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Student Profiles: Butt on Casework

Heather Butt, a UConn MSW student with a concentration in Casework, chooses Mental Health and Substance Abuse in Social Work Practice as her focused area of study

Bachelor’s Degree: Loyola University Chicago, Bachelor Degree of Social Work

I graduated in 2008 with my BSW, and worked in the field for a few years before returning to graduate school. I researched many different MSW programs, and ultimately applied to and visited five different schools. Knowing that I would be attending graduate school for only one year as an Advanced Standing student, I wanted to make the most educated decision possible. At UConn’s open house, I was able to talk to a variety of members of faculty and administration. The people I spoke to took the time to listen to me and answered all of my questions. I was treated with respect and felt as if the benefits between myself and UConn’s School of Social Work would be reciprocal. It seemed that I would be challenged, yet receive support when needed. I was so struck when a student wept in gratitude while speaking about the sense of community she experienced while attending UConn’s School of Social Work, despite living far from campus. That was what I wanted. I drove home feeling so excited about the prospect of being a part of this program.

My mantra going into and through my time at UConn has been this: “I only have one year.” I believe that my education is an investment in my future, and deserves my time and energy. I engage myself in my learning and participate in the classroom. I won’t have this opportunity ever again, and I intend to make the most of it.

I have had dedicated professors who are able to bring their years of experience in different areas of social work into the classroom. For every hypothetical situation a student presents, my instructors have had a related case. They have answered every question, and engaged the entire classroom in the conversation by drawing in experiences from our field placements. Classroom learning translates into more well-rounded service in the field. Furthermore, learning a variety of theories and approaches has helped me to view clients from different perspectives. As beginning social workers, sometimes our interventions are intuitive. By learning these different theories, suddenly, they have a name, a framework, and a history of evidence for why they are effective within a specific population or condition.

My field placement at a therapeutic alternative school, near my town of residence, has been a wonderful fit. I am able to meet with clients one-on-one, which lends experience for my desire to do clinical mental health work. However, I have also gained experience in case management and group facilitation, as well as the ins and outs of working in special education in a school setting. It has been an excellent learning opportunity.