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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This way or that way? Welcome Weekend can be a helpful tool in deciding!

First off, congratulations! If you have received admission to the school of social work, job well done! Your hard work as paid off… the long nights of studying for the GRE, writing applications and personal statements, all of it has concluded and you are seeing the fruits of your labor.

Some of you may be receiving multiple admission offers, and now you have to decide this way or that way. Perhaps you are waiting on scholarship packages to make your final decision, or you are going to take a trip and visit the school. There are a lot of factors that go into deciding what program is right for you. I was in this boat not too long ago myself, I can almost still feel the stress of accepting an offer, moving from out-of-state, not knowing anyone.. it can feel impossible. Be encouraged, it is very possible and you will find your way!

I would suggest coming to welcome weekend! Welcome weekend provided the space and time for me to visit the school, meet professors, learn more about the program, explore the area, and ultimately decide this was the best program for me. Welcome Weekend truly is a great way to explore if Carolina is a good fit for you. Being an out-of-state student can be difficult, I would suggest not only coming to Welcome Weekend but contacting other out-of-state student ambassadors to ask all of your questions.

We are all looking forward to meeting you and connecting over welcome weekend! You can’t go wrong with the Carolina Way. Good luck with your decisions!

Posted in Events

The Hunting Ground

Hi all,

Last week I was able to participate in a viewing of  “The Hunting Ground”. This film is a documentary exposing rape crimes on U.S. college campuses, the way institutions cover them up, and the devastating toil  it takes on their families.

The link for the film preview can be found here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4185572/http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4185572/

As a social worker, this film left me feeling extremely angry, hurt, passionate, charged, moved, enlighted, compassionate, and encouraged. Throughout the film, top ivy league colleges, as well as our beloved UNC were featured through testimonials from young women and men who are survivors of sexual assault.

The accounts are very vivid but the results from informing school officials are more hurtful than hearing about the initial assault.

I encourage you all, as social workers and aspiring social workers, to view this film and take action! This film should be showed at college orientations, in high schools, and for individuals interested in pledging fraternities.

Sexual assault is a real issue and with it being ignored, survivors need advocates like us to take action.

Let’s change the world folks!


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The Mighty-Mega-Monster (but, oh, so needed) TO-DO list

Well, for this chapter of my life, the introduction has been written, the climax has climaxed, and I am in the throws of my denouement. In approximately seven weeks, the conclusion to this beautiful little short story will be complete. I will be gowned, capped, hooded, and sent off into the world to make it (and me) different, dynamic, and diverse. I continue to be thrilled about my upcoming graduation in spite of my ever-growing list of assignments and things to do, and I can’t forget about self-care. I mean, I even wrote a blog post on this website about self-care, so adding that to the list is absolutely critical. To keep myself organized (and to avoid forgetting deadlines, or rather, more deadlines), I have created a “Graduation To-Do List”. Hope it will help as we are all trying to organize the chaos and actually, ahem!, graduate. Here goes…but wait! Let us get mentally prepared before we tackle the list:

Okay. Here goes (for real):

  • Contact Graduate Advisor – Yes, this is completely different from you Field Advisor, contact him/her to make sure all tasks for graduation are completed.
  • Apply for graduation - 2/20/15
  • Order announcements/invitations – order as soon as possible to avoid rush fees!
  • Mail announcements/invitations – 3 – 4 weeks before graduation, 4/10/15
  • Update records in registrar’s office - change of address, married, divorced, etc.
  • Order Cap/Gown/Hood – 4/6/15, $70
  • Check for outstanding fees/parking fines – yes, they will hold your diploma for this.
  • Complete any student loan exit surveys
  • Complete EOC Mandatory Training/Title IX – yes, they will hold your diploma for this.
  • Plan for LCSW-A licensure – start asking for references, you need 3 professional forms.
  • Plan for ASWB Exam – get it while it’s hot! Plan for study time or prep course, schedule exam date. DSM-5 Exams will start July 2015.
  • Plan for LCAS-A licensure – this is a licensure for Clinical Addiction Specialists, it is a certificate program offered at UNC. I’m a huge advocate for this additional skill set.
  • NASW-NC membership – I highly recommend this, tons of resources here. Sign up while you still get the student discount!
  • School of Social Work Reception – May 8th
  • School of Social Work Hooding Ceremony – May 9th @ 1pm (12:15 for you!)
  • UNC Commencement Ceremony – May 10th @ 9:30 (line up starts at 9am!!!)
  • Diploma – available for pick-up @ Registrar’s office; May 10th, 11am – 2pm.

