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.

(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!


About Ross Cole

I'm a second-year student in the Winston-Salem Distance Ed program. My primary career interests are in the mental health realm, and I plan to get my clinical license (LCSW). My current field placement is at CareNet Counseling in Winston-Salem. I live in Jamestown and am a native North Carolinian, but I've lived in several other states (spent 9+ years in Seattle, WA). Oh, and I ran into Bob Barker at the Louvre when I was like 10.
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