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April 5, 2018

Mary Wilder, BSW Student
Hometown: Florence, SC

Social work was not Mary Wilder’s first or second choice for a major at the University of South Carolina. But her desire to help others was a perfect fit for her and the College of Social Work. Wilder is now president of the Undergraduate Student Social Work Association (USSWA) and will graduate next month with her Bachelor of Social Work degree. 

Why did you choose to study social work at the University of South Carolina?

“I started as a music major, then a business major and now I’ll be graduating with a social work degree. As soon as I got to the College of Social Work I said, ‘That’s it… I’m done. I know this is where I’m supposed to be.’ When I was completing assignments at the school of business, I kept asking myself, ‘How can I use this to help people?’ Then I met with Ms. James (former Student Services Coordinator Rushondra James) about switching my major. When she told me about social work, I knew this was exactly what I wanted.”

What do you enjoy most about studying at the College of Social Work?

“The opportunities are limitless because I have so many passions and interests. This program allows me to explore everything and not commit to one area. Some of my interests include advocating for criminal justice reform and working with foster children, and I’ve had experiences in both areas, so it’s never boring. If you’re getting bored with social work, you’re doing something wrong.”

What impresses you the most about the faculty and field instructors?

“The support of our faculty and field instructors is unlike any other program. Others may not be able to emphasize and help in the same way social workers can. They have always supported me and are always open and helpful by telling me, ‘What can I do,’ or Let’s work on this,’ or simply, ‘I understand.’ The faculty and instructors are like family.”

How did you become involved with the USSWA?

“I started looking for ways to be more involved last year and heard about the group from the president Kaitlin McLaughlin. She was organizing events, and I thought it would be fun to meet more social work students. Since I was going to be a senior and elections were coming up, I went for it and was elected president. It’s challenging at times to be president and get people to attend events because everyone is so busy, but this is such a young organization and there’s so much potential.”

How has field education furthered your social work classroom instruction?

"I’m currently at the South Carolina Department of Social Services, working within the foster care unit. It has put me in situations I would have never experienced, which can be very humbling. You can’t be judgmental, and it challenges any biases I may have had. It also inspires me to see what I can do in the future in not only finding problems but building on the positives and strengths.”

How would you describe social work in three words?

“Challenging… Rewarding… Necessary”

What are you plans after graduation?

"I will be in the Advanced Standing program at USC for my MSW and really interested in gaining more experience in correctional social work. One of my dream jobs that relates to correctional social work would be to have a program where dogs from shelters are brought into the prison system and the inmates learn to care and train the dogs and experience their unconditional love, so they are more likely to be adopted. There is one program, Greyhounds Pets of America, which partnered with the South Carolina Department of Corrections to take retired greyhound race dogs and put them in a women’s prison, where the inmates learned how to train the dogs before they were adopted."

The College of Social Work was well-represented at the 2018 National Association of Social Workers (NASW)-South Carolina Chapter Spring Symposium from March 21-23 in Columbia. Several faculty, MSW and Ph.D. students presented on topics including, human-centered design, rural health workforce and end of life care.

 

NASW SC John Martin Cara Bibeault Julia Toumey web

L-R: MSW students John Martin, Julia Toumey and Cara Bibeault presented at the workshop, Rural Matters: Appreciating and Investing in the Rural Health Workforce.

 

NASW SC Rebecca Christopher web

ICARED Program Coordinator Rebecca Christopher, presented at the workshop, Rural Matters: Appreciating and Investing in the Rural Health Workforce. The presentation provided education and best practices for interprofessional health services in order to enhance service deliveries for rural settings. Christopher, Martin, Toumey and Bibeault explored strategies to improve retention and capacity building for retaining healthcare workforce in rural South Carolina.

 

NASW SC Doward Hunter web

MSW student Doward Hunter presented at the workshop, Mosquito Net Usage Rates in Prevention of Maleria Transmission. Howard assessed insecticide nets ownership and utilization, and examined the possible reasons related to its lack of usage. His research was based on studies that found bed net distribution was less effective in reducing Malaria prevalence and the low utilization of bed nets once they are issued.  

 

NASW SC Brooke Chehoski web

Ph.D. student Brooke Chehoski presented at the workshop, My So-Called Life: Behind the Scenes of a Ph.D. Program. She spoke on the application process, comparisons to an MSW program, challenges of an independent scholarship and job opportunities.

 

NASW SC Flaherty Reitmeier Moran Iachini web

L-R: Ph.D. candidate Andy Flaherty, Dr. Melissa Reitmeier, Ph.D. candidate Mariah Moran and Dr. Aidyn Iachini. The group's presentation explored experiences of social work practitioners with translating an evidence-based intervention into practice. Data was presented from social workers recently trained in Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) to identify facilitators and implementation challenges. 

 

NASW SC Nicole Cavanagh web

Professor Nicole Cavanagh presented at the workshop, Managing the End of Life Care. She spoke on how social workers and health professionals can enhance their skills to maximize effectiveness in addressing critical palliative care needs facing patients and their families.

