Graduation Hindsight

Graduation brings a mixture of grief and excitement. Grief, due to the melancholy realization that the MSW journey has come to an end; being a student is wonderful in so many ways. And excitement, for the next step and for honoring all this hard work(!)

For my last blog, I’d like to share with anyone who may read, things I wished I had done differently and those that went just fine:

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I wish I would have…

      took the first year (and second, for that matter) internship search process waay slower. While I think any internship can be a learning experience, I wish I would have explored a wider range of options, especially since I’m one of those ambivalent community/clinical students

      been way more involved at GSSW!!! I tried to get involved in clubs/student orgs my second year but really wish I would have hit the ground running from the onset. Let’s just say your GSSW classmates accomplish some amaaazing things. 

      entered a race or some sort of sports league. intramural leagues are available through the Ritchie center but I never jumped on it. Keeping a regimented and sane exercise routine proved difficult to say the least.

      taken classes in different concentrations. I chose OLPP, which was fabulous. However, the one clinical class I took was very enriching and I wish I would have branched out more from the onset…there’s that ambivalence again!

I’m patting myself on the back for…

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       doing the Certificate for Social Work with Latinos/as. Not only did this program help me explore my own mixed race identity and what that means for my social work practice, I got to truly get to know 10 amazing people. Developing relationships aside, the type of teaching within the certificate really allowed me to be vulnerable, take risks, and grow as a result. 

figuring out my work-school-social-home life balance. Having work-study and a part-time job almost seemed like too much at first, but it ultimately worked and the extra dollars cut down on the stress of making ends meet.

moving to the mountains! It seemed way to far away but i absolutely love it out here and the drive is totally worth it.

     pushing myself to learnIn my opinion, regardless of the instructor, you get what you put into any class. Admittedly challenging at times, I’m glad I tried my darndest to do the readings, be present in class discussion, and put effort into assignments. As a result, I feel changed for the better and grateful for the opportunity to learn and develop as a person, and as a social worker. 

A Student Perspective on the Certificate for Social Work with Latinos/as

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The certificate program consists of 4 mandatory classes and a field placement that includes at least 30% time in Spanish. The four classes are:

1. Critical Perspectives in the Latino Context: taught by Oscar Samoza, this class is a great way to get a taste for using Spanish academically and to draw upon the wealth of knowledge Oscar brings to the table. Less focused and structured than other classes, this was also a great space to get to know classmates and hear about Oscar’s background. This was on class that was always a joy to go to. Oscar is open to discussing anything anyone may have curiosity about, including slang and Latino film. PMX6

2.Social Work and Mexican Culture: this class is the trip to Puebla, MX. I know in the future students will have the option of going to Costa Rica which honestly saddens me a bit. Especially if you are invested in the politics of immigration and working with Latinos/as in Colorado, Mexico seems indispensable. The two weeks in Puebla ended up affecting me very profoundly as a Mexican-American and as a social worker. While the immersion part of the trip is really up to everyone in the room (and at times was difficult to keep up), the cultural immersion and educational components were extremely impactful in deepening my understanding of US-Mexico relations and the experience of everyday people.

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3. Social Work Interventions with Latinos/as: this was a great way to continue connecting with students from the trip as well as others passionate about affecting change with/for this population. This course covered a wide variety of topics and lent itself to the clinical context, particularly challenging in Spanish. The guest speakers were fabulous and the site visits worthwhile. This might be tough for my fellow macro folks but helpful nonetheless.

4. Social Development in Latin America: I have yet to take this course and will updated when I do! So far, I have heard good things and know it will be offered over two weekends in English.

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Aside from the academic aspect of this program, there is a strong community-building component. Personally, I had hoped to make stronger ties at GSSW, however that can be a challenge with the quarter system where there are long breaks and extreme bouts of busy-ness. The certificate program was exactly what I needed and I feel very close to those in the program. The two people I roomed with are people I spend a lot of time with now.

In addition to classroom learning and friendship, the certificate coordinator, Stephen Von Merz is a really great support system. His experience and willingness to share expertise is invaluable. I personally have gained a lot from him being my adviser and have come to consider him a mentor.
PMX2All in all, the Certificate for Social Work with Latinos/as has been extremely formative in my graduate education, shaping my passions, cementing my language abilities, and linking me to amazing individuals.

Why you should present at the Grad Research and Performance Summit

Last week, a group of students from the Certificate for Social Work with Latinos/as and I presented at the DU Graduate Research and Performance Summit (DU RAPS). Along with a handful of other MSW students, we contributed our perspective and shared a framework that can often be quite different from that of other academic programs.

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Specifically, we shared our experiential learning from the Puebla, MX trip and discussed our views on immigration, influenced both by our classroom learning and field experience. Overall,  presenting at DU RAPS was challenging and valuable as a growth experience. We were placed in a section titled “Power, Privilege, and Resistance” with one other presenter from GSSW, one from Performance Studies, and one from Communication Studies. I was proud to be contributing to the conversation from an applied perspective and to be learning from others with differing theoretical frameworks.

I want this blog to encourage others to present in the future. We make up a significant portion of the Graduate student population on campus (totaling at approximately 6,000). We have strong foundations in social justice, human rights, and ecological approaches. We bring a perspective that differs from other departments, in that we directly apply our learning every week in our field placements. Furthermore, as professionals in the field, I think it is important to have these interdisciplinary dialogues outside of our social work-framed conversations. After all, if our aim is to effect social change, we can’t be relegated to conversations amongst one another.

