Kayla Burgett: Revolutionizing Social Work through AI

Kayla BurgettKayla Burgett returned to school mid-career to pivot into an entirely new profession. She is passionate about combining her heart for providing effective client care through social work with the use of AI technology to drive social change on a larger scale. This Nashville native says that her UofM graduate school journey (via UofM Global) not only transformed her career but also her life. For her, it’s been a journey of growth, challenge, and learning how to power through on days I felt like giving up. When asked to choose 1 word to describe her graduate studies journey, she chose “whirlwind”. She says it’s been a fast-paced, educational journey filled with learning, growth, and lots of opportunities.

Kayla graduated from Austin Peay State University with a bachelor's in psychology, along with a minor in sociology. In May 2024 she graduated from the University of Memphis with her master’s in social work. She currently works as a Care Coordinator at a healthcare startup and started a side gig last year as an AI Consultant for Nonprofits. She helps organizations leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to enhance their impact.

Get Curious

Kayla recommends that her fellow graduate students should have an open mind and be curious. The graduate studies journey offers a unique opportunity to explore your interests deeper and make greater contributions to your field. She also encourages students to stay organized, seek support when needed, and remember their “why”. Because even in conjunction with grad school, life is already a juggling act, she stresses the importance of sticking to a scheduled routine to meet your commitments. For example, she would get up around 5 am to study and complete assignments, and the rest of the day is for the rest of her other responsibilities like work, exercise, self-care, her personal life, etc.

The Value of Internships

Her internships were memorable and rewarding and provided invaluable insights into the practical applications of social work at both micro and macro levels, all while working alongside some of the most intellectual and compassionate professionals. This year she had the opportunity to teach parenting classes through the Nurturing Parenting program. Facilitating these classes has allowed her to witness the impact of empowering families to make positive changes. Witnessing the significant positive shifts that can occur when families are equipped with the right tools and the tangible effects of her work has reinforced her commitment to the field of social work.

Noteworthy Moments
  • Favorite Class: Evaluative Research and Scientific Methods have been highlights for her. These courses deepened her appreciation for data-driven decision-making and intervention planning, crucial skills in both her current studies and future career.
  • Professor Shoutout: She wants to give special thanks to Dr. Minhae Cho, whose engaging teaching style and method have profoundly impacted her learning experience. Her classes have been instrumental in shaping her academic journey.
  • Unique AI & Nonprofit Opportunities: She recently worked with a nonprofit that provides self-sufficiency-supportive services to low-income families. By introducing pre-trained AI-powered chatbots and automated workflows, they significantly improved the organization's efficiency and reach, allowing them to boost their program offerings and serve more families in need. She also had the privilege of presenting AI solutions to nonprofits and conducting workshops and training seminars on utilizing AI to streamline their workflows and amplify their impact in the communities they serve.
Kayla BurgettHer Passion for AI & Social Work

AI has become a significant passion project. She is fascinated by its potential to transform every sector of society, including social work. She is actively involved in AI business and learning groups, where they get curious, explore, and discuss the future implications of AI technology.  Recently, they've been debating the ethical considerations surrounding AI implementation in social services, and how they can ensure that the technology is used in a way that promotes equity and fairness, while maintaining privacy.

Her ultimate goal is to utilize AI, specifically Large Language Models (LLMs), for predictive analytics in social work. By analyzing data patterns and relationships with the help of LLMs, she believes that there's potential to advance crisis prevention and intervention strategies in social work. She is dedicated to exploring how AI can revolutionize the field by providing proactive solutions to societal issues. For instance, she envisions developing AI-powered early warning systems that can identify individuals and communities at risk of experiencing a crisis, such as homelessness or substance abuse, and then connecting them with targeted support services before the situation escalates. Through this technology, she believes that the social work field can move from a reactive to a proactive model, ultimately improving outcomes for the people and communities that they serve.

Kayla is grateful for her University of Memphis Graduate School journey. She says that through her coursework and internships, she’s gained a deeper understanding of the complex social issues facing our communities and the role that social workers can play in addressing these challenges. This experience has made her more resilient, and the knowledge gained has made her a better practitioner and a more empathetic and socially aware individual.