Welcome to the Student Ambassador Blog!

Welcome to the Student Ambassador Blog!  This blog was created by current student Ambassadors of the UNC School of Social Work MSW programs for people like you: Prospective students interested in getting a glimpse of our Master of Social Work program from the student angle.  Feel free to contact Student Ambassadors if you want to learn more!

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THE STRUGGLE IS REAL…ly over?

In 14 days I’ll be walking across a stage.

1…..4……. that is super soon.

How did the last year of my MSW program go by so quickly?

The struggle that was once oh so real, is now, really over.

I don’t know how to feel. Part of me is like Yeaaaaa! The other part is like…huh? but… but? You’re telling me I won’t walk into TTK anymore and see my friends in my cohort? Or I won’t scurry up to the 5th floor lab to print a paper right before class anymore? Is it so? Is it so?

Wow.

Well my experiences at the School of Social work have been outstanding. I’ve had so many great opportunities from being a Research Assistant for two years, to being selected as the National winner of a Council on Social Work education scholarship, to attending several conferences, to being a social work ambassador, to building relationships that can last a lifetime. Attending school when I did happened at the most perfect time in my life. It gave me a fresh academic wind and helped me focus the rest of my career. Even though I knew I wanted to continue working in college access, getting my Masters helped me solidify the reasons why community outreach should be my first priority in assisting students to college. The knowledge gained in the classroom have helped me connect real world experience to various theories, therapies, and techniques.

Through my internship, I gained great experience and built professional networks that I can rely on in the future. All and all this was a great experience.

Even as I type this I still can’t believe its all over…. even though being in this program was  a struggle at times, I really enjoyed it. I love staying busy and this program provided me just that.

Well if you’re reading this and planning to pursue social work, you should. It’s a great field with great people who do great work.

Thanks for reading my posts this year! Best wishes in your future endeavors!

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End of the year events!

Well, I can’t believe it. In a little over 3 weeks, I will be walking across that MSW stage and graduating as a alum of the UNC program. So much has happened throughout my one year at Carolina, and it has been such a world wind. I cannot believe my time here is almost up and I have enjoyed writing these monthly Ambassador blogs so much!

There are many end of the semester events that have taken place throughout this past week that I am been luckily enough to have been apart of. On Thursday, April 9th, the Dean hosted a scholarship reception for all social work student recipients and donors alike. This was a great night for me, as I was able to gain a deeper perspective into our field from my amazing colleagues. Throughout this reception I was able to hear what other students have been doing throughout their time in the MSW program, the populations they serve, and their professional interests– a true motivation to listen to. Moreover, I got to talk with my specific donor, who has given funds in order to make graduate school a tangible option for myself and other students. This was a humbling night, as I got to witness firsthand all the behind the scenes work of people who truly believe in the heart of social work. Although we might not see them everyday, they truly back our school 100% and are committed to the initiative of serving helping professionals.

The next day kicked off our wonderful Welcome Weekend for newly accepted students! Both Friday and Saturday was the highlight of my weekend, as I got to meet all of you–our newly admitted students within the UNC program. This weekend is great for us as ambassadors because we can finally put a name to a face in who we have been communicating with over the past few months. It also is great to see such excitement in the room from our new incoming class–your energy and passion is contagious! I hope this weekend was beneficial to you all in gaining new information about our program, finding out housing options, financial requirements, and even course work expectations. We truly enjoyed having you here at our school and cannot wait to see you in the summer and fall.

Lastly, yesterday the School of Social Work hosted their annual Career Day. This event was held specifically for students and outside community members who are on the job market (like myself) and getting ready for upcoming employment. With over 65 agencies present, this day gave a great opportunity for students to network with future employers and is another great example of professional development that is taking place at UNC outside of course work requirements. I enjoyed being able to get to know new agencies in the area, as well as having a chance to practice my skills of interviewing and resume building. I am hopeful that the connections I made yesterday at the career fair will amount to a great opportunity for employment in the future. Thanks UNC SSW!

After reflecting on this great (and extremely quick!) year in the Advanced Standing program, I am so fortunate that I got to contribute as an Ambassador. I want to encourage all students, no matter what your cohort, to apply to become an Ambassador when you arrive at the school. Being able to represent this university and the 5th leading school in the nation has been such an honor and I’m so fortunate to have completed my education here. With only 2 papers, and 1 presentation left, I cannot wait to put the letters “MSW” and “alumni” after my name in a few short weeks!

And of course, as always–go heels.

Ciao, Regina

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Spring in North Carolina!

