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!
Despite my love for Carolina, I was born and raised a Duke Blue Devil. If you aren’t from North Carolina, or just not into sports, you may not understand the importance of this statement. Think of the one person you dislike more than anyone in the world. Though you live pretty close to each other, you’re in college and you both like the color blue….none of that matters because you absolutely despise each other. Now, imagine that you are Duke and they are UNC. There, got it? Okay…
So now you might understand that this has made the Fall Semester pretty difficult for me, with all of the Carolina blue walking around during football season. However, I have to admit that it has become pretty difficult not to be swayed over to the light blue side of life. Not only are the academics amazing, the faculty supportive, and my colleagues all incredible people, UNC is just a genuinely wonderful place to be full of interesting and caring people. I saw this in full effect at the Late Night with Roy event back in October.
To kick off the start of basketball season, UNC hosts a free event called Late Night with Roy, where people from all over the community and campus come together to watch the first scrimmage of the men’s basketball team….at least that is what I thought. I ended up in only a few hours being able to watch performances and skits from student groups all throughout campus, including dance teams, A capella groups, and improv groups. All of these groups added a twist- each group included a few of the men’s basketball players in their performance! There were also dedications made to important members of the UNC community past and present, and donations given to important local organizations doing positive work in the community.
Overall, it was a fun time that really helped paint a picture of who the UNC community is, and what they are capable of doing- far more than providing major basketball entertainment and life-long rivalries. Though I am a graduate student, UNC continues to provide me with opportunities to feel like a part of the UNC family. It’s going to be hard to watch the UNC v. Duke games this upcoming season!
It’s already the end of the semester, and I am now halfway through my MSW coursework!! As the year is winding down, I can’t help but look towards the near future. I am eager and excited about the many opportunities that will be afforded to me as a result of my educational privilege.
As I reflect on my career at the School of Social Work thus far, I am proud of the academic accomplishments, growth as an individual, and progress as a competent social worker. I am amazed at how fast time has gone. From the nervousness of making my application to school the best it could be, to the anxiety about entering back into an academic lifestyle, to starting field, and getting adjusted to “real life” as a social worker…it has all been eye-opening, startling, and amazing! I can honestly say that it is both humbling and gratifying to feel that I am in the right place and settling into the career path that I have chosen, a career that chose me. It is truly a dream realized.
With the mix of emotions, I continue to recognize how important self-care is for our field. We take on the heavy task of helping others, and choosing to do so for the rest of our careers. As social workers, we are called to serve others and sometimes forget to serve ourselves. I now know that self-care will have to be a constant moving forward as a student, and furthermore as a licensed social worker.
I encourage you, whatever path you are on, to continue pushing forward. Whether you are still studying for the GRE, wrapping up your first semester as a first year student, or finishing up your 2nd or final year, realize your potential and look towards the end goal. If you were to ask me 5 years ago where I would be, I would tell you that I never intend to be in graduate school. However, it has been one of the best choices I’ve made in life. I have already changed so much as an individual, sister, daughter, friend, partner, and colleague. I cannot wait to see the evolution of me a year from now.
With just a few short weeks to go until the end of fall semester, now seems as good a time as ever to reflect on the best parts of my second-to-last semester at the School of Social Work. So here are my highlights:
- My field placement at Orange County DSS
- For my Concentration year placement, my only request was to be as far out of my comfort zone as possible. Enter, Child Protective Services Investigations unit. Interning with this team and agency has certainly challenged me, but has done so in a way that I still feel comfortable, and am able to learn. I’m gaining more independence as an intern, which allows me to collaborate and be more vocal when it comes to clients and cases. Best of all, I’m still excited to get to the agency and see what the day will bring each week!
- Getting accepted as Research Assistant
- This semester I was accepted to be a Research Assistant and work on a project with Dr. Gary Bowen. We will be looking at secondary prevention as it applies to Air Force couples who are at high risk for experiencing interpersonal violence. This is a new area of interest for me, and I have a lot to learn from Dr. Bowen and his team. I can’t wait to really jump into this project next semester!
- Adding a new four-legged friend to the family (Otis!)
- The Child Welfare Educational Collaborative
- The Collaborative provided me with the opportunity to connect and bond with a small group of peers who shared my interest in child welfare. We all had class together every Monday night, in addition to monthly meetings at lunch, a mock trial event with the law school, and several opportunities to attend lectures from outside speakers.
- Running my third half-marathon!
- My field instructor
- Amy Levine has worn many hats for me this semester: field instructor, professor, advisor, advocate, and provider of candy :) Her support both in the classroom and in my field placement has been invaluable this semester – thanks Amy!
