No last first day here…

As I scroll through this blog I am seeing an obvious theme – last first day of school. And yet, this is not my last first day. While I am thrilled for the members of my cohort who can see the light of graduation fast-approaching, I’m feeling like I still need to pace myself because I have a ways to go. As an MSW/MPH dual degree student, I’m looking at a full-time summer internship and one more first day of school before this graduate school adventure comes to a close. But just as I start to feel exhausted looking ahead, I remember that this year I am joining a new cohort in the School of Public Health, along with eight peers from my social work cohort.

When I was applying to graduate programs, I knew that a dual MSW/MPH program was a requirement for me. I felt that so many public health issues are based in social issues and that one without the other would leave me with questions. Now as I start in the School of Public Health I am thrilled for the year of social work education I carry with me. The social work perspective colors everything I read and everything I learn and I am so grateful for the opportunity for rich, nuanced, and colorful exchanges between the two fields here at UNC.

The well-established and thriving Social Work-Public Health partnership was most apparent to me in the School of Public Health orientation when I noticed that the Social Work students made up almost one quarter of the new Maternal and Child Health concentration cohort. In only the second week of classes for the semester, it is clear that there is a need for social workers in the public health sphere, and I am proud to be part of such a robust program.

My experience starting the MPH program feels reflective of most of my experiences with the School of Social Work thus far. There is immense support and energy within this school to create access for students to opportunities that excite them. The path may not always be easy – and I will be both proud and sad to see most of my social work cohort graduate this year – but I know that the Social Work school and community will continue to support my goals and interests.

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Here is almost all of the awesome dual degree group during the School of Public Health Orientation. Feel free to reach out to me if you have questions about the dual degree program here at UNC!

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Posted in Academics

Transitions

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Last week I felt like I entered a new realm entirely. How convenient that the week started with a solar eclipse! In many ways, solar eclipses signify transitions. Although I’ve completed two part time years with the UNC School of Social Work this next year is a HUGE transition for me. As a third year Distance Education student, this year is my first year as a full-time student. This meant recently having to quit my full-time job of several years. A number of emotions have coincided with this transition; excitement, nervousness, concern for financial stability and course workload, and curiosity for where this next year will lead me.

This is also the first time in over 10 years I’ve been considered an “intern”. While there were many “pro’s” of doing my foundation placement through my employer, I didn’t get a sense of being in a completely new learning environment. With only three days so far in my field placement, I don’t yet know exactly how I will be viewed in the primary health care clinic I’m placed and how I will be integrated into the site. At first, I thought I would dread the transition from a full time employee workweek with agency, responsibility, and ownership. But while I miss my job tremendously, (I was a Program Director for an AmeriCorps program at UNC) I have felt a new and exciting energy in my field replacement that I know will allow me to grow and develop my career in imperative ways. In field this year, I’ll get to work with adults and children, English and Spanish speaking in both individual treatment and group therapy. Treatment modalities will include CBT, solution based treatment, mindfulness, motivational interviewing and many more techniques. I’m pleased to be able to continue to develop macro level skills in program development and needs assessments, but also excited to dive into more concentrated direct level practice.

Whether you’re a new student in the MSW program, or are considering applying, I’m here to tell you, YOU CAN DO THIS. Yes, this program is a big commitment, but is it worth it, YES! Rather you knock it out in 2 years or continuing working and do one of the Distance Education programs, it is achievable and you will have a team of support on your side.

I oftentimes remind myself- This program is temporary, voluntary, and for a greater good!

Posted in Uncategorized

Transition into the FINAL YEAR!

Looking back on the last two years and it feels like time flew by. I’ve learned so much and have grown professionally as well in my personal life. To complete my final year in the Winston-Salem Distance Education(DE) program, I have classes on Mondays and Tuesdays in Chapel Hill. I thought that I would be nervous but I am beyond excited!