Whether you’ve lived here your whole life or have never traveled to the east coast, you have probably heard how beautiful and wonderful North Carolina is (okay maybe I’m a little bias). There is no denying the convenience of the beach and the mountains in one state. From Chapel Hill, you can reach both the beach in Wilmington and the mountains in Boone in just about 2 1/2 hours. AND…there are a thousand little places in between and all around NC that are worth a day trip. I don’t care who you are, that’s a good deal!

Arguably, one of the best times to go on adventures in NC is the Spring. The Spring brings life and excitement and motivation into our stressed out, MSW-seeking spirits. Even just a walk through campus and to the Tate-Turner-Kuralt building is a beautiful work of art on a warm but breezy Spring Day. Around the Triangle there are outdoor museums, the Arboretum on campus, Duke Gardens and UNC Botanical Gardens, and other outdoorsy destinations like Jordan Lake, the Rock Quarry, Eno River State Park, and tons and tons of trails. Around the state there are numerous lakes, festivals, beaches, and hiking trails.

This past weekend, I went hiking up King’s Mountain near Gastonia, NC (about a 2 1/2 hour drive). It was extremely challenging (full self-disclosure: exercise is not one of my preferred self-care outlets) but extremely rewarding to get to the top and see the incredible view! Not to mention excellent exercise…I was sore for three days. More than anything, it was an awesome break from the pending end-of-semester rush and final year course and field placement preparation. I spent time with my family, met a goal, breathed some fresh air, and was rewarded with an awesome view and memories!

IMG_3465

No matter what type of hobbies you like to do in the Spring, there’s an excellent chance, North Carolina is a great place to enjoy them!

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Foundation Field Reflections

As hard as it is to believe, I will be wrapping up my Foundation Field Placement at CareNet Counseling in the next few weeks. CareNet has been a great fit for me personally and professionally. As I think back about the last 8 months, several observations come to mind regarding this aspect of my professional  development.

(1) A Multifaceted Experience

One of the purposes of the first year of field placement (Foundation Year) is to broaden the student’s experience and training by requiring an approximately 50-50 balance between Direct Practice (DP) activities that involve direct service to clients (e.g., counseling, assessments, case management, etc.) and Community Management  & Policy Practice (CMPP) activities that impact the organization and/or the larger community (e.g., collecting agency data, researching community needs, advocating for public policy changes, etc.). At CareNet, I have had great opportunities in both categories. I have been able to observe licensed clinicians as they performed individual and family therapy, and even carry a therapy caseload of my own. I have updated marketing materials and represented CareNet at events like health fairs and conventions. I have researched clinical service data and attended inter-organizational meetings about improving health outcomes in local communities. I have been able to sharpen my treatment skills through clinical supervision and learn about organizational management and leadership by shadowing the agency’s Chief Operating Officer. All in all, it has been an ideal mix of learning opportunities that has affirmed my vision for my career: to earn my clinical license and provide direct mental health treatment, and to work my way up into an organizational leadership role.

(2) Parallel Process

MSW students complete field placements concurrent with their coursework as a way of putting their classroom learning into practice as they are learning it. This principle has been a reality for me this year. As I have learned about specific evidence-supported practices, I have been able to apply them directly to my work at CareNet. For example, a class assignment that required me to research mindfulness-based treatments led me to introduce the practice of mindfulness to two of my therapy clients, both of whom have benefitted from their experience so far and plan to pursue mindfulness-based treatment with other therapists after I leave. Also, a section of coursework on increasing employee diversity in human service organizations led to a conversation with my Field Instructor about ways that CareNet can quantify and address its goal of diversifying its clinical staff. Such direct links between course topics and professional practice have served to strengthen my professional development and increase my excitement about my budding career as a social worker.

(3) Discovering My INcompetency

A few months into my time at CareNet, I began to feel like I had found my groove. I had built relationships with agency staff, was familiar with policies and procedures, had arranged my schedule effectively, and—most importantly—I felt like I was doing good work on my CMPP projects and with my clients. This sense of competency and effectiveness lasted until about the middle of this semester. It was at that point that I reached what felt like the limits of my abilities and expertise. All of a sudden, I realized how much more I needed to know to make a bigger impact on the agency and the community it serves. I felt overwhelmed by how rudimentary my skills were as a clinician and by how many scientifically-supported interventions exist that are not in my “tool belt” yet.

Certainly, finding the limits of my competency shook my confidence a bit, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt excited about it and motivated by it. I had learned enough to see that there was so much more to learn. And it happened just in time, as I was beginning to plan out my advanced practice and elective courses for the following year and finalize my next field placement. My newly-discovered incompetencies sharpened my focus and shaped my goals for Concentration Year.

