Mixing it Up!: Seeking Out Interdisciplinary Learning Opportunities

You may have heard the latest buzz–it’s all about team work and collaboration!! More and more job opportunities are becoming available for social workers that are couched in a team model, joining us with professionals from other disciplines. The idea being, if we share our unique approaches and bases of knowledge, our clients will receive more comprehensive and holistic care. I have certainly seen the benefit of interacting with students from other departments in my own education. It has been a great way for me to gain greater insight into the issues I will be addressing as a future social worker.

I have loved the opportunities for interdisciplinary learning that I have had in this program. For example, I signed up to take part in an interdisciplinary learning opportunity that brought UNC grad students from a variety of health programs together for four mini-sessions. We were broken into teams representing a variety of programs like nursing, public health, physical therapy, pharmacology, and social work and each team collaborated on addressing the needs of different “clients”. The clients were given to us in the form of short vignettes. It was a terrific way to learn to communicate with other professionals and to benefit from their expertise. I had never known what occupational therapists did and how they could benefit my clients!

This type of knowledge grew for me while I participated with SHAC, a student ruSHACn health clinic in Carrboro. There I volunteered on a diverse team representing medical students, pharmacy students, nursing students, and other social works students to meet the needs of living clients who came into the clinic for treatment, often because they were uninsured or could not come in to a traditional health center during business hours. I highly recommend volunteering with SHAC. It’s an excellent way to serve the community while you’re in school and to also learn how to work effectively with a diverse team to meet the immediate needs of clients.

Most recently, I signed up to take a course called “Leading for Racial Equity”. This class brought together graduate students from all over campus to partake in a 4-day training on racial equality led by several excellent UNC professors and the excellent staff from the Racial Equity Institute. Not only was this the most racially diverse class setting I’d ever experienced, it was also the most interdisciplinary with students coming from city planning, library sciences, the law school, business school, and health schools. It has been an amazing learning experience and one that I hope the school continues to make available. If you have the chance, I highly recommend this course or any training with REI!

As the field of social work continues to advance, I suspect that being able to work closely and effectively with professionals outside of our field will become increasingly important. These learning opportunities are certainly available in our program but you should be proactive and seek them out! Wonderful things are happening all of the time all over campus.

By checking in with the school newspaper, getting on various student-group list-servs, participating in graduate student events and programming, and most importantly, BY READING YOUR EMAILS! You will be able to keep up with all the fun, interesting, and important learning opportunities available to you outside of your classes. We certainly can’t take advantage of every opportunity (there are not enough hours in the day!) but I would encourage every student to take at least one opportunity to work along side students from other programs. We have a lot to learn from each other and we can go a lot further working side by side!

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