CSUSB Advising Podcast

Ep. 47 - What is the Social Work major?

March 20, 2023 Matt Markin Season 1 Episode 47
CSUSB Advising Podcast
Ep. 47 - What is the Social Work major?
Show Notes Transcript

In Episode 47 of the CSUSB Advising Podcast, Matt Markin chats with Dr. Carolyn McAllister, Director of the School of Social Work at CSUSB, about the BASW program! What is the Social Work major? What do students learn in this program? What career opportunities are there? What resources are there for students in the BASW program? Find out in this episode!

Visit the CSUSB School of Social Work website!
E-mail: SocialWork@csusb.edu

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Yoties, welcome back to another episode of the CSUSB advising podcast. My name is Matt Markin, an academic advisor here at Cal State San Bernardino. And on today's episode, we're learning more about the bachelor's degree in social work. And our guest today is none other than Dr. Carolyn McAllister, the Director of the School of Social Work.  Dr. McAllister, welcome.

Hi, thanks for having me. I'm glad to be here.

Yeah. So can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background in higher ed?

Okay, great. So I started years ago, actually, I'm gonna go way back. The reason I chose higher ed as a profession is something I chose pretty early on. And I did that because my mother is an academic. So she got her master's degree in nursing. And she taught at a community college. I was lucky enough when I was a college student, back in the day, to take her class and as a certified nursing assistant. And from that, I realized that I wanted to go into higher ed myself. I loved watching my mom work with students. I loved watching the differences she made in students lives. She was somebody different, right? I knew her as mom. But in this in her work environment, she was something so much more, and I wanted to do that. So my inspiration for going into higher ed is actually way before I even knew what I wanted to do. I knew because my mom did it. So I was I thought for years that I would go into the field of clinical psychology. So I got my Associates Degree at a community college, American River College in Sacramento, I got my bachelor's degree in psychology at UC Davis. And while I was there, I realized that clinical psychology was not going to be a good fit. So I tried to figure out what I wanted to do. And one of my mentors, in an internship suggested social work. So I took a class on Introduction to community service. And in that I saw everybody doing what I wanted to do our social workers. So I took a year off, I got some experience in the field, I went back and got my master's in social welfare at UCLA. And then I worked in the field for about four years. I worked as a regional center service coordinator. And then I worked in mobile mental health crisis. After that I applied for and got into Michigan State University for my PhD in social work. And I started here at CSUSB in 2008.

Wonderful and yeah, it's kind of always like having that first question, because we can kind of see how our journeys were not necessarily a direct path.

Exactly, exactly. One of the things I always let students know is that we get to these places in such different ways. And I hope that many of my students, if I share, these kinds of stories will be inspired. I started at a community college just like many of them did. And I slowly made my way. I didn't know when I started what I wanted to do, I had to figure it out in the process.

Yeah, absolutely. And how would you describe the Social Work major?

Oh, gosh. So social work, it's the major is a professional degree major. So students don't understand what that means. So I try to liken it to nursing. And I use that deliberately. Well, one, because I know about nursing, my mom was a nurse, but also because it makes you think about okay, well, what would it mean to be a nursing student? Well, you would think you'd have horses that were consecutive, right? That built upon each other, that you would have a lot of hands on experience in that degree, and that you would come out ready to do a job and social work is just like that. So in our case, we're getting students ready to be social service workers or social workers in an incredibly broad field of practice. So you're starting out your first two years, we call you a pre Social Work major. So you're taking lots of your GE classes, you're taking classes in psychology, and criminal justice and sociology, so that you get a good sense of the backgrounds of human service professions, then you apply for our major. And once you're admitted to our major of social work, you're in it for your last two years, your junior and senior year. In your junior year, you're taking a lot of classes and areas like theory, we call that human behavior in the social environment. You're taking classes and research, you're taking classes in social work practice, and you're doing an internship in your senior year. So all of this gets you ready to work in this incredibly broad field. So we work with, with people within what we call systems. So we focus on the systems theory, and that is that people don't operate by themselves, right? We operate in the context of the people we live with, if that's our family or friends. We operate in the context of the the organization's are the things that we belong to our work, maybe our church, maybe friend groups, maybe social activities, or sports, anything like that we operate within the context of our communities and the services our communities offer we work with, we live within the context of a state and a nation. And all of these things work together in a system to support or not support that person. So we as social workers, learn to assess systems and intervene at various levels of that system. So some of us choose to work individually with clients. I did that when I worked for the regional center, I worked with people with developmental disabilities and their families. And I worked to make sure that they got the services they need. Others of us work as administrators and then organization, we work to navigate organizations, we might work on policy development or policy analysis, we might even work in politics. So we're getting students ready to do all of that, which is huge, right? Child welfare, medical, social work, forensic, social work, school, social work, working with people with disabilities, working with people with mental health issues, working with people who are unhoused, working with people who need a variety of services, we work in all of those, we work in school settings. So I know some social workers end up working in advising, for example. So it's such a broad field that I hope what people learn is that you come to this field, and then you can go in so many different directions through your career. It's very exciting.