Obviously, my field placement at CareNet has been a great experience. It seems fitting to me that the above observations reflect not just my personal experience, but precisely what field placement is designed to be.

For those of you who have been admitted and are still in the decision process, best of luck! UNC is a great place to be, especially for the field of social work, so I hope you will join our community. For those of you who are already on board, welcome! Get ready for a challenging, life-changing, and exciting next few years!

Go Heels!

 

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Why UNC?

Hi y’all,

It is about that time when admitted students have to decide what school they want to go to, and trust me, I know it can be an incredibly difficult decision. I applied to 6 MSW programs, thinking I was only going to be admitted to 1 or 2, but I was pleasantly surprised when I was admitted to all 6 schools. This made the decision of where to go for my MSW very difficult. After doing more research, many conversations with my mom, some soul-searching, and numerous pros/cons lists, I ultimately narrowed the search down to 3 schools.

So why did I ultimately decide to come to the UNC School of Social Work?

  1. Field placement opportunities: Due to it’s high esteem as an MSW program, the UNC School of Social Work has connections to over 250 field placements across North Carolina. These include placements in public schools, hospitals, homeless shelters, domestic violence agencies, county DSS, faith based organizations, state and local government, mental health agencies, substance abuse programs, child welfare services, veterans services, and MANY more.
    ….My first field placement was at two elementary schools in Siler City (small rural town), working as a school social work intern. My second field placement is at a small non-profit in Durham, helping with program planning, evaluation, and coordinating programs for low-income urban youth and families.
  2. Chapel Hill’s location: Chapel Hill is also located in the Triangle (the “triangle” is the area in NC including Chapel Hill, Durham & Raleigh), so depending on your preferences in lifestyle, you can live in Chapel Hill, Carrboro (next to Chapel Hill), Durham, or Raleigh… Each city has a really different vibe, and all have buses that can take you to UNC’s campus. Another benefit of Chapel Hill’s location is that your field placement can be in a wide range of settings (urban, rural, suburbs). If you’re interested in working with inner-city urban youth, you can find a placement in Raleigh or Durham. If you’re interested in working with migrant farmworkers, Hmong refugees, or Latino immigrants, there are field placements in Chapel Hill, and also in Pittsboro and Siler City (Southwest of Chapel Hill). If you want to work in a hospital, there are incredible hospitals in the area (UNC Hospital, Duke Hospital). So, as you can see, Chapel Hill is a great place to call home.

    Beautiful fall day in Chapel Hill!

    Beautiful fall day in Chapel Hill!

  3. The price tag: Although tuition at UNC is NOT cheap, UNC tuition is a lot lower than some of the other schools I was looking at (especially private schools). Tuition can be high if you’re an out-of-state student, but if you gain in-state residency, it helps a lot. Check out the guidelines for how to gain residency: http://gradschool.unc.edu/studentlife/resources/residency/  (You have to have lived in NC for at least 1 year to gain residency)
  4. The NC weather. I’m from Chicago, and I love the weather in NC. I can exercise outdoors almost 100% of the year. There’s also amazing state parks, running trails, and greenways all across NC, and lots in Chapel Hill. If you’re an outdoors lover or need lots of Vitamin D in your life, NC is the place for you.
  5. We’re in the top 5: Not to sound snooty, but being at a #5 School of Social Work, means you have access to amazing professors, researchers, and opportunities within the school. Check out some of the CVs of the professors at the school (http://ssw.unc.edu/about/expert) and you’ll understand why the school is ranked so highly!

If you want to know more about why I chose UNC, feel free to email me at melanie.sadur@live.unc.edu.

Best of luck in making your decisions!

-Melanie :)

Posted in Field Work, I ♥ North Carolina

Finding a Place to Live

Hi friends! In prior posts I mentioned I am from Florida and came to North Carolina specifically for this Master’s program. As if stressing over the idea of beginning a Master’s program wasn’t stress-causing enough, throw in looking for a place to live…OVER THE INTERNET. The first time I ever visited North Carolina was for the School of Social Work’s ‘welcome weekend’ (coming up this weekend!). It was a pretty packed agenda and I did not have much time to apartment hunt. In this post I hope to share with you (in-state or out-of-state students) that will help make finding the right place to live…a little less stressful!

1. If you attend welcome weekend, you will get a chance to meet other incoming MSW students! This is a great chance to see if other students are looking for a place to live or are in need of another roommate. Start that conversation!

2. Contact Sharon Thomas, the Assistant Dean for Recruitment, Admissions and Financial Aid. She can send out a mass email to all of the incoming students with roommate requests.

