this community,” Fenter said. 

Perseverance and commitment 

Lynsey and her MSW cohort of roughly 30 other MSW students in a group photo at the front of a classroom.
Lysney (second from right) and her MSW cohort.

Fenter’s path toward earning a master’s in social work was not free of obstacles. 

“During spring break of my first year of the program my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She knew how hard I was working for my degree, and she did not want me to stop what I was doing,” Fenter said. “She told me that the best way I could support her was by continuing to focus on the things I had control over and continuing on with my degree.” 

Fenter’s strong work ethic and support from the social work and CSU communities helped her push through unforeseen challenges.  

“I had so many cohort members who provided spaces to debrief, and distractions. I knew I was never alone. I knew I had a deep community around me that was able to lift me up when I needed it the most,” Fenter said. 

“I have been incredibly lucky to be part of a cohort that offers such dynamic learning,” Fenter said, “Every class I had I sat in awe of those around me, and they have pushed me to think critically about a wide variety of topics and populations that I likely would not have experienced without them.” 

The right choice 

Lynsey and two other students in front of their research poster at the end of the year MSW Research Capstone Showcase.
Lynsey and two other students at the MSW Capstone Showcase event, where students present their capstone activity.

Since coming to CSU, Fenter has been involved in opportunities that have allowed her to explore her passion for helping individuals with disabilities.

During her first field placement, Fenter accepted an internship with the Student Disability Center as an injury accommodation specialist. Through this internship, she honed in on her passion for supporting students through the accommodation process within higher education. 

Within this role, which also served as my second-year internship, I could engage with disability across the micro, mezzo, and macro level,” Fenter said. 

“I have also had the opportunity to participate in the Social Justice Committee for the School of Social Work this past year. I have been able to bring a disability and accessibility lens to these conversations,” she said. 

Through these experiences, Fenter has developed invaluable skills that coincide with her passion for working with individuals with disabilities. 

Fenter is also proud of the work she completed for her capstone project. 

“We completed an evaluative survey regarding the Peer Mentoring Program through the Student Disability Center that will be starting up this fall. We wanted to ensure that student voices were infused into the development of this program,” she said. 

Nearing graduation, Fenter said, “There is a bittersweet feeling knowing that I will no longer be in the same space as these lovely humans. But I am incredibly lucky for the time spent and knowledge gained.” 

Although Fenter will be crossing the stage and receiving her master’s degree, her work at CSU will continue in a permanent role. 

“I have already secured employment as an accommodation specialist with the Student Disability Center. I am excited to put my full attention into this role to better meet the needs of the students I work with,” Fenter said. 

In the future, Fenter said, “I hope to continue to further access and a disability lens on campus. Eventually, I plan to obtain my clinical licensure so that I can work within therapeutic spaces. When I envision my dream role, I would be providing therapeutic services for neurodivergent young adults navigating inaccessible spaces.” 

The School of Social Work is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.