Now, instead of yelling “Adriannnnn” like Rocky, you can properly yell, “MSWWWWWW!”


Posted in Academics, In the Classroom, Outside of the classroom | Tagged , , ,

Spring breakin’ up for the takin': How are you spending your time?

First and foremost, I want to send a very big congratulations out to everyone who has been newly accepted in the UNC’s SSW! I know this is quite an exciting time for you all, and we can’t wait to meet you and get to know you more on Welcome Weekend (April 10th and 11th). Welcome Weekend is an exciting time to get to know our school a little better, become familiar with your cohort, and meet some of our amazing professors–can’t wait to see you there!

Well folks, it is spring break here at the School of Social Work, which means time to relax, get ahead on work, or catch up with old friends. I’ve opted to take the family route, and traveled home to the New Jersey/Philadelphia area to see my parents. However, even with this time off, I am learning the importance of networking–no matter where you are at! For that reason, I am spending spring break simply making contact and reaching out, a great skill I will constantly be working on and learning to perfect as a future social worker. So why not start now? You never know where something might lead.

After going to UNC SSW’s Direct Practice Networking night on February 23rd, I learned the value and importance of networking, especially in our field. Social workers are constantly interacting and meeting new community members, whether you are direct practice or CMPP concentration, so it always helps to stay connected to agencies in the community as well as the staff who works there. Better yet, sometimes these relationships can turn into job offers later on down the line and set you up for a new opportunity that you never once considered. AKA the power of networking!

With that said, it is important to take time over spring break to continue to network. You never know who who will meet that can help to strengthen you as a social worker along the way!

This networking night at the school was just one of the examples of professional development that UNC puts on throughout the spring. I can honestly say in my last semester that UNC has done a fabulous job of providing students with professional opportunities prior to graduation. Whether it’s resume building, interview practice, salary negotiation, or steps towards the licensure practice–UNC has got us covered!

Better yet, all these tools and techniques build up to our annual Career Day, a day where employers can come and talk with social work students. This day allows for our networking circle to expand, as well as an opportunity to give out our resumes for potential employment. What a win/win! Career day is just one of the ways that UNC is adequately preparing us for graduation and a huge benefit that all students receive in choosing to come to UNC.

I hope this blog post gave you some insight in the benefits to networking in regards to the job search and future employment opportunities. I can assure you that by choosing to come to UNC SSW, you will be prepared for the job market by having the skills and tools provided by our great professional development resources!

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Social Marketing and Social Work

One of my favorite courses in undergrad was a psychology course I took on marketing and advertisement. I already had an understanding of the “manipulation” going on in ads through personal experience. How many toy commercials had I seen as a kid that convinced me life would be that much better if I had a remote controlled car or a Star Wars action figure? Or as a young adult, ads that led me to think some certain brand of household item was substantially superior to another?  Understanding the psychological principles used to make ads effect was eye opening for me. When we think of marketing, we often think first of advertisements promoting the sale of items with the goal of increasing profit, but ads can also be powerful tools for social change. One of the things I love most about courses in our program here is that we often get to hear guest lecturers who are experts in their field. I learned more about the role of social marketing in my Advanced Policy course this semester.

Social marketing is not just social media. It is the use of marketing principles to influence human behavior in order to improve health. Social marketing is useful when knowledge is not enough. For example, we all should know by know that smoking harms your health and yet people continue to smoke. Social marketing campaigns can help promote change by drawing on our emotional responses and identifying other benefits that may not be immediately apparent. In planning a social marketing campaign, it is is important to define your audience, present benefits that your audience will find appealing, and to get your message out in ways that will reach your audience. Campaigns require work at all phases. It is important to do pre-testing and be prepared for mid course correction. Then promote, promote, promote and evaluate!

