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! 

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Dancing with the Dean 3.0

Ever wondered what its like to see the Dean of a Graduate School dancing on a dance floor to the latest music? Well our students don’t have to wonder as they get to experience it first hand!

This year marks the 3rd year that GSSW has hosted Dancing with the Dean. This student program is designed to help students have a break from their studies, and have a fun evening of socialization, dancing, food, and drinks.

This year we had some great food such as:

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Great food provided by GSSW for all guests.

While GSSW Dancing with the Dean 3.0 is planned for students, the entire GSSW community is welcome to attend. Some staff and faculty attended including staff from the Office of Admission, and Office of Outreach. Many faculty also came to support the students and have a fun night out! A few alumni of GSSW surprised us with a visit along with all the partners, and family of our faculty, staff, and students.

One fun activity was the photo booth where students, staff, and faculty could have fun. Below are some sample pictures of how creative our students, staff, and faculty can be with their photo booth photos.

 

Thanks to Ann Petrila, Director of Field Education, and Clinical Associate Professor for watching over, and dressing up students with props!

Dancing with the Dean is a program that is becoming a tradition here in GSSW. The staff, faculty, and students thank everyone for coming out and having a fun night!

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Acknowledgements:

A BIG thank you goes out to the planning committee which included: Michael Acanfora – 1st year MSW student, Carrie Krol – 1st year MSW student, Richard Bishop -Program Coordinator, Linda Clark – Assistant Dean for Administration, Lynda Ricketson – Director of Development and Alumni Giving, Dr. Eugene Walls – PhD Program Director & Associate Professor, Dr. Romona Beltran – Assistant Professor, Karen Bensen – Assistant Dean for Community Academic Programs & Clinical Assistant Professor, Ann Petrila – Director of Field Education & Clinical Associate Professor.

Snogging with Giraffes

Over winter break, I was lucky enough to participate in the Conservation Social Work course in Kenya.  It was a life-changing experience that has completely changed my outlook on life as well as impacted my professional goals.  The Conservation Social Work in Kenya course is offered to concentration year students and is part of GSSW’s animal-assisted therapy program (although you are not required to be in the animal-assisted social work certificate to participate).  Throughout the fall quarter, we met every couple of weeks for class and then we traveled to Kenya for 2 weeks over the winter break.

It would take me pages and pages to describe my entire Kenya experience, but here are a couple of stories from my trip:

  • This is the fun story…We had the opportunity to visit the Betty and Jock Leslie-Melville Giraffe Center where we got to feed and pet rescued giraffes.  After getting to know them a little bit most of us chose to get up close and personal with the giraffes, allowing them to eat pellets of food off of our lips.  It turns out giraffes are quite slobbery kissers and have large, black, sand-papery tongues.  (If you would like more information about the Giraffe Center, you can go to www.giraffecenter.org.)

 

 

  • This is the sad story…We had the chance to explore Kibera, which is the largest slum in Africa (and the 2nd largest in the world, behind India).  As we walked through the slum, we heard children chanting, “How-are-you?” and “Muzungo, muzungo!” (“white person, white person!”); we saw mounds of trash, mangey dogs, and lots of people; and we smelled cattle legs being grilled on fires.  It was extremely intense and like nothing else I have ever seen in the United States.  All of the homes were made of mud and sticks with sheet metal as rooves.  Most of them had a “store” on their front porch and when you walked into the home there was generally one 10 foot by 10 foot room that 5-7 people lived in with no bathroom.  Most of us were completely speechless and even now, it is hard to really describe what it was like to visit Kibera.  Although it was sad and emotional, it was also frustrating on a larger scale.  The Kenyan government does not acknowledge that there are 3 million people living in Kibera (they say there are only several thousand).  They do not have any kind of medical care or job security.  In fact, the only time the government pretends to care about what is going on there is during election season.  Overall, it was an amazing experience to interact with the community and to see the struggles they are experiencing.

