MSU alum-turned-professor prepares the next generation of social workers

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Latonya Hesterberg
Dr. Latonya Hesterberg (84) has a fondness for both MSU and preparing future social workers as a professor of social work.

As a lifelong Morehead resident, Eagle graduate and MSU professor, Dr. Latonya Hesterberg (84) never fails to realize how lucky she is.

“I just think it’s very rare for faculty at a university to have graduated from their alma mater and come back to work for the University and their children be educated through the University,” she said. “I have been very blessed to be able to live and work and raise my family in the Morehead State community.”

Hesterberg has long felt an obligation to help those that are oftentimes less fortunate. This is what drew her to the social work, where she has had an impact on people’s lives in the field and through her work in the classroom.

“I love being in the classroom and I love teaching students and I love making content we teach real and giving them real-life application.”

Her academic journey included enrolling at MSU for two years, a brief stint at the University of Kentucky and three major changes (including pre-forestry). She graduated from MSU with a BSW and went on to earn an MSW from the University of Kentucky in 1990 and a Ph.D. in social work from UK in 2005.

Hesterberg’s first job in social work was as a child protective services worker in Morehead. She was contacted by MSU and began teaching social work part-time as adjunct faculty in 1992, from 1993 to 2000 she was the director of the Training Resource Center, and she coordinated the UK/MSU joint Master of Social Work program from 2000 to 2003.

When there was a vacancy for an assistant professor of social work in 2003, she jumped at the opportunity. She became an associate professor in 2008, chair of the Department of Sociology, Social Work and Criminology from 2012 to 2017, and has returned to the class

As a professor, Hesterberg said she wants to use her own work experience to give social work students insight into what comes next.

“I remember the professors that I had and the best professors that I had were professors in the field that were practicing and could bring those examples in the classroom.”

Among the many students Hesterberg has affected with her instruction is Social Services Clinician II (DCBS) Stacia Moreland (11) from Flatwoods.

“I feel looking back, now that I am a graduate, I have gained a friend who I know will always be there when I have questions or need another opinion,” Moreland said. “Honestly, I would not have the knowledge I have, the passion for the field or the love of social work if it was not for Dr. Hesterberg.”

Hesterberg also supervises student practicums so she’s never far from the field. Throughout her entire career, she continues to instill in students a commitment to care about their work, and also to care about the people they serve.