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.
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.
If only we could pay our internship supervisors for the work that they do with GSSW students. Unfortunately, almost all supervisors and field instructors agree to have a student intern because they are interested in being part of our students’ training and education. Over and over again we hear field instructors say things like “it is my way of giving back to the profession” or “I remember how important my supervisor was to me and I want to help a student learn”. We are very fortunate to have such a large pool of dedicated field instructors.
In order to be a field instructor or MSW supervisor, people must have had their MSW for a minimum of 2 years. They also need to be willing to spend the time that is needed to supervise a student and they need to know their area of social work practice well enough to teach somebody else. They also have to come to a field instructor training here at GSSW. Some of my favorite days here are those when we have supervisor trainings. Our field instructors are totally cool and it is a real treat when they are in the building! They are excited about having students and they really work hard to do a good job. They are open to feedback which goes a long way if there are problems that need to be solved.
We couldn’t do what we do here without the partnership of our field instructors. If you come to GSSW you will interview for your internships. We will encourage you to make sure that you fit well with the person who will be your supervisor. This is sometimes even more important than the setting that you are in or the specific work that you are doing because the most progress toward becoming a professional social worker comes through the guidance of a good supervisor.
Sometimes students intern at a place where they have more than one supervisor. You will always have an MSW supervisor but you might also have what we call a Task Supervisor. Task supervisors need to have an advanced degree and/or need to have been in the field long enough to be able to supervise an MSW student. For example, there might be somebody who has worked in a geriatric setting for 30 years but who does not have an MSW. That extremely experienced person might play a role in your supervision, along with your MSW supervisor. In other situations there might be a psychologist or nurse or teacher or doctor or even a lawyer who will be part of your supervisory team.
Let me know if you have any questions about our internship program. I can “talk internship” all day!
I’ve gotten several questions recently about how we pick our internship sites. There are several ways that agencies and GSSW become partners. Continue reading “How are agencies picked as internship sites?”