Oh, yeah. And I think that hopefully entices some students to or it's like, they know, hey, I, I don't just have to go into this one area, like I can go. Yeah, exactly. And that with the bachelors degree program, do you also offer aside from that any minors or certificates?

we don't, we only have a major so students cannot minor in social work. However, if you are a social work major, we encourage you if you would like to do other kinds of minors or certificates, so some of them that I think of, I like to promote the certificate program and healthcare Spanish. A lot of our students already speak some Spanish, and to take some additional classes in the technical language of health care, mental health care, child welfare, get experiences working in Spanish makes you very lucrative on the market and looking for employment and social work. But also things like gender sexuality studies, our certificate program in gerontology are minors in sociology and psychology, those are very common choices for our students to take.

And generally speaking within the bachelor's degree, with this program, what are students learning, like in their classes and from the from the major?

Oh, okay, great. So we have late five main context. So we teach all students all undergraduate students in what's called the generalist model, and I'm going to use some jargon, and I apologize. But the generalist model means what I was talking about earlier, that we're getting you ready to work in any level of a system, whether it's working with an individual or getting ready to work in a community organization, or even in politics. We're getting you ready for all of that, and in the variety of ways that you could work. So you want to work in child welfare, that's great. But we need to expose you to other areas of practice. You want to work in medical, social work? Again, great. You want to work in hospice great, but there are other areas that you need to know because we live in a system. So even if you work for the regional center, like I did, you got to know something about the mental health system, because your clients may use that. Or the child welfare system. So because I had a lot of clients in the child welfare system. So in our classes, we're getting you ready to do that by teaching you theory. So why do people behave the way they do? And in what context? Do they behave that way? We call that human behavior in the social environment. We're getting you ready for practice at the micro level, which is with individuals, couples, families and groups, and at the macro level, which is organizations, communities, policy, practice, politics, other areas like that. We're getting you ready to do research and actually learn to read research. Be what we call a consumer of research. No, it's not super exciting, but it's my one of my favorite things to teach. And then we're getting you ready to do an internship and your senior year. So in your senior year, you're doing 480 hours of an internship. It's pretty intense, right? two full days a week in an agency, working with clients being supervised by a social worker. So by the time you graduate, you're ready. You've had a year long, you had like a year long interview with an agency that might want to hire you. And you've got hours and hours of experience that make you so competitive to work in our field.

Nice. Yeah. And I guess you know, kind of connected to that. And you've talked a little bit about some of the different career areas. Yeah, anything to add about the career areas after graduation or areas that you've seen some of your students go into after graduation.

So our biggest areas, and I just looked this up recently, so the biggest area we work in is child welfare. And you could work for Child Protective Services. That's a known entity. That's where lots of social workers work. Our next area of practice is mental health. We work for most bachelor students, they work directly with mental health consumers, whether they work in like a group living situation or a day program, support programs for people with chronic and persistent mental health diagnoses. But they also work in schools, we work in addiction services, lots of bachelors social workers work in addiction services, work with older adults, in hospitals and their homes. We work in the court systems, we work in foster care agencies, hospitals, we have a lot of medical social workers. We work in private or nonprofit organizations, so community organizations, or community support networks. We work in with training or vocational training, vocational rehabilitation. The list is really did I say schools? I think I did. We work in churches, I have a lot of friends who ended up working in like Catholic charities, or Lutheran Social Services or other major religious organizations. 

and let's say students listen to this. And they're like, this sounds really interesting, you know. This. Now social work might be one of the top majors that I'm considering. But maybe I'm on the fence of, you know, looking further into maybe trying to get into this major. Do you have any suggestions for that student?

