Stepping into the world of Social Work

Category Archives: school

What’s happening in school?

Since we have been on summer break since the beginning of May, I’ve obviously not had any classes, but a few matters are moving along for next semester.

I did receive an MSW Scholarship for next year! I’m not sure how selective the scholarships are (two of my classmates also received it) I’m proud of myself for getting it and grateful for the assistance.

My internship for next year has not yet officially been decided, but I have received a strong hint from the most reliable source available that it will be at the senior program I expected. The official notification is waiting for my advisor to receive all of the proper paperwork and apparently an initial assignment for class that are all sent at the same time.

I have also agreed to be part of the leadership of our academic center caucus for the next year. I was a bit wary of doing this, as I didn’t want to over-commit to that kind of thing at the expense of study time, but I really like the classmates who I will be working for, and it sounds like it could be fun. There are also a few practical perks, but they aren’t big enough to be persuasive.

It should be an interesting summer and a great year!

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The end of my first year….

USC Logo

USC Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Other than waiting to receive my final grades, my first year at USC is over!

After a few weekends spent chained to the computer writing papers, I e-mailed my final paper to the professor on Wednesday. It was a great feeling to be finished and be able to relax for a couple of months until the process starts again.

Besides my grades, I’m also expecting to hear within the next few weeks where I will be placed in my next year’s internship and what financial aid I will be receiving (grants and scholarships in this case as opposed to loans). While these won’t make an immediate dent in our budget next year, they’ll make a major difference in our debt in ’14 when I’m finished.

As I told the advisor responsible for placing me, I rather expect my internship placement to be with seniors. I’ve had a great deal of experience with kids and with disabled adults, and while I have had personal contact with seniors my whole life, I haven’t worked with them professionally. I am open, however, to whatever she finds for me, particularly knowing that this placement is supposed to be both orienting to the profession and also perhaps to fill in any gaps in the person’s background. I did request to be placed in the San Fernando Valley and for a placement which would pay work-study funds to make up for what I will be losing by going part-time at work.

Right now, it’s time to focus on neglected housework and some relaxation!

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Ups and Downs

I’ve had an up and down week, with mostly ups at school and a roller coaster at work.

First, I’m very pleased with the grades I’m getting so far in my classes. I just got my Behavior midterm back – I was a little nervous because the midterm in the previous Behavior class was where I stumbled last term (if, of course, you can consider stumbling to be anything less than an A).  So I’m waiting for one other grade in that class (a much smaller assignment that involved an article critique) and will be working with my group on an assignment for the other class. I need to get started on an interview of a senior citizen, and the paper which will result from getting their life story.

In further school news, I’ll be meeting with my advisor regarding my internship placement next year in the middle of the week. I had quite a bit of paperwork to fill out, and also had to crop a couple of 2×2 photos for the purpose. I believe the meeting is to go over the paperwork and any special concerns I have regarding my placement.

At work, I’ve had some goods and bads. The unpleasant situation was a client who, after resisting every suggestion I was trying to make to help him work faster, decided he either wanted another coach or no more coaching. This would have been only mildly troubling, but my boss is one who makes things worse by immediately going for the jugular to try to figure out what I must have done wrong. I fully admit to being a fallible human being, but I also need my boss to understand that some issues are not necessarily caused by an error.

However, at the very next visit that day, I happened to receive copies of another client’s annual reviews by his employer – this year’s, which I just helped the client complete, and last year’s, a couple of months before I started with him. The difference is amazing! Obviously, the client deserves the real praise for making the improvement, but I have to believe that I must have had something to do with it, too.

I also attended a family meeting with the staff responsible for my father’s care. It looks like he is in good hands.

Next Year’s financial aid

It’s that time again!

USC vs. Syracuse

USC vs. Syracuse (Photo credit: jeffdubyn)

Financial aid decisions and scholarships take time to arrange, so we apparently need to start applying for them about this time. Fortunately, my advisers at USC are very good at ensuring we are aware of deadlines.

First, having your taxes for the previous year completed is almost a prerequisite. You can do some estimating if there’s a reason you need to delay filing your taxes (perhaps you are having to pay rather than getting a refund) but then you end up having to fix the estimates anyway.

The next step is filing the FAFSA, a federal form about your financial status, that is shared with your school, or in the case of an incoming applicant, all of the schools you are applying to. This year, it even linked to our tax filing, making it only a matter of a few clicks. This was amazingly helpful! This will determine my eligibility for federal loans and work-study.

2010-2011 FAFSA Screenshots

2010-2011 FAFSA Screenshots (Photo credit: Christopher S. Penn)

Then, in the case of USC Social Work, I also had to fill out an application for any funding they have that is specific to our school. This wasn’t difficult either, though I wished they could have allowed for another 200 characters or so in the box where you explained why you need financial aid.