  • This is the perspective-changing story…In one of the villages we visited called Kasigau, I spent some time interacting with a family in their home.  When it was time to make lunch, they said that it was customary for the visitor to slaughter a chicken.  I had no idea how to react–I didn’t want to be disrespectful to the family, but there was no way I was going to be able to kill a chicken by myself.  Thankfully, one of my translators actually did the slaughtering, but I did help with the rest of the process.  While the whole thing was going on, one of the 13 year old girls asked me if I didn’t eat chicken.  I told her that of course I eat chicken, so then she asked me why this was such a big deal for me if I ate chicken.  I then had to explain to her that in the United States, we generally go to a grocery store to buy packaged chicken that no longer resembles a bird.  She could not understand this whatsoever–it just did not make sense to her that there were factories that supplied this type of food to us as consumers.  It really made me think about how disconnected we are from the food we eat in the United States.  As I have reintegrated into our society, I find myself passing by the meat sections in the grocery store and feeling sick because of how inhumanely those animals were most likely treated.  This experience really changed the way I think about the food I am putting into my mouth.

 

Overall, Kenya was an amazing experience and there are plenty more stories where these came from.  While we were in Africa, our class actually attempted to blog about our experiences.  So if you are interested in learning more about the things we did while we were there, you can visit http://learn2conserve.wordpress.com

A Double Attraction…

I’ve been pulled in two directions… I have to balance a tug of war between my competing attractions: international human rights and social work. One day, my thoughts slowly drift into an international world of theory. My brain is twisted in a million ways, forced to conceptualize the complexities of human rights and human wrongs. And then, the cloud that surrounds my thoughts dissipates and forces me to fall to land where community social work practice is my mantra.

It has been difficult to balance this double attraction, this multidimensional gravitation that seems to make my life incredibly complicated and incredibly interesting simultaneously. But…it is a worthwhile endeavor. I feel like my brain is being worked in every way possible, forced to understand the delicate and necessary balance between theory and practice. Who says I can’t have the best of both attractions?

Studying both international human rights and social work has opened my eyes to the diversity of options that lay before me as I enter the professional world. This coming summer, I will have to opportunity to spend two months in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where I will have an international social work field placement that integrates my intersecting interests. It will allow me to explore international opportunities for professional development and understand the complexities of NGOs and international nonprofits. Importantly, knowledge from my international human rights education has opened my eyes to transnational migration flows that lead many people to the United States, people with whom I interact daily in my current field placement with a community organizing nonprofit. A global knowledge base contributes greatly to my understanding of social work practice and is increasingly important in our transnational world. Ultimately, I hope it leads me to an academic social work position, where I can work with future students in the classroom and contribute to scholarly knowledge about the intersection of globalization and social work.

DU Health and Counseling Center

For the past 2 weeks I have, unfortunately, been battling with a nasty cold.  Lucky for me, the DU Health and Counseling Center (HCC) has been extremely helpful in getting me back to my normal, healthy self.

As a graduate student, you have four options in regards to health care (you can check them out at the following link: http://www.du.edu/duhealth/general/insurance/graduate-health-options.html).  I have chosen “Option 1” which includes the Health & Counseling Fee (HCF) as well as the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP).  By choosing this option, I have been able to go to the HCC as many times as I have needed to, free of charge.  I also have not had to pay out of pocket for any medications or lab testing.  Depending on the health care option you choose, the cost to see a medical provider or counselor will be different (it is very inexpensive if you do have HCF or SHIP though).

The HCC is also very convenient–it is located on campus and they offer same day appointments.  So if you wake up feeling extremely sick and need to see a doctor, you are able to call or go online and make an appointment for that day.  They also offer counseling services, including individual psychiatric services, substance abuse assessments, and group counseling.  I would strongly urge you, as prospective and admitted students, to consider signing up for either the HCF, SHIP, or both and to make use of them as much as you can while you are a student here.  For more information, visit their webpage at http://www.du.edu/duhealth/index.html.

Work Study

One of the perks of Graduate School financial aid is Work Study awards.  If you get it–accept it!

My work study experience has been really fantastic in the sense that while there are periods of time when we are really busy, there are often times when we are allowed to do our home work or read for class.  This time has proven to instrumental in my ability to get much of the class readings done and yet allow me evenings to spend quality time with my dogs and boyfriend without having to worry about how much reading/writing I need to do.

There are numerous work study options that you can choose from across campus.  I find it very convenient to do my work study in the GSSW building so that I can sneak in time between classes or at the end of the day without having to walk across campus.  There are positions in many of the GSSW offices, technology department or with professors.  Start looking for a position early for the best options but there are more positions available than there are students to fill them so if you get into a position where you’re unhappy, look around for another position and you’re likely to find something.