4 P’s of Social Marketing

– product

– price

– place

– promotion

Some popular social marketing campaigns you might be familiar with are Smokey the Bear ads to prevent forest fires and the more recent “1 is 2 many” campaign to end sexual violence. This is a powerful example of a campaign to save a public library:

Learning about social marketing is very inspiring to me. Sometimes I can feel overwhelmed by the messages so often promoted in the media that do not promote health or social justice. But there is a way to use the same tools for good, to create positive change. I encourage all social workers to consider ways to promote their positive messages through social marketing.

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Gearing Up for Final Year

We’ve just passed the halfway point for the spring semester, and so far so good. Field placement continues to be a great learning experience, and I’m enjoying classes. Yes, even the research class! (I’m a direct practice guy.) I have to confess, though, that I’m having a hard time staying “in the present” as I’ve begun the process of planning for my final year in the program. I’m a student in the Winston-Salem distance program, so it will be Year 3 for me, and the challenges and opportunities that await already have me excited. Specifically…

(1) Chapel Hill! After two years of Fridays in Winston-Salem, I’ll be spending Mondays and/or Tuesdays in the Southern Part of Heaven. A lot has changed since my undergraduate years in Chapel Hill…many moons ago…but I look forward to the chiming of the Bell Tower, the bustle of campus, and absorbing the incredible academic environment of the University and the School of Social Work.

(2) Field Placement! I’m very fortunate to have already been accepted at the field placement site that I wanted—the Salisbury VA Medical Center. I pursued that particular site for many reasons, such as the opportunity to serve the military veteran population, the breadth of experiences available there, and the chance to receive training in evidence-based treatment approaches such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Cognitive Processing Therapy. From what I’ve been told, the Salisbury VA is very selective in choosing their social work interns, so I am thrilled and humbled to be able to learn and serve there. I have no doubt that the quality and reputation of the UNC’s social work program played a big part in my being selected as an intern at the VA.

(3) Electives! I have to admit that I’ve been geeking out over my class schedule for several weeks now. There are so many electives that I want to take that I’ve had a hard time narrowing them down. I may even end up taking more than the minimum number of hours and/or auditing a few classes, just to fit everything in. As an aspiring mental health clinician, I can’t pass up the chance to study subjects like Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, group therapy, substance abuse, and the effects and treatment of trauma and violence. Coupled with my field placement experience at the VA, I believe that my final year coursework is going to give me a fantastic foundation for a career of effective clinical service. (To check out course listings, syllabi, and past course schedules, check out the Academic Resources page under “Current Students” at the UNC SSW website. http://ssw.unc.edu/students/academic/advising)

(4) Networking! It has become abundantly clear to me over the last year that professional networking is incredibly important, and what better network to have than the professors and students at one of the top social work schools in the nation? UNC’s social work faculty is on the vanguard of social work research and practice. Better yet, every single one of them with whom I’ve interacted has been approachable, positive, and helpful. I have already seen the benefits of going the extra mile to build relationships with faculty and classmates in that I have multiple career possibilities on the table for next year following graduation. Likewise, I have been able to open doors for classmates by connecting them to my own professional network. As excited as I am about the learning opportunities that next year’s coursework and field placement will bring, I am also looking forward to expanding my network of professional connections in order to increase my opportunities for serving vulnerable populations.

With so many aspects of next year to look forward to, I may have to practice some “mindfulness” to keep my focus in the here and now.

Then again, seven more weeks of classes, assignments, papers, and exams will no doubt keep me anchored in the present. Time to finish strong!

Stay warm, everyone!

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UNC Chapel Hill School of Social Work Faculty Highlight

I always encourage individuals thinking about applying to any school for any program to take a look at the School’s faculty directory. It is worth taking the time to do this background research because these are potentially the people who will be shaping your learning experience. Another reason this could be beneficial is if you are interested in doing research while in your social work program, you can look into faculty members research interests. For today’s post I wanted to highlight some of the faculty members I’ve personally had as professors, am doing research with, and overall think are really awesome.

The relationships you develop during your time in your program–be it with your peers, professors, and community members–are invaluable.