We have also been advised to look for private funding that isn’t directly awarded through our school. I will particularly be looking for scholarships for those intended to benefit hearing impaired students.

The good news is that second year part-time students (as I will be) become eligible for things that were not available to us this year. The other great news is that it is very likely that I will be able to use work study funds for my internship hours. This will help quite a bit, particularly since I’ll need to go part-time at my job starting in September.

More on all of this as I hear. I will still need to be working with the USC financial aid department to provide a variety of documents, including information that my budget will be reduced due to going part time.

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Mid-Semester School Update

Zero Tolerance for Clowns

Zero Tolerance for Clowns (Photo credit: Mike Licht,

It’s a little more than halfway through the semester, and I realized Ihadn’t written much about my classes recently. Probably not surprising since I’ve been busy writing papers (with the occasional diversion into writing about birth control insurance coverage and Limbaugh’s idiocy).

I have received one paper back, with an excellent grade. This paper was a group effort, with 6 other classmates coming together to write it. The assignment was to choose an issue or law that the NASW has taken a stand on, and the first paper was to be pretty much background.

Our group chose federal legislation ending some funding for abstinence only sex education and moving the funds to a program for comprehensive sex education. Basically, what this means is that some federal funds had been earmarked for sex education programs that would only teach the values of abstinence until marriage, and not about those measures that can be taken to prevent pregnancy or infection. We as a group agree with the National Association of Social Workers that evidence and social work values support comprehensive sex ed.

Our next paper will also be a group project, in which we engage in advocacy on the above issue. Our group has decided our advocacy will be submitting an editorial to some publication on the issue. We have not yet determined which one we will choose.

Our midterm on The Namesake was due a little more than a week ago, that was probably the most challenging task up to this point. Examining a fictional character according to a variety of developmental and psychological theories is interesting but challenging. I believe the biggest issue came from the distinctions within the exam itself. It carefully delineated which theories we could use for each question, but for at least one question none of the obvious theories really fit the situation.

Another paper I had to have in last week was an article review, also done in partnership with a classmate. We chose an article about “Women in the Middle” – middle aged women who are caring for two generations – their children and their aging parents. This paper, and the presentation we will give next week, was much shorter and thus not as difficult as the midterm, and with two of us we were able to move it along fairly well.

Coming up after the break: the final exam for Behavior, in which we interview an acquaintance over 70 years old, then apply what we have learned to that person’s life story.

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First impressions of new classes

At the end of my first week of classes this semester, I’m very positive about how things will go this semester.

So far, I’m very impressed with the instructors we have for this term and what we will be learning and doing in each course. I think I wrote a bit about what I could glean from syllabi last week, and that is pretty much all accurate. I was also very pleased to learn that we will indeed be having a take-home midterm instead of in-class.

While the instructors are not permitted to release too much information about each assignment ahead of time, our Behavior instructor did tell us that the midterm will deal with a novel, The Namesake, allowing us to buy and read the book before the assignment is distributed. It is a delightful novel about a Bengali immigrant family in the US, revolving mostly around their son. I’m not anticipating any difficulty with that assignment or any others in Behavior.

I’m a little less sure of what will be going on in the other class, which will be requiring us as individuals and small groups to develop advocacy plans for particular policies.

As far as I can tell, the worst traffic jam of the workload will be at the end of February, early March, with an assignment or two due along with the midterm. But I’ll get through!


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Product Review: Kindle Fire

I received a Kindle Fire for Christmas (by request) and thought I’d give some thoughts on it.

I wanted it most particularly for textbooks and journal articles for my MSW program. Carrying heavy books around is a bit annoying and the cost (in paper and ink) of printing out the journal articles assigned as supplementary reading had become too much. I had tried to load articles into my Ipod Touch, but it was just too small to be comfortable.

The Fire is a slight bit heavy, but not unreasonably so given its functions. Its size is just about right for the screen I need for reading. I can comfortably hold it on my knee or stomach or a table and read with my glasses on.

I was disappointed that Amazon tries to tie you into their store, rather than enabling the use of the other Android markets. But it is possible to bypass that.

One thing that really annoyed me was that the only textbook I needed to buy this semester, while promoted as a Kindle edition, was not compatible with my Kindle. But others will be in the future, I’m sure, and that’s more an Amazon issue than Kindle. I did have a textbook  bought in Kindle format prematurely (I thought it would work on my Ipod Touch) which does work, and is still needed for this semester, so at least I have one textbook on Kindle. One class is also using a popular novel for analysis for the midterm, which was also no problem on this device.

Battery life seems to be OK for my type of use, reading things, checking e-mail, and playing games off and on during the day I haven’t had to charge it until after dinner.

