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Meet Our M.S.W. Students

Read about the experiences of students in the M.S.W. Program at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities’ School of Social Work.

Ellen Doering, Class of 2017

Ellen Doering

Concentration: Families & Children
Home State: Minnesota

Hi. I am from Dayton, MN. I chose to go to the University of Minnesota because it is known as one of the oldest and best schools for Social Work in Minnesota.

My concentration is Families & Children. I know that I want to work with those groups, so that was an easy decision. My secondary concentration is Clinical Mental Health. I chose that because I think the information provides a great background for all social workers!

My current field placement is at Andover Elementary School. I have done a huge variety of things this year at Andover. I teacher social-emotional skills to classes of kindergarten students. Also, I led groups for family change and social skills. Then, I worked individually with students on topics of anxiety, behavior, family change, bullying and friendship. I did some teacher consultation by providing support to them. Finally, I did anything else that came up from parent contacts to crisis intervention! My supervisor has been amazing and I have learned so much. I am excited to see what my second field placement will be!

To future students I would say to remember that it will all work out! Being a student at the School of Social Work can be tough, especially that first semester. But, it's important to remember that faculty and staff are so supportive, if you talk to them, they are so happy to help you and make sure you have what you need to be successful!

Contact Ellen at doeri057@umn.edu

Erica Laub

Erica Laub

Concentration: Clinical Mental Health
Home state: Oklahoma

I knew that I wanted to get the most out of my time in graduate school, so it was really important that I received an education full of opportunity. The University of Minnesota has a long history serving students of Social Work, and that really got my attention. Minnesota (and the North, in general) was completely uncharted territory for me. When I received notice that I had been selected as a DOVE (Diversity of Views and Experiences) Fellow at the U of M, I knew that taking the big risk to move across the country was meant to be. As a DOVE Fellow, I have been connected to other students from different graduate programs and disciplines, making my experience here even richer.

Another aspect that drew me to Minnesota was the opportunity to work in a large, urban city with culturally diverse populations. When I made the decision to go to graduate school, I wanted to make a career advancement; with that, I wanted to be challenged, and the rich, rigorous reputation of UMN's Social Work program was the right fit for me. Going to graduate school was the best decision I have made—maybe ever!

My chosen concentration is Clinical Mental Health. In Oklahoma, I was a Behavioral Health Assistant to a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. I also worked part-time as Certified Case Manager and Behavioral Health Rehabilitation Specialist for the state. After completing my graduate degree, I plan to return to working in integrated healthcare as a therapist, as well as pursue my own clinical license. Some of my interests include practice with alternative therapies, family therapy and veterans mental healthcare.

My foundation field placement is at Tubman Domestic Violence Shelter as an Adult and Family Advocate. At Tubman, I work with individuals and families that have been victims of domestic violence, job, and sex trafficking. Before starting my internship, I did not have experience working in a shelter environment. My supervisors have provided me with a countless number of learning opportunities working with victims of trauma. Although my ultimate goal is to become a psychotherapist, my foundation placement has provided me with a greater sense of the effects of complex traumas and how individuals may move forward.

My advice to future students would be to take advantage of the opportunities that may come your way. Your interests may change, so take the time to pursue what excites you. I took on a volunteer opportunity at Philips Neighborhood Clinic (known as PNC), a 100% student-run clinic within the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. Volunteering at PNC has connected me to other students in the field of healthcare, as well as the opportunity to practice crisis intervention and mental health treatment skills. One last piece of advice, get to know your cohort! Your friends and colleagues in SSW are great sources of support and fun when you need a break! When you take care of yourself, you are better able to help others.

Contact Erica at laubx009@umn.edu.

Timothy Colin O'Keefe

Colin O'Keefe

Concentration: Clinical Mental Health

I choose the University of Minnesota’s M.S.W. program because of the wide variety of research opportunities available to graduate-level students and because of the collaborative environment between professors, departments, and research centers. Having worked in a St. Paul program evaluation consulting firm for over three years prior to my enrollment at the U of M, I wanted a graduate program that focused on developing “research-savvy professionals and scholars” as described on the School of Social Work website.

Upon initial admittance into the School of Social Work, I chose the community practice concentration because it aligned well with my previous experience as a program evaluator and policy analyst. However, my priorities shifted after working as a shelter advocate and street outreach intern at St. Stephen’s Human Services in Minneapolis the summer prior to my first semester. This experience solidified my interest in chemical and mental health and I switched my concentration to this area. My desire is to work with individuals who have severe and persistent mental illnesses in a county agency, hospital emergency room, or acute psychiatric facility.