 

March is National Social Work Month, and the College of Social Work wants to know why social work is important to students and alumni. 

Students

Please answer one of the following questions in one to two sentences and send to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Your responses will be posted on the College of Social Work’s social media accounts throughout the month.  

Social work matters to me because:National Social Work Month 2018 web

I study social work because:

I enjoy social work field education because:

Alumni

Please answer one of the following questions in one to two sentences and send to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Your responses will be posted on the College of Social Work’s social media accounts throughout the month.

Social work matters to me:

What I enjoy most about working in social work is:

My social work education and field experience at the College of Social Work helped me in my career because:

 

SocialWork Standard CMYK transparent

 

Gehlert, S., Mozersky, J. (2018) Seeing beyond the margins: Challenges to informed inclusion of vulnerable populations in research. Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics. 

Andrews, C.M., Grogan, C.M., Westlake, M.A., Abraham, A.J., Pollack, H.A., D'Aunno, T.A., Friedmann, P.D. (2018) Do benefits restrictions limit Medicaid acceptance in addiction treatment? Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment 

Wooten, N.R., Pitner, R. O., Brittingham, J.A., Tavakoli, A.S., Jeffery, D.D., Haddock, K.S. (2018) Purchased Behavioral Health Care Received by Military Health System Beneficiaries in Civilian Medical Facilities, 2000-2014Military Medicine

Gehlert, S., Lee J.A., Gill, J., Colditz, G., Patterson, R., Schmitz, K., Nebeling, L., Hu, F., McLerran, Lowry, D., the TREC Collaboration and Outcomes Working Group, & Thornquist, M. (2017). The structure of distributed scientific research teams affects collaboration and research output. Transdisciplinary Journal of Engineering and Science

Hock, R. M., Yingling, M. E., & Bell, B. A. (2017) Time-lag between diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder and onset of publicly-funded EIBI: Do race-ethnicity and neighborhood matter? Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

Baxter, S. D., Guinn, C. H., Smith, A. F., Royer, J. A., Hitchcock, D. B. (2017) A need for empirical evidence concerning the accuracy of joint parent-child reports of children's dietary intakeJournal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 

Browne, T., Keefe, R.H., Ruth, B.J., Cox, H., Maramaldi, P., Rishel, C., Rountree, M., Zlotnik, J. & Marshall, J. (2017) Advancing social work education for health impactAmerican Journal of Public Health

Student Spotlight
Morgan Larch, BSW StudentMorgan Larch edited online

Senior Morgan Larch did not begin her collegiate studies at the University of South Carolina, but this spring she will graduate with a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree from the College of Social Work. Her passion for helping others has become a call to action. Larch and fellow BSW student Mary Wilder are currently collecting socks, gloves, scarfs, clothes and toiletry items for Columbia’s homeless.

You can leave items in the donation box across from the second-floor restrooms in Hamilton College, or make a monetary donation. Click here to watch ABC 6 Columbia’s story on the Spread the Warmth Winter Clothing Drive.  

Why did you choose the USC College of Social Work?

I started at Converse College in Spartanburg, SC, where I wanted to help people but did not want to be a teacher. I researched different majors and schools in the area and found social work, but the only thing I knew about it was paperwork. It did not seem interesting to me, but the more I researched, the more I realized it might be a good opportunity for me. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but it has become something I love.

What do you enjoy most about the College of Social Work?

I enjoy my cohort. We share the same classes, successes and frustrations and learn from each other. For example, I have a lot of support and backing from my cohort with the clothing drive. They also receive the same support for their events. I did not realize there were so many people like me, but it’s a great give-and-take relationship.

Where are you completing field education work?

I’m currently at Palmetto Health Richland Springs, a psychiatric and substance abuse facility in Columbia. When you do field education work, you apply what you learned and realize the importance of classroom education. Everything I learned from my intro and junior classes came together. I did not realize this until I started my field education.

What is one skill anyone interested in social work career should possess?

The skill I have learned over the past few years is empathy. Even if you have not been in the same situation as someone else, chances are you have had similar feelings, and you can draw on those experiences when talking with others. Social work is based on connections and relationships. These are essential when working with clients, and I have found empathy is a great relationship builder.

What advice would you give future social work students?

Social workers do not always get the appreciation, which is fine, because that is not what we are seeking. But working behind the scenes is important, which a lot of people do not realize. Whether you want to start your social work journey in service learning or volunteering, there are different social work avenues, such as research and clinical settings. It is not just a linear path, but several different directions where you can take your career.

What are you plans after graduation?

I plan to earn my Master of Social Work (MSW) at USC though the Advanced Standing Program. That was part of the reason why I chose USC. It was appealing to me because I can receive my degree in 11 months. I like how the BSW curriculum prepares you for the MSW program and the field education work continues. It will be intensive, but I am excited and prepared. 

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