An educational experience that YOU control

The idea of returning to grad school a few years ago held an oft-too assumed idea of late nights in the library, hunched over a laptop, pouring words into a caffeine-driven paper. What I’ve found going into the final semester is that there is more, MUCH MORE, to this program than that.  While classes are great and field education is amazing, I’ve come to realize it is the non-mandatory options that really distinguish UNC’s SSW from others.  For example:  I am being guided by faculty in conducting an independent research study with another student; I was motivated by two instructors to pursue an independent study this semester to further enmesh my professional interests with my education; a local student-operated health clinic provides incomparable experiences with a wide range of clients; and I’ve taken on a co-facilitative role with the director of my field site working with a support group for adults with High-Functioning Autism.

The program establishes the foundation of advanced education while also providing the tools necessary to construct a completely individualized experience.


About Chris Nealy

I came to UNC as an undergrad studying pre-law and literature with aspirations of becoming a writer. After taking a job working direct support with teenagers with autism, I fell in love with helping people. I was recommended to study sociology by my advisor and have remained in the field ever since. After graduating and spending a couple of years doing project management for at-risk youth at a residential care facility, I returned to working with teens and young adults with autism. The courses provided through the School of Social Work have proven necessary for me to further develop the skills, knowledge, and professionalism required to effectively help on a higher level. Field education has provided some of the most unique learning experiences imaginable, from assessing preschoolers for a possible autism diagnosis to working with families to find local resources to better aid their children. Volunteering at UNC's Student Health Action Coalition (SHAC), a collaborative student-operated free clinic, has provided me with the opportunity to work with various clients in a clinical setting doing things such as discussing depression, connecting with community financial resources, and guiding women through the process of pregnancy testing and discussing their options. Returning to school last year was extremely challenging, but a move necessary for me to pursue the career I have chosen: working with families affected by autism and other developmental disabilities.
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