Logistics

Just to demystify DU RAPS, here are some (I hope) helpful insights about the summit:

  • You can present on research, you can perform a piece, or you can reflect on experiential learning (something we are extremely well-versed in doing :)).
  • The application process is somewhat simple with just a 250 word abstract for the presentation.
  • Presentations happen in break-out rooms that are themed to group the different presenters together. Rooms can hold up to 50 people. You have access to things like power-point or images if that seems appropriate.
  • Your presentation can be no longer than 10 minutes but it’s more of a gentle warning rather than a cut off.
  • The facilitator will draw connections between the presentations and ask for you to dialogue.
  • Everyone is very welcoming and in the spirit of encouraging this cross-disciplinary event.
  • There is free food!

I hope to see more GSSW presenters in the future and I hope we all grow from the interdisciplinary dialogues this event promotes.

The Work-School Balance

As a work-study student in the admissions office, many prospective students ask me if people work in the program, if it’s possible, and if not, how on earth does anyone make ends meet?

When I first came to GSSW for orientation, I remember worrying about my future schedule, consisting of work-study, internship, class time, and a part -time work schedule. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do it and wondered if anyone else was experiencing the same sense of hesitancy. On that first day, I sat next to a woman who, it turned out, had a full-time job, kids, and was in the full-time 2-year program! I decided to keep my little worries to myself as it became clear that others had similar if not more demanding schedules.

What I’ve learned over the past year and a quarter is that, yes, working and going to school is possible. Not only is it possible, many of my classmates make it happen. We are all under the stress of an intensive program but we all also need to eat and have shelter. So, my answer to prospective students is “yes, it is in fact more than possible to work and go to school.”

For those of you entering the two-year program full-time, I would suggest keeping a part-time work schedule. I find that if my work-time exceeds 20 hours a week, I become a bit frazzled. I also think it’s important to find jobs that are somewhat flexible; after all, during the quarter, you may need to pull an all-nighter or cut your hours a bit, but for the rest of the year, your schedules open up. Lastly, I would remind you that you are not alone and that many in this program are both going to school and trying to sustain life (and that both are important to succeed).

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In solidarity,
Julie

Public Transit in Denver

My old minivan, after years of valiant service, was taken out by a famous (yes, famous) Denver dip. I’ll admit, at first, I was thrown into panic at thought of getting to internship, school, work, and fun outings without old faithful. The flames of this fear were fanned by the fact that I live way West, work way South, and want to be able to stay out late on the weekends.

Over the past 2 months, I have been pleasantly surprised that I can get just about anywhere I need in an hour or less. A few tips and notable noticings :)

1. As students, we get an RTD pass and therefore can enter ANY bus or light rail without any further out-of-pocket costs. This means no cash, no lost transfers, just a simple card that you tap against a magical reader thing. (FYI, a pass is anywhere from $80-$140 monthly, so take advantage)

2. That being said, I suggest, you keep this little gem somewhere safe as there are officers on almost every light rail that WILL ask you for your card and verify that you tapped it before boarding.

3. Google is your friend. The maps option under directions is fairly accurate. My only edit is to find stations that may take less transfers to get to as I don’t mind walking.

4. Plan ahead. If I’m traveling from Lakewood to Centennial, these are days I need to leave oddly early and plan my route the day before. Some buses only run every hour, so it’s always good to at least check on what your options might be. 

5. Light Rail is more reliable than Bus. The Light Rail almost always comes the minute it is scheduled (aside from the occasional game day or extreme weather hiccups). The buses are typically 5-10 minutes late. I learned the hard way not to plan on arriving anywhere just on time by bus.

6. The buddy system is still relevant. When out late, I prefer to have a friend or someone traveling a similar route so that I am never alone walking or waiting at stops during late hours. 

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In sum: Have no fear, Denver public transit is here! 

What to do with Visitors in Denver!

Recently, my family visited Denver and in the midst of midterms I was wondering, “what in the heck am I going to do with you?” 

For most, the promise of micro-brewed beer and hiking is enough but my mom doesn’t drink or hike….sooooo?

Here are the activities we partook in throughout the weekend:

Day One: Explore Golden and surrounding area

1. Buffalo Bill’s Grave

  • Hokey but fun to read about the history of the wild wild west. For instance, did you know Buffalo Bill was Colonel? 
  • Awesome overlook of the city and into the beautiful mountains surrounding Denver
  • Minimal hiking with still a look into some lovely landscapes
  • On the way out there is also an old Mansion that is an historical place and open to the public

2. Coors Brewing Tour

  • Up until 4pm Thurs-Mon, you can tour Coors Brewing Company for FREE. 
  • While my mom does not like drinking, seeing the inside of this factory was pretty amazing
  • 3 free beers!

3. Golden Gate Canyon Park

  • Since Mt Evans wasn’t driveable, this was a great alternative. We were able to get high enough in altitude to see some snow.
  • There is a cheesy little gift shop at the visitor’s center with a nice little loop that is flat and mom-friendly.

4. Dinner in Golden!

  • Golden has a very cute little downtown with a lot of places to eat
  • We also ate some delicious ice cream (peanut-butter chocolate=amazing!)

Day Two: Downtown Denver

1. Denver Art Museum

  • There is a neat exhibit right now at the Denver Art Museum called “Passport to Paris.” This was definitely a great way to spend a few hours.
  • Also the Museum Cafe was a nice place to grab a coffee and pastry to rejuvenate. 

2. Capitol Building

  • This site is a good spot to explore and view downtown
  • We were there during the Rock and Roll Marathon so we watched the race for a bit

3. Colorado Mint

  • Unfortunately, this building was closed but it is our plan to return with the fambam during the week.

4. 16th Street Mall

  • This is a nice walkable outdoor mall that gave my mom a chance to experience more of downtown Denver
  • Also a good spot to grab dinner!