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Student Profiles: Hathaway on Casework

Melanie Hathaway, MSW student with a concentration in Casework, found UConn SSW to be dedicated to providing many opportunities to broaden perspectives

Bachelor’s Degree: Kutztown University, Bachelor of Arts in Professional Writing

I returned to graduate school after a career in fundraising and marketing with United Way, most recently with Middlesex United Way. In this work, I helped raise funds for the types of health and human services in which I would now like to be more directly involved. I was inspired by stories of individuals and communities transformed by programs supported by social workers, including clinicians, case managers, community organizers, and program administrators. I also saw the impact that resulted from policy-level work while at United Way, such as the implementation of 2-1-1, a state-wide crisis intervention, information and referral hotline that operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

I chose the University of Connecticut School of Social Work first and foremost because of the well-established reputation of the school in providing a rigorous and well-rounded curriculum. Second, I knew that my background had limited my exposure to and understanding of other cultures and ethnicities, and that UConn was dedicated to providing students with many opportunities to broaden their perspectives. I knew that while my grasp on theory and practice models and the development of my clinical skills could be honed in many settings, my ability to provide culturally competent social work practice required a university like UConn with its strong commitment to and value for human diversity.

One of the strongest aspects of the UConn School of Social Work masters program is the field education component. In my first year in the field, I interned at a rural school district in eastern Connecticut. The field work is not just a complement to your coursework but is integrally linked to the curriculum of your major methods classes. It is in the field that you can contextualize classroom learning and build partnerships with social work professionals to nurture your professional development. My advice to new students is to make sure that you advocate for yourself at your field agency to get the type of experience that you need to get the most out of your classes and develop professionally. The field education department staff, faculty advisors, and professors are helpful in assisting with this process as necessary.

My other advice is to get as involved as you can in student organization activities and campus seminars. As a mother of two young school-age boys, it is often difficult to do more than attend classes, put in my intern hours and study. However, I learned so much from the various seminars I attended, including lunch discussions hosted by PRIDE and a day-long Latino Health Summit. These types of experiences not only broaden my perspective and understanding but also help prepare me for being an advocate for critical social justice issues. I also look forward to representing students on the university’s Educational Policy Committee, which is responsible for all curriculum policy recommendations.