I’m officially one half of an MSW! As finals week come to a close and summer arrives, I have began to reflect on my GSSW experience so far. Although I have learned a lot of facts and details about social work history, theories, policies, and research, this hasn’t been the most important part of my education. I learned the most about myself and about “real” social work through my experiences at my internship. I could probably go on for pages and pages discussing all of the valuable skills that I have developed, but I will stick to the most important…
- I learned the importance of balancing my life and making sure there was enough “me” time in there. I am the kind of person who enjoys having a lot on my plate–when I have any kind of down time, I get bored. However, I learned how important self-care is and that I need to make time to just relax so I don’t get burnt out too quickly.
- The concept of “person-in-environment” was re-enforced daily at my internship. Basically, it is important to understand everything that is going on in your client’s life in order to treat his or her behaviors accordingly. Often times, a behavior has nothing to do with the specific situation, but may have everything to do with an issue the client deals with at home or in school.
- I have also learned how to process my feelings better–at my internship I learned a lot about examining why certain children’s behaviors triggered me in certain ways. This has been an area of personal growth that will make me a better social worker.
Overall, I realize that my thought process has changed over the course of this year–I feel like I am truly starting to “think like a social worker.” Although I have learned a lot, I know I will learn even more during my second year. I am looking forward to next year’s classes as they are much more focused on a subject matter that I am passionate about (high-risk youth) and I can’t wait to start my new internship in the fall!
I wish you all the best of luck and hope you have a fabulous summer!!
Until next year,
I see some student blogs about the Field Fair that was held last week which signals our official start to the internship search for next academic year. Since then, all of our current first year students and our incoming Advanced Standing students have started interviewing for next year’s internships. A few students have found a match but most are still setting up interviews and meeting potential supervisors. At the same time our incoming first year students have also started their search. It’s probably safe to say that it is a rare agency in Denver who is not interviewing students for next year’s internships. If you have decided to come to GSSW and have deposited then you should have heard from our field department about setting up a meeting with one of us. (If you deposited 45 seconds ago then it might be a day or two before you hear from us so hang tight).
Because this is the season for internship searching, we continue to partner with new agencies. Last week brought 10 new agencies to our attention, including clinical sites as well as community internships with some of the highest ranking MSWs in the state. This week we have several more new agencies to visit. When we are out in the community meeting with potential internship agencies, we are always reminded of the social work dedication that is out there in our agencies and organizations. Somebody (a lawyer) recently said to me that he thinks social workers are one of the few remaining groups of people who do things for the right reasons……..I think that is quite a compliment for our profession, don’t you?
While it is always exciting to partner with new agencies, it is also always a treat to see our current agencies at Field Fair. How we manage to fit almost 150 agencies into one place with all of our continuing students is an event-planning feat that could only be accomplished by Andy, our Field Program Administrator. It has come to our attention many times that we are the “Ann & Andy” show and we are often asked where our Raggedy Ann & Andy dolls are–not the most original joke but anyway…. This question took new meaning at the end of Field Fair when our colleague David Rossi took pictures of the field team for the GSSW archives. Included in these pictures, as you can see, are the newest members of the field team–Raggedy Ann & Andy. For the first pictures taken, Andy & I weren’t available so David used the dolls as “place holders” for us–I’m not sure what to think about that but nevertheless…David tells us that these were his dolls from his childhood and that he always was afraid of them. We have assured him that we all have family-of-origin issues to deal with and hopefully he can now begin to put his fear of dolls behind him–he didn’t sound too optimistic about this but we’ll see.
We are very serious about helping students in the internship search process but we also know that in social work, a little laughter goes a long way toward keeping us all going.
We’d love to have you stop by the field office if you are visiting GSSW. You will be greeted by the real Ann & Andy, as well as the rest of our team.
At GSSW there seems to be a pretty balanced population of students who came straight to graduate school from undergraduate and those folks that have been working in the field for anywhere from 1 year to 25 years. From my perspective, there are benefits to both and both groups have a lot to offer classroom discussions, each having a different perspective on those populations that we will serve.
As a student that worked for a number of years before returning to graduate school, I find that those people that have worked tend to have had their “perfect world” bubble burst long before now. When you enter the field of social work, regardless of what you studied as an undergraduate, there is a definite period of time when you realize how little you were taught about the reality of the world we live in and the work that we will do as social workers. You are provided with a new lens through which to look at the clients we serve, the challenges facing non-profits and the discrepancies between the goal of public policy and their actual outcomes.
I value the time I spent in the workforce and feel that I’m a better graduate student because of it. It allowed me to find out what I didn’t want to do as a professional social worker and helped clarify/narrow down what I did want to do. I also believe that the pressures of work environments taught me to be a better student than I was as an undergraduate (though I was still an overachiever then, too).
This weekend I had the opportunity to participate in a unique activity with my internship. I intern with Girl Scouts of Colorado. Since Denver is the capitol of Colorado our local Girl Scouts have the opportunity to participate in numerous events that involve our political atmosphere. Last Saturday they participated in “Earth Hour.”
Xcel Energy sponsored our event and offered each Girl Scouting family to bring in their old incandescent light bulbs to trade out for Compact Fluorescent Bulbs that use less energy and create less waste. Also at the event our local Council staff (myself included) hosted a table where the girls could fold paper cranes to send to Japan in support of the recent tsunami and earthquake that happened March 11th. Each girl was able to make a few cranes to send off and then also received a instruction sheet for how to make more if they choose to.
