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Student Profiles: Shaw on Group Work

Brittany Shaw, MSW student with a concentration in Group Work, chooses Mental Health and Substance Abuse in Social Work Practice as her focused area of study

Bachelor’s Degree: Central Connecticut State University, Communication

I have always wanted to work in human services, to “make the world a better place,” in any way I could. During undergraduate school I worked as a Nursing Assistant at a nursing home that was in a deplorable condition. As a result of this job, it inspired me to pursue my Master’s in Health Care Administration. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always work out the way we plan, and I ended up taking a two year hiatus from school. After two years of reflecting on my passions and spending time with a fabulous mentor who happened to be a therapist, I decided that Social Work was definitely the field for me. I love the fact that this field has a wealth of opportunities available to me, that I am not restricted to one particular job. I intend to acquire licensure and practice clinical therapy, but there are countless other routes I can take in this field. As a future Master’s level Social Worker, the possibilities truly are endless.

I chose the UConn School of Social Work because of the School’s various concentrations, which make its program, stand out from other schools. During undergraduate school, nothing scared me more than public speaking. I would have rather written a 30 page paper than speak in front of my classmates. I chose to focus on Group Work for that exact reason. Rather than hiding from my fear, I have decided to conquer it. Group Work is a highly valuable tool to the mental health field; the techniques I have learned in group work courses have already proven helpful in both my first year field experience and my place of employment.
Whenever I am asked what I learned during my first year experience, two words come to mind: self-care. The importance of self-care is often overlooked, but it is so important that we take care of ourselves. This program is intense, but we have to take time out to do things we enjoy in order to prevent becoming totally overwhelmed. My field supervisor stressed this to me in almost every supervisory session we had, but I didn’t really “get it” until the middle of my first year. Once I started to do things for myself, I found it easier to manage classes, field, and work, and I didn’t resent the program nearly as much! Self-care is something you NEED to maintain; not just as a student, but in your practice as a social worker.

I have not participated in many school events, mostly due to difficulty adjusting to my first year schedule, but I intend to do so my second year. There are always things going on, and I think it is important to take the time to become invested in the campus community. There are many opportunities to make contacts, which may be beneficial for the future. The SSW works hard to provide us with opportunities for mentoring, education, and peer activity, and we should take advantage of this.

First-year students, TAKE CARE OF YOURSELVES! Go to the movies, get your nails done, spend an hour simply staring at the wall; just do something for yourself that isn’t school or work-related once a week! Also, talk to your professors. Most professors I’ve had were totally understanding and open to working with students. You shouldn’t feel that you’re alone in this experience, because you aren’t. Your peers know what you’re going through and we are rooting for you! Never feel embarrassed about needing support from the campus community-we all do.