Being Part of a Distance Ed Cohort

Hi again everyone, I just recently completed the fall semester.  At this point our cohort is half way through our 3 year program;  3 semesters down, and 3 to go!  I thought I would share some thoughts and reflections about the experiences I am having so far as one of 26 students in the Triangle Distance Ed cohort (class of 2013). 

First just a little bit about our cohort. Our cohort consists of age ranges from 22 or 23 up to about early 50’s (for a good while I thought I was the oldest student in our cohort until another student informed me that I was wrong;  I guess she was a wee bit older than me).  I figure I must be the 2nd oldest at 48 yrs. A few in our cohort are recent undergraduates, most are at least a few years older. At least one or two already have another advanced degree, oh yeah, and 24 of the 26 are female. (Not to worry, they all treat me and Claudio (the other male) quite nicely, and do not practice any form of gender discrimination whatsoever (smile)). Just to give you a sampling of the work and career backgrounds of some in our cohort.  We have several that work in child welfare, two that work with women with eating disorders, a daycare worker, a social worker working in elder care, a crisis counselor at a rape and physical abuse crisis center, a student that taught English in Indonesia for a few years, a few that provide intensive in-home services to families, a hospital social worker focusing on HIV/Aids community outreach work, a couple that work with developmentally disabled youth in a group home environment, one that does faith-based case management work in a m services ministry, a substance abuse counselor, a mental health counselor (who is finding time to get certified in CBT along with her busy graduate studies!), a social worker working at a major hospital on an organ transplant team, and others. As for racial/cultural backgrounds, our cohort has students that are African American, Native American, Chilean, Bahamian, and Caucasian. As you might expect this heterogeneous group makes for some very engaging class discussions. I believe this variety of backgrounds, including work and career backgrounds, is especially prominent in the Distance Ed program, and one of the advantages, I believe, in being in Distance Ed. I have truly been exposed to, and begun to learn things about  a wide variety of social work careers and the work that is being in done in them. And as you may have guessed, some of this learning comes from my fellow students! 

It is awesome to be part of a cohort that has grown so close. I suppose when you spend 7 to 8 hours together every Friday for 2 years, these things happen (smile). All kidding aside, just as an example, the semester ended about a week ago. But yesterday, I spoke by phone to 3 students in my cohort, as I was needing to ask a question related to the end of the semester and my field placement work. Of course, during the semester you get chances to work on group projects with these students, you may be in a reading group or study group with other students, and, oh yeah, we often eat lunch together on Fridays too. Otherwise, phone calls, emails, and texts keep us connected.  It’s great to get to know so many fellow students who have a heart for being of service to others. I have grown to truly respect my fellow students, and regularly lean on them for questions, encouragement, or general support. They are a blessing.


About Boyd Wilson

I am a 2nd Year student in the Triangle Distance Ed. MSW program here at the UNC School of Social Work. I live in Raleigh. I am 47 years old and began a mid-life career change a few short years ago. After taking some substance abuse counseling classes and passing a credentialling exam, I began working as a substance abuse counselor in 2009. I am passionate about working with people who live with addiction. I am currently doing my foundation year field placement in an employer-based field placement setting at First Step Services in Raleigh, NC. The focus of my field placement work is working with the adolescent substance abuse program at First Step. I am still exploring specific populations that I would like to serve in the substance abuse field. During my first year I did some research for an oral presentation where I learned more about "pregnant and parenting females with substance use disorders." I found myself getting quite interested in someday working with this stigmatized population and hope to do so at some point in my career. At this point I would say that I have an interest in that population as well as adolescents and adults who live with addiction. I also have a strong interest in the use of spirituality in the healing process. As for outside interests, I enjoy competitive swimming and working out at the gym.
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