It was powerful to be a part of this event – mostly because I got to witness young girls being involved in important issues like energy conservation and international support efforts. If young people make a habit of things like this early on, they are more likely to continue doing it in their future. Yay for empowering young girls!!
Here are some pictures from the event:
Hope everyone had a safe and fun holiday week/weekend! Here at GSSW, our Spring Break is slowly winding down as classes begin Monday the 20th. For me it has been a busy week. I continued my internship through break since I am behind on hours… a story for another time. It was also a good friend’s birthday, so we had a week of celebrations. Our first celebration was the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
The parade hosted in Denver is one of the nation’s longest St. Patrick’s Day Parades. I can attest that it kept going and going and going and going. Along with the long parade, the celebrations also kept going. The parade was on March 12th – and as many of you know, St. Patrick’s Day isn’t until March 17th. At any given moment throughout the week people could be seen sipping green beers and celebrating their Irish Pride (being Irish is not required, but a plus).
Here are some photos of the parade. If I can scrounge up some of the actual St. Patrick’s Day celebrations I’ll post those later.
This first photo is of a group of fellow 1st year GSSW students, the second is of a local Whiskey Distillery that made it into the parade and the third is of the Llamas that were wanting to promote St. Patrick’s Day… as you can see, the involvement in the parade includes all shapes, sizes and species!
Until Next Time!
As social workers, we learn about the importance of advocacy and empowerment. We are called to work with and serve those most marginalized and oppressed in our communities, but often forget that as students and professionals, we must also advocate for our own needs and learning opportunities. We each come into the profession with a unique set of goals about how we hope to learn and impact change, and often, in order to achieve those goals, we must be able to advocate for ourselves to create a constructive and challenging learning environment. Here are some advocacy tips:
Critically assess your own needs and have a firm grasp over your personal and professional expectations.
Work on creating open and transparent relationships with professors and field instructors/supervisors in order to allow for respectful and valuable dialogue.
Develop relationships with peers and colleagues to not only challenge and learn from one another, but also create a healthy learning environment in the classroom.
Maintain confidence in your own capacity and push and challenge yourself to build the networks needed to reach your academic and professional goals.
Although I have always known that I wanted to go into the field of social work, it seems like my choice in concentration within the field changes on a weekly basis. Coming into graduate school, my ultimate goal was to run my own non-profit that brings service-learning into the schools and into after school programming, specifically targeting high-risk populations of youth. During my first quarter of school I constantly went back and forth between the clinical and community track. I am passionate about working with high-risk youth so part of me wanted to focus on the clinical high-risk youth track, but another part of me wanted to learn the skills I would in the community track because they would be extremely beneficial to my ultimate career goals. By the end of my first quarter, I had settled on the clinical track because I want to have a clinical internship (specifically school social work) next year and not a community internship.
Throughout this whole decision process, I had also been considering participating in the animal-assisted therapy certificate. This past week, GSSW provided information sessions on the different certificates so I decided to attend the animal-assisted session. Even though I thought it was definitely something I wanted to do, I found that I was in it for the wrong reasons. I think that involving animals in therapeutic programs is a really interesting concept. The classes required for the certificate are very focused on the science behind animal-assisted therapy and it just isn’t something I’m interested in learning about.
I have been working with a family at my internship this year that has dealt with a lot of trauma and it has become a passion of mine, so I also decided to attend the information session on the interpersonal trauma certificate. After listening to the director of the program talk about the certificate, I immediately knew it was something I wanted to do. In order to complete the certificate, your second year field placement needs to be focused on working with clients who have experienced some kind of trauma. I have decided that I really want to try out school social work next year and, luckily, it looks like there are plenty of school sites that offer trauma related social work internships. So, I decided that when I grow up, I want to be a school social worker focusing on interpersonal trauma!
To all of you who are still undecided about what you want to concentrate your studies on, please don’t worry about it!! Your first year at GSSW is all about figuring out who you are and what you are passionate about, so enjoy every second of it and take advantage of all of the learning opportunities you can. I promise you will figure it out (even if it changes every week for your entire first year)!!
Faculty and staff at GSSW are a great source of support and provide mentorship important for both my personal and professional development. Through a network of open and willing faculty and staff, I have been able to pursue my academic interests with a focus on research and collaboration. Currently, I am working on an independent study with a faculty member through which I have explored my interests in environmental justice and social work theory and practice. Not only has it challenged me in my writing and critical thinking skills, but it will also culminate in a presentation open to faculty, staff, and students at GSSW. Seeking out mentors who align with my interests and professional goals has been critical for tailoring my social work education to meet my current needs and prepare for life beyond GSSW.
One of the valuable components of field placement for me has been to observe the dynamics, issues, concerns that occur within the agency. Even the limits of physical space pose interesting challenges that can impact clients and staff. On a side note, I’m also feeling much more confident about my position as part of a transdisciplinary team. As I’ve been implementing social/emotional behavioral stategies with clients, so I’m excited to gain some focused clinical experience.
Yes, that’s what I did! Though we have structured coursework, there is often room for a more creative and personalized spin to projects and writing assignments. For our foundation year clinical practice class, we were asked to select an autobiography or memoir to read and analyze from a developmental approach. I chose to read Persepolis, a graphic autobiography that tells the childhood story of Marjane Satrapi during the Islamic Revolution in Iran. With a professional interest in international social work and the role that art plays in trauma, Satrapi’s Persepolis offered a unique and challenging way to gain insight about the intersection of sociocultural and political factors and childhood development. The graphics provided an extra layer of depth that kept me both engaged and challenged throughout and allowed me to integrate my personal interests in a professional way.