Yeah, my number one experience, my number one suggestion for anybody who is interested in any field, but let's talk social work, right? When I see students, I often because I was the director of our bachelor's program for decades. So I spent a lot of time talking to people who thought maybe social worker thought maybe something and I would tell them to get out there and try it, talk people who've done it. So a person could come in and talk to one of us as faculty about what we did as social workers, and see if that resonates with them, they could call up an organization and asked to interview a social worker asked to do a ride along. And always think about doing volunteer experience, because classes are awesome. I mean, we both work in higher ed, so we know we promote classes, right? But you don't really know if you like something until you do it. So you've got to get out there, get your feet wet. Volunteer for a school volunteer and an after school program, volunteer in a hospital or a skilled nursing facility, volunteer for hospice, volunteer and child welfare. All of these organizations have volunteer opportunities, and they would love to have someone and commit for a while. One of the key ones I recommend for both counties is called the court appointed special advocate program or CASA program. It's incredibly intense, at least 18 months to two years, but you get training. You get matched with a foster youth, and you make a difference in their lives. So you get to see, do I like this? You could work, volunteer at a domestic violence shelter or a hotline and see if you like it just because you've had a lot of our students have had the experience of, of maybe being a foster youth or being a veteran, or experiencing domestic violence. That's great. But I want to make sure you know that you want to do this job. Right? Because it's different than other helping jobs. So figure out is this it for you, or is it something else?

No. Great, great advice. And I'm sure there's with any major, there's a misconception with social work. Are there any misconceptions that you think people might have? 

Oh, of course, we talk about this a lot. Because when people think of us, they usually think of child's child snatchers, right? We're the ones that take babies away. And certainly we, like I said before, child welfare is a large area of practice for social workers. But it's our choice of last resort to remove children from their homes. Most social workers will be doing removals Even if they worked in Child Protective Services rarely, most of what we do is try to keep children in their homes and safe in their homes. We know that the best place for kids, for example, is in their homes, with people that know them and love them. If they cannot be safe there, we must do something to change that. And that's our last choice is to remove them from that place that they love and they are loved. Other misconceptions are that we we don't do things like counseling? We absolutely do bachelors social workers don't do therapy, that might make them a little bit different than an MSW. But certainly we work in counseling and providing care and support. People don't realize that they think that you have to be a psychologist to do that. And you don't we're actually generally a larger area of practice than other fields of counseling,

And does your school to offer any resources for students like any clubs, scholarships, tutoring, anything like that?

Yeah, so we do have, we do have a social work club at the undergraduate level, it's an Honors Society, and students are very active in that club. So and if students were interested, they could certainly join before even joining the major they could. They can't be in the Honor Society, but they can help with projects. We don't We offer a lot of advising in house, we do rely on our professional advisors. But we know when it comes to things like career planning, and different choices in terms of electives, for example, that we may, because we work in the field, we may be able to help tailor that to their interests. We also offer this major program that I feel like I should talk about, it's a huge scholarship or it's not a scholarship. It's a training stipend. And it's called the public child welfare stipend Program, also known as the title for each program. So if students know they want to work in public child welfare, they can apply for this specific program within our bachelor's degree. And if they get it, they get a stipend of $18,500 for their senior year, which is significant, right? It allows and then it also guarantees them an internship in a child welfare setting. So it's really prepping them to work specifically in public child welfare. Like I said, a year long interview with an agency you want to work for. And then in compensation, when you graduate, you need to work in public child welfare, or in probation for a year. If you do that full time work for a year that stipend is forgiven. And you have received $18,500 To become a child welfare worker.

Very nice. Yeah. And let's say student has questions that are looking for more information. How would you direct that students to go to your website or to reach out to specific person?

Yeah, definitely check out the school social Works website, because we do try to put a lot of information on there. We also have an email, I recommend social work@csusb.edu. You can email and ask questions there. And then a variety of people will respond to them depending on which degree you're interested in and what kind of questions you have. Also, we often we will offer information sessions about our undergraduate degrees, so look for that on our website, register and attend an information session. But you can also come in our phone number is 909-537-5501. You can also come to the fourth floor of the social behavioral sciences building. Look for us. We're kind of all housed around the elevators. You can walk in and ask questions and well, somebody will be here to help you.

Wonderful. Dr. McAllister, thank you so much for being on the podcast today.

Thank you. I really appreciate being here.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai