Shelly Hutchinson with her family on vacation.
UGA alumna Shelly Hutchinson (MSW ’00) is on a mission to ensure that families in crisis across the state of Georgia are provided the best social services and programs. As the founder and director of the Social Empowerment Center, her goal is to provide quality support to the most at-risk individuals while advocating for fair and effective policies and programs across her home state. In addition, Shelly is expanding the influence of her cause by supporting future social workers and leaders in her field with a generous commitment to the School of Social Work.
Entering the School of Social Work in 1997 as a part-time student on UGA Gwinnett’s campus, Shelly quickly formed close bonds with her peers and professors—relationships that remain strong today. Now, she feels those networks have helped the Social Empowerment Center thrive. On top of forming close connections with others working in her field, Shelly values the hands-on nature of the School of Social Work’s program. Through eye-opening field trips, like one to a prison in Brunswick, Georgia, she was exposed to things she’d never seen before.
Shelly is fortunate to have melded her passion—helping people in need—with a successful career and business. In 2014, the Social Empowerment Center was named the fastest-growing Bulldog-owned business during UGA’s annual Bulldog 100 Celebration and has been on the list ever since. Shelly credits much of her success to the School of Social Work and feels it is important to give back to her alma mater. “I feel compelled to give back,” said Shelly. “I am incredibly fortunate in business and life today, and if I am able to give back to a worthy cause, School of Social Work is one of the top.”
As director of the Social Empowerment Center, she is uniquely positioned to show others—particularly policy makers and administrators across Georgia—what they don’t always see. “We have lots of mental health policies and administrations [in Georgia]—when it comes down to it, those decisions affect real people,” said Shelly. “It’s not until you work with those people that you realize how much they affect them. One policy decision can result in a child going without services. It’s my job to advocate and say this is what’s happening.”
Her gift to the School of Social Work will help educate and train future generations of social workers, and her hope is to make things easier for students going into this difficult but critical field. “If I can make gifted students stay in the field that would be phenomenal,” said Shelly, “and helpful for our planet.”
Shelly not only wants to help the planet but she wants to see it too! “I will always have goals that I may never achieve, but I will try. Right now my goal is to visit all seven continents.” After a recent family trip to Maccu Piccu, she just has Asia, Antarctica and Australia to go.
Do you have a cause that you’re passionate about? 100 percent of undesignated gifts to the Georgia Fund go to scholarships, allowing talented students in your field to pursue their education and discover how they can make an impact on the worldON A MISSION