I feel that it is time for a change of scenery and there is an indescribable feeling that you get while walking on campus. This campus is beautiful by the way! I’ve always wanted to be a Tarheel and had no clue that this opportunity would come about during my graduate career. Thanks to the awesome faculty of this MSW program, my transition has been smooth. My previous academic advisor (from the Winston-Salem DE program) took the time to introduce me to my new academic advisor on campus. I was able to meet on campus professors along with faculty members that assist with student affairs and financial aid. The graduate students that have spent time on campus are so welcoming and willing to give advice, tours, and suggest great places to eat.

For the most part, I’ve mastered parking and catching the bus which helped decrease my anxiety. Now it’s time to catch up with my old cohort while meeting and mingling with students from the full-time and Triangle distance program. We will all walk across the stage together in few months.

Let the countdown begin!

Posted in Academics, In the Classroom, Uncategorized

Kicking the Can Down the Road

Fall semester 2017 is decidedly underway. It’s hot, I’m ordering textbooks, there are a bajillion more humans on campus than there were 3 weeks ago, and I find myself uncoordinated and floating about with  general confusion until a new routine is found. Yep, sounds like August.

Many have made mention of the “Last first day of school” and over the summer, “Can you believe that by this time next year, we will have graduated” was thrown out casually in conversation (there’s nothing casual about that thought! Are you kidding me?!). For me, it feels like I just thumbed through a long book and realized I only have a couple chapters left- the true magnitude of this whole story of grad school just came screeching into perspective. In my case however, the grad school story started long before my first day at UNC… and the first several chapters had a lot of plot development and good ideas, but not a lot of action.

If you are looking at this because you’re thinking about applying to grad school, maybe you can relate.

In Augusts past, textbooks, a college campus, and figuring out a new routine were not involved. For years, August meant existential crises (kidding- sort of) and the frustration that I let another year go by without applying to a graduate program that I would or “should” have been starting around this time. What gives, man? Why do I keep kicking the can down the road?

Recently, I learned a witty description for a phenomenon that plagues many of us- “paralysis by analysis.” That was it for me. I was so hung up on :

  • What degree and license should I go for? MA, PhD, MSW, LCSW, LCAS, LPC?
  • Am I competitive enough to get into these programs?
  • What school should I go to?
  • How will I make X, Y, and Z life changes to go to school?
  • What do I want to do when I get out of school?
  • WHO AM I?????

It spirals out of control pretty easily and I spent years trying to figure out those questions…. And then there’s the GRE. I hate the GRE. The GRE is more useful to admissions staff by keeping thousands of potential applicants from applying at all than by providing a measuring stick for current applicants. I spent as much time trying to figure out the above questions as I did compelling myself to study for the GRE and feel confident enough to take it. Ultimately, one year, I just took it. I found out that UNC’s Distance Education program in Winston-Salem offered a GRE test-prep “crash course,” signed up for that (IT WAS AWESOME… SERIOUSLY, DR. SOUDERS WAS AMAZING), read through the test-prep book, and took the test feeling entirely unprepared. I did… ok.

So how did I end up here, starting my final year of this MSW program? Action! And there’s no recipe. What worked for me will not work for everyone else! It is unique to each person and to their circumstances. I reached out to people for advice on the above questions, and I faced the fear of standardized testing. It is not easy by any means and that took me a few years to overcome… but it’s happening! Short story-long, if you need help figuring out any of your questions, or even what questions to ask, reach out to someone at the school. Go to the SSW page (http://ssw.unc.edu/admissions) and get some perspective. Come to an info session, even if you’re not sure if an MSW is right for you!

Just starting the process may be harder than the actual schooling!

 

 

 

Posted in Academics, Outside of the classroom

Beginning the School Year

The first day of classes at UNC’s School of Social Work is not that different from many other first day of classes. The hallways are full of returning students greeting each other after a long summer break, first year students trying to find their classrooms and professors running back and forth between it all. As a first-year student, there are a few things you can do to prepare that will help you adjust to life as a MSW student.

First, take advantage of all the social and orientation events the school offers. Beginning with the SAGE Orientation and going all the way to the school picnic, there are many opportunities to get to know your fellow students. Though the program may seem big and unknown, it’s a small and friendly community that is always excited to welcome new faces.

