Tania Martinez, MSW student with a concentration in Community Organization, chooses Mental Health and Substance Abuse in Social Work Practice as her focused area of study
Bachelor’s Degree: Central Connecticut State University, Bachelor in Spanish with a Minor in Sociology
I chose the University of Connecticut School of Social Work as the school I would attend to obtain my MSW the minute I stepped into their open house. I attended open houses at other Universities but the warm and welcoming environment I felt at UConn was unique. During the open house, I spoke with a professor who made me feel extremely welcomed and took the time to answer all of my questions. After talking with her, it only reconfirmed that the School of Social Work was for me. In addition, I did not know what concentration I should choose, or if I was even ready for the demands of a masters program. However, the School of Social Work staff talked to me about program options and I started taking STEP classes in that same semester.
While a STEP student the professors were very helpful. I talked with professors from different concentrations about their specific areas of focus. By the end of my last STEP class I knew I wanted Community Organization as my concentration. I wanted to learn about the macro systems and how to be able to challenge social problems in order to promote social justice. Knowing this aspect of social work is very important to me because of my prior experience which has been concentrated at the micro level. For me, it was important to be exposed and learn about the macro levels of social work in order to be a well-rounded and competent social worker.
My experience as a first year student was very enlightening for two main reasons; first, I learned about the theories and secondly, the field placement enhanced my learning. What I like about the School of Social Work is that the professors and the curriculum challenge my comfort zone and exposed me to new areas of social work, but at the same time I never felt alone. I knew that if I ever had questions the professors would be there to assist and support me in overcoming obstacles, and taking on new challenges.
The School of Social Work provided not only a high-quality learning experience but also accommodated my internship needs. I work full-time and I was able to use the agency where I work to do an employed social work placement. This flexibility allowed me to be able to concentrate on my education, learn from my field placement, and furthermore enjoy my overall experience. During my field placement I went into the community to engage local businesses and partner in a program called EMPLOY, which helped adolescents involved in the court system, obtain employment and learn job skills. During my field placement I always had supervision and the support that I needed.
Unfortunately during my first year I was not able to join any student sub-organizations due to my work and other commitments. However, based on my experience attending some presentations and conferences, I could say that they were very informative. I would recommend new students to take advantage of the, opportunities the School offers to students. Furthermore, after my first year I knew it was very important to share what I learned with new students. Therefore I signed up for the Building Bridges Program and became an ambassador to assist new students ease their transition into the MSW Program.
My advice for new students would be to try to participate in as many gatherings because they give you an opportunity to learn, talk with other students who share a similar passion, and who understands what you are going through. Also, always try to talk with your professors; they are very understanding and passionate about their works. In addition, time management is very important since you may feel overwhelmed at times. It is important to balance your professional, educational, and personal life because everybody needs time to take care of themselves.