I’m still getting the hang of reading journal articles on the Kindle, though it is certainly much better than on an Ipod. 🙂

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Looking forward to a new semester…

USC vs. Syracuse

Image by jeffdubyn via Flickr

On Monday, I start classes for my second semester in USC’s MSW program. I am proud of my good but not perfect achievement last semester, and am looking forward to building on that.

This semester, like last, I’ll be taking two classes that are pretty much “part two” from last term.

On Mondays, I’ll have 535, Social Welfare.

The purpose of this course is to understand the building blocks of how social welfare policy is developed and implemented in the United States; the substantive rationale for policy; the role of social workers in all areas of practice in promoting social justice; how to advocate; and the integration of practice with policy.

Understanding social welfare policy is vital to social work practice because it fundamentally affects the lives of those served by the profession. Social welfare policy defines who gets what services, resources, and opportunities, and shapes service delivery systems. For these reasons it’s essential that social workers know about the issues and choices that are embedded in various responses to social problems, guided by an understanding of the ethical responsibilities as expressed in the NASW Code of Ethics, and by the analysis of processes that lead to the formulation and delivery of social welfare policies, to more effectively comprehend the ways in which you can be instrumental in shaping policy choices.

This course builds on the substantive understanding of policy development and critical thinking skills acquired in SOWK 534, focusing attention on the analysis of selected current policy issues in key sectors of social welfare as well as in the processes and strategies of policy advocacy to redress various forms of social and economic injustice and empower less advantaged groups in our society.

SOWK 535 provides a foundation for second year, concentration-specific, policy courses (SOWK 630s) in which students apply policy analytic and policy advocacy skills to develop specific policy proposals in a particular service sector.

This class will have three primary assignments. First,  a “Brief the Mayor” examination of a particular policy and a group presentation on this issue.  What I gather is that the class or group will decide on a particular policy or change to existing policy to advocate and actually develop some sort of a plan of implementation. The second paper will be a “report back” on the status of the initial plan. The last paper will be a critical examination of what has been done during the semester.


Social Work 505 will continue “Human Behavior in the Social Environment”

Content includes empirically-based theories and knowledge that focuses on individual development and behavior as well as the interactions between and among individuals, groups, organizations, communities, institutions and larger systems. Students will also learn about human development over the life span including knowledge of biophysiological maturation, cognitive development, social relationships, and the psychosocial developmental tasks for the individual and family from adolescence through late adulthood. At each phase of the life course, the reciprocal interplay between individual development and familial, small group, community and societal contexts are emphasized. The course is organized according to the case study method to help students critically analyze how people develop within a range of social systems (individual, family, group, organizational, and community) and how these systems promote or impede health, well being, and resiliency. Thus, students will critically apply these different theories and perspectives to case studies or scenarios of contemporary situations in complex, urban, multicultural environments as embodied in the Southern California region.

Given the mission and purpose of social work, the course integrates content on the values and ethics of the profession as they pertain to human behavior and development across multiple systems. Special attention is given to the influence of diversity as characterized by (but not limited to) age, gender, class, race, ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, disability and religion. The course makes important linkages between course content and social work practice, policy, research, and field instruction, specifically in evaluating multiple factors that impinge on functioning and converge in differential assessment and intervention.

This class will have two papers and a midterm – I think it’s up to the instructor whether to make the exam take-home or in class. I prefer the former,  of course, as I seem to do better when I’m not having to remember details as well as the big points.

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Time to reflect….

I’m sure I’m not the only one making a reflective post this time of year… I thought it would be helpful to my own state of mind even if nobody reads it.

at this time last year, I had just left employment. I’ve happily fixed that situation, though the job I have is not a career builder. I’ve realized most recently that at this point I really shouldn’t even expect to find a better job, as the one I have has the flexibility to go part-time in the fall when I start my internship.

At this time last year, I was working hard on MSW applications. Happily, that effort paid off! After completing the first semester of classes, I’m very happy with my decisions in that regard. In fact, I received news recently that made me even happier that I chose USC – a former co-worker/manager with whom I did not get along would have been in my cohort (and perhaps some of my classes) at CSUN, which would have been quite uncomfortable. I’m now 1/6 of the way through an excellent program and am trying to pat myself on the back for getting in and a good showing my first semester.

At this time last year I was out of work and very angry about the situation. Having found another job and used the time out of work to get into grad school,  I can look back with some acceptance. Don’t get me wrong – I have not completely forgiven certain individuals for their treatment of me, but I can hold my head up over where I am and where I am going.

It has been a rough year – my husband is also out of work, my car was totaled in a nasty car accident, I had cataract surgery and will need the other eye done as well. We learned that my brother-in-law is in the hospital with a broken hip,  which will be a long haul for him. But I think I’m proving to myself that I can get through these things and come out better than before.


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