- A weekend trip to the mountains with School of Social Work friends
- Being an ambassador
- I have really enjoyed connecting with prospective students, and getting the opportunity to answer the same questions I had just a short while ago – it truly makes me feel that I’ve come full circle. Getting to know the new cohort of students has been great as well, and means that there are even more friendly faces around the School than usual!
- Having family & friends visit Chapel Hill
- Now that I’m more settled in North Carolina, I love hosting friends and family, and showing off my new home! My tour guide skills improve with every visit, and I have really enjoyed sharing sporting events, meals, and time with out-of-town visitors.
- Taking the Black and Blue tour of UNC’s campus
- This special tour provides racial context for the university’s history. The experience was invaluable, and I would highly recommend it to anyone!
- Being just one more semester away from my MSW!
This has been an exciting month for the Black Student Caucus! The Black Student Caucus was started in 1992 and seeks to create and nurture a community of students in the School of Social Work who share a interest and/or passion in the African diaspora. In addition, the caucus seeks to meet and address the needs of African American students in the School of Social Work and the larger community. As one of the tri-chairs of the Black Student Caucus, I have enjoyed working with such talented members to help our caucus thrive. Here are just a few highlights from this semester:
- On October 25th, the Black Student Caucus joined student and community organizers in the counter-protest of the neo-confederate rally at Silent Sam on the UNC campus. As an organized body, we stood in solidarity (marching, chanting, and speaking out) against individuals dressed in confederate flags touting a desire to maintain ‘southern heritage’ through the perseverance of the Silent Sam statue.
- On November 13th, over 25 students and faculty members from the School of Social Work attended the Black & Blue tour on campus, as organized by the BSC. Developed in 2001 by Dr. Tim McMillan, the Black and Blue tour covers the history and involvement of African Americans on the campus the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as well as the extended Chapel Hill community, from enslavement to the present. This tour is featured by the UNC’s Visitors’ Center annually as part of their series of “Priceless Gem” tours relating to UNC history.
- On November 14th, the BSC organized a ‘Support Black Business Saturday’ in Durham. Caucus members and SSW staff met at Hairizon at Northgate Mall to create their own skin care and hair care products from various essential oils and moisturizers. Then, caucus members ventured to Dame’s in Durham to fellowship over a delicious dinner.
This is just a snapshot of the excellent work of the Black Student Caucus. When you come to UNC SSW, I recommend checking out the student caucuses and joining one that is aligned with your passion. If you can’t find one you love, then start your own!
During the student panel time a
t the informational sessions hosted by the School of Social work, a HUGE theme is “how do you handle the work load?” And the key is BALANCE!
Prioritize! The hardest part of time management is prioritizing your tasks and getting them done. What’s more important: finishing every paragraph of tomorrow’s reading or having clean underwear and eating a real dinner? turning in this paper in two days or listening to the doctor who says you need
to rest because you have the flu and asking for an extension? Yes, your professors want you to do ALL your assignments and give 110%, but they also want you to be mentally and physically healthy and know that sometimes those two things are mutually exclusive. This is where balance comes in handy!
Set realistic goals! For most people,
it isn’t realistic to turn every assignment in early, while keeping your apartment immaculately clean, and going to every social event you’re invited to on Facebook. When you set expectations for yourself, make sure they are reasonable so that you don’t create a pattern of disappointment in yourself when you are actually succeeding! It can be helpful to have a list of “must do’s” and “hope to do’s,” going back to our prioritizing skills!
P=MSW! This is a phrase that has been past down for many UNC School of Social Work cohorts! The grade scale for the program is H or High Pass (100-94), P or Pass (93-80), LP or Low Pass (79-70), and F. T
his little mantra of P=MSW simply reminds us all that we do not have to get a 100 on every assignment. Just because an H is the best we can get, doesn’t mean that’s what we need to get our diplomas and a career! Now this mindset might not be ideal for you if you’re looking to go further in your studies, but for most of us who are planning to kiss academia goodbye after graduation, a P is just find and dandy!
Remember the end goal! Similar to the last paragraph, all we need to do is graduate. The whole point of pursuing this career path is to help other people in a professional, ethical, and informed way (and get a degree that will help us get a job doing that). In the end, if you aren’t taking care of yourself and practicing the BALANCE, you aren’t going to be able to help others! We often say, “an empty cup cannot fill another.”
But…I want to be real for a moment. This is not easy. It takes practice and constant reminding and support from your classmates, family, and friends. But its only 2 or 3 years (depending on the track you take), and it is WELL worth it!