3. Facebook Cohorts- Often times graduating students are on the hunt for other students to sub-let their places OR someone to completely take over their lease. Search for ‘UNC MSW- Advice group!’ on Facebook. It’s a closed group but just request to join! You can post your questions about housing or really anything related about the MSW journey.

4. The following I copied and pasted from the 2014-2015 new student guide housing sections (http://ssw.unc.edu/files/school_of_social_work_2014_new_student_guide.pdf)

Helpful housing websites

•  The UNC student Newspaper, the Daily Tar Heel, posts housing options at http://www.heelshousing.com

• UNC Off Campus Housing Information: http://www.housing.unc.edu/off-campus-housing.html

http://www.triangle.com

 http://www.apartments.com

• Chapel Hill News (http://www.chapelhill.com) has a lot of listings for both roommates and apartments/houses.

• Post on http://roommates.heelshousing.com. This is a roommate search for UNC students where you can post if you are looking for roommates, and look for other people who are also looking!

Carrboro vs. Chapel Hill vs. Durham- It really depends on your price range! I live in Carrboro because I found the rent was cheaper than compared to Chapel Hill. I didn’t look for places to live in Durham..but many of my social work peers live in Durham. The DATA (Durham Area Transit Authority) bus is free for UNC-Chapel Hill students and comes to campus.

If you have questions that were unanswered from this post..please email me: mitzyg@live.unc.edu. I might not have the answer but I can put you in touch with someone who might.

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The QUESTION…(dun dun duhhh!)

For many of us, we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We are working on final presentations and papers, finishing up with clients, and sending out resumes and cover letters to every position we find. We are ordering our caps and gowns, sending out announcements, and making plans for the day that we have worked so hard for. The busyness of this moment in which we find ourselves is the perfect combination of excitement and anxiousness. And to top it all off, it seems that every day – sometimes several times a day – someone asks you the question. You know the question:

“So, what are your plans after graduation?”

Don’t you just LOVE that question? Whether in a Bachelors, Masters, or a PhD program, we’ve all heard this question or some form of it. And as May draws closer, I’m sure most of us have memorized our response after having said it so much. While it is expected that our families, friends, and peers are happy for us and curious to know what great things we will do next, for many of us, this question brings attention to the reality that we don’t have a clear answer. Simply put, we don’t know.

We’ve applied for jobs. We’ve been on interviews. We’re hanging in the lobby of life, waiting to hear if we will land that dream job (or the job that will lead to our dream job). Some of us know exactly where we’d like to work and in what capacity. Some of us would be happy working in a variety of settings. However, if you asked us what we will be doing 12, 6, or even 3 months from now, many of us could not tell you with complete specificity. Ultimately, most of us know what we desire, but unless the job offer is already on the table (by the way, congrats to those who’ve already landed jobs!!), we can’t always give you a neat answer to the infamous question.

If you’re anything like me, this stage of “not knowing” can be scary. As a planner (utilizing one of my community practice skills :) ), I like to have everything figured out. Not doing so can result in much (unnecessary) stress. However, in this stage I am learning a few important lessons:

  1. Toss your timeline. Okay, well maybe not literally, but don’t get too stuck on it. At a recent job interviewing workshop held at the School of Social Work, a panel of recent graduates spoke to us about the job search process. Though they shared several helpful tips, the one thing that stood out to me was that they stated that much of their cohort landed positions that Fall after graduation. For those who held out for their ideal job, they waited longer. At the time, one of the panelists was currently searching for another position. A few weeks later, she was hired by my current field placement!
  2. Keep preparing. While I am encouraging you to not place too much pressure on having it all figured out by a certain date, that’s not to say that we shouldn’t put forth our best effort. As the saying goes, good luck comes to those who are prepared. As we approach graduation, let’s continue sending out those CVs and cover letters, attending workshops and job fairs, and reaching out to networks old and new. Even after landing the position, keep it up! As social workers, we know that learning is a lifelong journey.
  3. Chill out. Yes, breathe. I know the gears in our minds are turning at a thousand rotations per second, but we must remind ourselves to slow down. With all of the assignments and responsibilities we are wrapping up, reserve that mental energy for things BEFORE May 9. If you need to exercise, pray, meditate, or simply take a walk around the TTK once or twice, do what you need to do to stay mindful so that you can devote your strength to finishing the program on top.

So, to my fellow SSW students and prospective students: next time someone asks you “the question,” let’s answer them with confidence –  whether we have it all planned out or not.

40 DAYS until graduation!!! :)

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