Second, don’t be afraid to ask questions. During the first couple of weeks, it can sometimes feel like an overload of information. Give yourself some time to review over the syllabi, curriculum information and other material and then follow up with the appropriate people. Don’t wait until the night before a big project is due to ask the professor a question about the assignment.

Third, give yourself a break. The beginning of the year can be stressful for a lot of people. Between starting an internship, adjusting to graduate level classes and meeting new people, there’s a lot to do. Make sure to give yourself some time for self-care and allow yourself to relax. Soon everything will fall into a routine and things won’t be as daunting anymore but for the time being, take a deep breath and make sure you have enough energy to tackle everything on you plate!

The first semester will fly by before you know it and soon you’ll be a grad school pro.

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Students and Faculty Compete in a Sing-Off at the Annual School Picnic

Posted in Academics, Events, Getting Involved, Outside of the classroom

Support

Here we go…the start of a new semester. I cherish this time when I still feel refreshed and can indulge in fun activities before my free time rapidly dissolves in the coming weeks. After having the School of Social Work building to myself and my advanced standing cohort during the summer, it feels exciting but a little too loud and bustling. It’s been great to witness other social work students embracing each other after a summer away. It seems that everyone knows each other. I know some people…it’ll get there. As I begin to settle in to this semester I find myself feeling very grateful for the immense support already shown to me by the faculty and staff at the School of Social Work I feel prepared and informed. Now it’s just proving to myself and others around me that I can do this, that I can obtain a Master’s degree in 12 months. Easy.

Now, I do want to say a few things about heightened racism and white supremacists as a social work student. Last night, I was able to join forces with a large group of students and community members gathering at the confederate monument on UNC’s campus-known as Silent Sam. The crowd was largely voicing their opposition to the statue and wanted it removed from campus. While the police were on high alert and prepared for potential violence, the protest remained peaceful and respectful. I’m not really a “protest person” but found myself wanting to show up. At the very least, I wanted to learn about the history of the statue and it’s relevance to the school. It is our responsibility as social workers to pay attention to our surroundings and be educated about where we are and what we represent. And while confederate monuments act as a symbol of racism, it is only a part of the immense battle we take on as social workers. Social justice, and I would add racial equity, is what we stand up for every day, in big and small, but always meaningful ways. This is important. The world needs social workers right now. We cannot be afraid to use our voice.

To any current or prospective students, faculty, staff, community members, or family, know that if you need to talk about these difficult things, we as social workers are here to listen and to support you. We are here to fight and stand up against racism. And we are here to learn. Pay attention and take action but don’t forget to always take care of yourself. There’s a challenging and compelling school year ahead.

 

Posted in Getting Involved, In the Classroom, Uncategorized

Welcome Back Kotter

I am still coming to terms with the fact that this is my potential last first day of class (unless my mother has her way and I get my PhD). I’m looking forward to seeing my friends from school, catching up with professors, taking new classes, and starting my brand new field placement.  This time last year, I was just as nervous as my first day of elementary, middle, or high school…you know, when you have what some people might call butterflies, but I like to go with the less fancy but more accurate term: bubble guts.  However, this year, I feel confident about the relationships I’ve made during my time in the program and ready for the new skills I have the opportunity to acquire.  I will be taking courses that are geared towards macro practice and program development and evaluation, which will steer me towards my goal of researching and evaluating programs that can be effective in eliminating the school-to-prison pipeline. I welcome the opportunity to broaden my lens as it comes to social work in my Community Practice: Global Perspectives and Community: Theory and Practice courses as well as in my placement at Campus Y.

With a new school year comes new opportunities to stretch myself, learn, and reflect. I am hoping to delve deeper into my purpose, walk out of UNC for the second time with even more tangible skills, and watch UNC win another championship. Hey, anything can happen! 🙂 14918947_10103949260107908_4671036655799226671_o (1)

(pictured: some of the awesome members of my cohort!)

Posted in Uncategorized