My foundation level internship is at the Hennepin County Human Service and Public Health Department in the Adult Access Unit working in tandem with a senior social worker service planner. The Adult Access Unit consolidates intakes to most behavioral and chemical health programs for adults within Hennepin County. As an intern, I am learning how to conduct client assessments for health and mental health needs and eligibility for county and community programs. I am also learning how to accurately write comprehensive service transfer summaries using interview information collected during the intake visit, diagnostic assessments, and past psychiatric admission and discharge documents. I enjoy the variety of individuals that we serve and our ability to visit clients in their homes or in a community setting. It has been a great experience thus far!

At the start of each class, challenge yourself to sit by students that you do not know very well and talk about your internship experience. With graduation only two years away for full-time/full-program students, the more connections you establish now will be a head start in the job market in the future!

Contact Timothy atokeef196@umn.edu

Nadia Sullivan

Nadia Sullivan

Concentration: Clinical Mental Health
Home state: Michigan

The University of Minnesota Master of Social Work Program offers specific concentrations of study that align with the various populations that a social worker is aiming to serve after graduation. When I was a prospective student I appreciated this aspect of the program. I looked into multiple schools across four states, and was disappointed to find that many M.S.W. programs only offer a general practice degree. I wanted specific training in clinical practice, and found that in the clinical mental health concentration at the University.

In my career before the M.S.W. program, I worked for a dual agency serving domestic violence and sexual violence victims. My full-time position was that of a peer empowerment counselor. I would meet with a caseload of 13-15 individuals weekly and created a safe space for them to process their trauma and set goals for healing. I loved counseling and being part of the healing process. The only downside was not being a licensed clinician. I could only provide short term crisis counseling and eventually would have to refer out for longer term therapy. It didn't take long for me to realize I wanted to become licensed and have the ability to employ therapeutic modalities for my future clients. Yet at the same time, I didn't want to lose the holistic, person-centered advocacy work I had come to love in working with trauma victims. Finding the clinical mental health concentration within a social work program is a perfect fit for me. It's a richer and well-rounded education.

My foundation field placement is at the Sexual Violence Center in north Minneapolis. As an advocate, I work the 24/7 crisis line both during the day and sign up for multiple night shifts. Additionally, I facilitate a support group for adolescent, female-identified victims of sexual violence who are in recovery from chemical dependency.

In this placement there are many opportunities to serve victims of sexual violence as well as their family and friends. The agency trains how to support victims navigating the legal system through filing police reports and going to court dates; how to offer support groups in the community, provide peer empowerment counseling, and participate in community education in which advocates can engage the public in conversations about their experiences with sexual violence.

For future M.S.W. students, my best advice is to recognize that you are crafting your own experience. It is a time to seek out the experiences and knowledge you want that will contribute to your identity as a social worker. Feel empowered to go beyond the internship placements and classroom learning and seek out faculty who are doing research in your future field, look into committees both at the university and within the community, and take advantage of the volunteer opportunities held at agencies within the Twin Cities or at conferences and other events. There is plenty to do!

Contact Nadia at sull0590@umn.edu.

Maia Uhrich

Maia Uhrich

Dual Degree Student with M.S.W. Concentration in Community Practice: Organizing, Advocacy and Leadership
Home state: North Dakota

I am from Grand Forks, N.D., and decided to come to the University of Minnesota because of the unique opportunity the institution provides in the dual degree programs. The ability to receive a Master of Social Work and Master of Public Policy in three years will make me twice as marketable and satisfy my interdisciplinary interests. Also, I love living in the Upper Midwest and studying at a large, urban campus.

I am a Community Practice student in the School of Social Work. After I graduated with my bachelor's degree, I worked as a canvasser for a non-profit. This experience shaped my understanding of social problems and the power of creating systemic change through policy and civic engagement. I am a big picture thinker, and I hope to use both my graduate degrees to influence systems to redistribute power.

My first field placement was at St. Stephen's Human Services as a Family Supportive Housing case manager. Working in direct practice with families experiencing homelessness has been a great experience. Next year, I will be interning with Lutheran Social Services in their Advocacy department.

As soon as you get your class syllabi or can view them online, write down all assignments in a planner so you can plan ahead for the heavy weeks. Order as many books as you can through inter-library loan for free. Schedule a little time for yourself each week when you do not study or think about school.

Contact Maia at randk007@umn.edu.