UNC-Chapel Hill School of Social Work Faculty Directory:  http://ssw.unc.edu/about/faculty

*Faculty members below are not listed in any specific order! This list is not extensive. I could rave about so many professors but it’d take many, many posts. The Contact Magazine often does Faculty & Staff highlights: http://ssw.unc.edu/contact2/2015/01/faculty-and-staff-briefs-7/

**Please note each of the web links will provide you with a list of the courses that faculty member has taught/teaches, their research interests, and other relevant information. 

Denise’ Dews (http://ssw.unc.edu/about/faculty/dews)

Denise’ is a clinical assistant professor and has served as my field supervisor (through Field Education Office) for the past two years. She is a passionate and kind individual who has helped me in my journey of discovering where I want to go with my career. She has offered me countless words of advice, encouraged me to strive to be a better social worker, and affirmed me in my journey.

Professional interests involve: Social work intervention at end-of-life; medical social work; child welfare, child abuse & neglect, child protection; &  social work education.

Dr. Cindy Fraga Rizo (http://ssw.unc.edu/about/faculty/rizo)

Dr. Cindy Fraga Rizo was one of the first professors I met at UNC-CH SSW. I am currently serving as her research assistant and we focus on an array of issues affecting Latina IPV survivors (i.e. coping strategies, best practices for direct service providers). It has been great having her as a research supervisor and working alongside her. She has an extraordinary work ethic! I had never engaged in research prior to this position (which was intimidating) but she has kindly taught me along the way. Also, she is one of the only Latina professors in the School of Social Work!

Recently was the recipient of a UNC Junior Faculty Development award for her project, “Developing North Carolina Practice Guidelines for Latina Survivors of Partner Violence.”

Professional interests involve: Intimate partner violence (particularly among Latina survivors); child exposure to intimate partner violence; trauma; coping; social work with the Latino community; cultural competency; intervention development; community-based research.

Dr. Lisa de Saxe Zerden (http://ssw.unc.edu/about/faculty/lisazerden)

There are not enough positive things I can write about Dr. Zerden! If you get admitted to UNC-CH’s SSW she will definitely be someone you want to make sure you cross paths with. She serves as the Social Work Student Organization (SoWoSO) faculty member and advocates on behalf of all the students in the program (this is only one of her many roles). I am currently taking Health Access and Health Disparities Policy with her…GREAT course! Definitely recommend it if you are interested in public health, health equity, and medical social work.

Dr. Zerden along with Dr. Jones recently received $1.4 million federal grant for integrative healthcare project: http://uncnews.unc.edu/2014/10/30/school-social-work-receives-2-2-million-federal-funding-prepare-students-integrated-healthcare/

10 Questions to get to know Dr. Zerden: http://ssw.unc.edu/contact2/2014/03/10-questions-get-to-know-lisa-zerden/

Professional interests involve: Health Equity, HIV/AIDS Prevention, Substance Abuse, Social Welfare Policy, and Social Work Education

Dr. Paul Lanier (http://ssw.unc.edu/about/faculty/lanier)

I had Dr. Lanier in my first semester of the full-time program for the course: Social Welfare Policy. He is genuinely one of the funniest people in the School. He made difficult material “easy to digest” and kept us updated on relevant current events. I see him throughout the building often and can always catch him with a smile.

He was recently awarded a grant to study the effectiveness of a parent support program: http://ssw.unc.edu/contact2/2015/01/lanier-awarded-grant-to-study-effectiveness-of-parent-support-program/

Professional  interests involve: Child maltreatment prevention; parenting interventions; strengthening families; maternal and child health; evidence-based practice; program evaluation; implementation science; policy development.

Dr. Iris Carlton-LaNey (http://ssw.unc.edu/about/faculty/carlton-laney)

Hands down…an amazing social worker, professor, and overall human being! If you have an opportunity to take a course with her–do it! I took Confronting Oppresion & Institutional Discrimination (Discrimination & Inequality) with her in Spring 2014 and it remains as one of my favorite classes (definitely heart wrenching material..).

Recently named NASW Social Work Pioneer: 



Professional interests involve: Social Welfare History (especially African-Americans and the Progressive Era); Rural Elderly African-American Women and Social Support.

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