A professor recently told me that people go to grad school for two reasons. Some go to learn how to do the job they want when they get big. Others go to school for the prerequisite degree to get the job they already know how to do. She was implying that I fell into the latter category because of my lived experience as a person in sustained recovery and the fact that I’m already doing what I want to do when I get big. I’m an advocate. However, I need the letters behind my name so I can get a seat at the big table in that back room where folks make the decisions that decide my people’s fate. Better yet, an MSW might give me a shot at the big chair. I want the big chair. I want to lead an organization that solves unsolvable problems – one that ends needless suffering – one that is ethical and makes sense – an organization whose team members love their jobs and feel valued. I don’t want much.
In the movie The Anonymous People, Stacia Murphy, interim executive director of The Alcohol Council of New York casually says, “Advocacy is anger.” I am angry – most of the time. It’s a blessing and a curse. When I learn of persons in recovery being discriminated against by employers or landlords or schools, exasperation brings tears. When I witness people seeking recovery being turned away by treatment providers, indignation turns to rage. Instead of setting something on fire, I study up on recovery advocacy (the writings of William L. White) which gives me that hope shot. I join the national recovery movement – a vanguard of citizens affected by addiction, raising their voices to end the stigma of addiction and raise the profile of recovery. Volunteering with a grassroots recovery community organization, I engage in purposive change activities (education, advocacy, support) with the goal of a more just social order. I empower others to speak for changes on their own behalf (messaging training, coaching). I work at a residential recovery program that offers services on demand free of charge for those who need the most and have the least. I stick with the winners.
I realize that the UNC School of Social Work is giving me more than letters. I do believe that “advocacy is anger,” and I come about that anger honestly. Up to this point, I have had the wits enough about me to swing on the coattails of leaders who are effecting sweeping change (because they can and they do) – men and women who have what I want. What I get from my formal education is the knowledge base and skill set to help me harness that exquisite anger effectively to become a leader myself. As another professor noted on my latest paper, “…harnessed anger and clear direction can move toward major change—at multiple levels.” I am graduating in May and I will be looking for a job. World domination!
The UNC School of Social Work is the 5th ranked social work program in the country. Many of the other graduate programs here are also ranked in the top 10. As many people know our men’s basketball team is highly ranked year after year. We get so much attention about our men’s basketball team that people looking to come to school rarely know about all the other wonderful sports teams on campus. So if you are interested in high quality sporting events read this carefully and be amazed by UNC’s and the Atlantic Coast Conference’s (ACC) little sports secret.
National Ranking # of Ranked ACC Teams
- Football 21 4 of the top 25 teams in the country
- Men’s Soccer 3 10 of the top 30 teams in the country
- Women’s Soccer 8 7 of the top 25 teams in the country
- Field Hockey 3 7 of the top 20 teams in the country
- Women’s Basketball 20 5 of the top 25 teams in the country
- Men’s Basketball #1 (Of Course) 4 of the top 25 teams in the country
What do you think about these rankings? Tarheel sports are amazing. But wait the best part is yet to come. With the exception of Men’s Basketball students only have to show up and use their student ID to get in all UNC sporting events free of charge. For men’s basketball there are several non-conference games where you just have to show up with your student ID to get in. However, all conference games are on a lottery system that can be somewhat confusing for first time users. Students who win tickets through the lottery get 2 student tickets so they can take a student friend. All graduating students automatically get 1 ticket tot he electrifying UNC vs. Duke game as long as they enter the lottery.
Here are some quick tips on what you need to do to be sure you get the most out of the Tarheels sports experience.
- Be sure to sign up for Carolina Fever before classes start. There are fever event throughout the year where you earn points for swag and for men’s basketball tickets. The top 150 points earners automatically get premium tickets for men’s basketball games they enter the lottery for.
- Open and read all Carolina Fever emails.
- Go to as many sporting events as possible. Going to events other than men’s basketball is how you get points.
- Wear lots of Carolina Blue and have fun!
I know what you may be thinking. This sounds wonderful but will I have time to go to games as a graduate student? The answer is…. that depends. I have had the opportunity to attend all home football games, almost all home basketball games, numerous soccer games, and many home baseball games since I have been on campus. My secret is that I plan my course work schedule around sporting events. If I have a paper due Monday and there’s a football game this weekend I will be sure I have that paper mostly finished by Friday night. I also utilize mobile devices to complete readings while waiting in line to get in a game, while waiting for the game to start, and during half-time. If you have the will there is definitely a way to attend many sporting events and be a successful graduate student.
I will graduate before you start classes but I will be a sporting events on this campus for many years to come. I hope to see you there.