Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What’s it like to be a….Social Work Professor?

What does a normal day look like? Is it consistent throughout the year? If youíve had this position for a while, how have things changed? 
My day is varied and includes preparation and teaching of classes to social work majors, participation in departmental and college wide committee work, and academic advising.

What other, if any, positions have you held prior to your current job? How did you get to where you are now?
My background in social work is also varied.  I worked full time while working toward my Masterís Degree in Social Work:
I worked as a career counselor at a technical college, working with young people completing certificate programs to write resumes and cover letters, prepare for interviews, and search for jobs. 
In addition to this I worked briefly at a pre-natal clinic for low-income mothers in Irvington, NJ. I worked directly with the pregnant mothers and the medical professionals to connect the women and their families to needed resources including housing, food stamps, Medicaid, and where necessary, substance abuse treatment. 
After this I worked in Newark, NJ as a supervisor with the Court Appointed Special Advocate Program (CASA). This is an organization that works with the courts to help oversee cases of child abuse and neglect and to advocate for the children and families in order for the children to move toward permanency, either back at home with their parents or toward adoptive families. 
My most recent work, prior to teaching, was working with homeless women and children and in the development of low-income housing, including permanent supportive housing, transitional housing, housing for persons with AIDS (HOPWA), senior housing, and housing for people with disabilities.  Most of this work was done with Lutheran Social Ministries of NJ and also in Grand Rapids with Genesis Non Profit Housing Corporation.

I got to where I am now by always learning that regardless of what job I found myself doing at any given time, that there were valuable lessons, skills, and abilities to learn which could be transfered to my next position.

What kind of training/education did you have? What would you suggest? What qualifications/skills/attributes make someone successful in this position?
I have an undergraduate degree in Sociology from Rutgers University, Livingston College and a Masterís in Social Work from Rutgers Graduate School of Social Work.  I am currently working on my Phd. in Sociology at Michigan State University.  I have finished all my course work (ABD) and am working on my dissertation.  My suggestion for education is that there is no single answer to how individuals should move through their education and career choices.  Each person will be faced with challenges and opportunities and make decisions based on those things.  I truly believe that if you are mindful of Godís plan and presence in your life, you will move in that direction.  Some more quickly than others but each according to Godís will.

What are the rewards in your position? Challenges? What makes a good day for you?

Ten years ago when I started my position at Calvin, it was the interaction with the students that I loved the most about my work.  Today, the same is true.  I enjoy the students with whom I interact.  A good day for me is a conversation with a student who just experienced something in class or at their internship or relationships that made them think deeply about the world around them.  Balancing work, scholarship, Phd studies, family, church, etc. continues to be challenging.

What trends or changes do you foresee in the next 5-10 years?
Academia will continue to be a faced paced and competitive field where publishing and scholarly work trumps much of the other work we do.  In the field of social work, challenges will continue to face both practitioners and their clients as a result of cut backs in spending and a reduction of the social safety net.  The ďAging of AmericaĒ will provide both opportunities and challenges for social workers.  Issues of immigration and immigration reform will be a challenge to social workers as we seek to find ways to serve the least of these.  Challenges in the health care field will also continue to be prevalent.

How could a person find out more about your field?

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and North American Christians in Social Work (NACSW) are two organizations that can provide information about the field of social work.  Also, talk to people working in the field and get involved at your local level, even if it is to volunteer.  This will give you a good idea of the opportunities and challenges in the field.

Posted by Bonnie Speyers on 05/12 at 09:45 AM

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