University of New Hampshire
Michael DeLuca credits his experience as an instructor at an Outward Bound school in central Florida as significantly influencing his interest in clinical social work. He described the experience as “uncomfortable, demanding, and very often thankless,” which offered him the chance to “experience the power of service and the rewards of helping others in need.” A four-month stint volunteering in the eastern mountains of Uganda also taught him about the process of helping others. Sometimes feeling overwhelmed by the barriers to positive change (especially “disease, poverty, ignorance, and corruption”), Michael discovered that figuring out where to begin is the same for creating positive change as it is for climbing a mountain: “I begin wherever I am. I learned that helping others begins small; and small actions can lead to big change.”
Michael is interested in working with adolescents as a clinical social worker, seeing “great opportunity” in the “potential and the fertility of their minds to learn and grow.” Describing adolescence as “the last stop on the train to adulthood,” he has had the experience that “interventions aimed at this pivotal time of someone’s development can be tremendously effective.” Michael has found helping adolescents and their families to be “incredibly rewarding” and looks forward to continuing that work as a clinical social worker.
Anita Tucker, who has acted as Michael’s adviser, field liaison, and teacher at the University of New Hampshire, commends Michael’s “exceptional ability to work with people, his ability to handle challenging situations, and his strong clinical skills.” Adding his “constant attention to self-reflection” to these qualities, Dr. Tucker praises Michael’s ability to build rapport “even with the most challenging clients” and “effectively match the appropriate intervention for each client, while empowering them to take responsibility for their treatment.” According to Dr. Tucker, Michael “stands out as one of the most innately gifted and driven social work students I have ever known.”
University of Tennessee
Amy Denton has twenty years of experience as a bachelor level social worker in rural Texas and Tennessee. Her experience living and working in rural areas has taught Amy about the barriers to clinical services encountered by those living in rural areas, specifically geographic and financial barriers. The few options for mental health services in rural areas are all too often unaffordable for community members. She plans to dedicate her career to serving people in rural areas by providing low-cost counseling to those in need and developing programs that address specific needs.
Born with a genetic condition that caused a cleft palate and extreme nearsightedness, Amy endured a lot of teasing and bullying in elementary school. Amy credits her experience for increasing her compassion for others; she feels “drawn to advocate for those who are neglected or forgotten.” Amy recognizes that cultural awareness is another important aspect of successful social work. Her own perspective is just “one of many that exist in our culture.” Becoming “more educated about other cultures and viewpoints” is important “in light of how those factors affect practice and intervention.”
Daniel Black, MD, a Family Practice physician who works closely with Amy, praised Amy for her “sensitivity to the needs of others,” “her perceptiveness,” and her “patience.” Dr. Black wrote of Amy: “she knows and appreciates the true value of a person before she ever meets them.” In a nod to her patience and perceptiveness, “which allow her to serve in ways that would otherwise go unnoticed,” Dr. Black wrote, “Amy sees not only the elephant in the room but also the fly on the ceiling.”
University of Southern California
Robert Fields has had experience with social work both personally and professionally. As an Army Veteran with combat experience in Iraq, Robert found that the management services and psychotherapy that he received from social workers after he left the Army helped him “through a very difficult time in his life.” Working as an “outreach specialist at the Prescott Vet Center” gave Robert the opportunity to witness the counseling staff making a “positive difference in people’s lives.” Feeling “inspired for the first time in a long time,” Robert decided to pursue his MSW.
While pursuing his MSW, Robert has discovered that his capacity for empathy is greater than he originally believed. He learned that he can relate to people he “never thought he might be able to empathize with, including struggling drug addicts, homeless veterans, and even convicted felons.” Robert considers “working with his fellow veterans and their families” as his “passion and mission.” He feels as passionate about working with veterans as he felt towards “serving fellow Soldiers when he was on active duty.”
Markham Breen, the Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom Program Manager for Northern Arizona who has worked with Robert for over 3 years, commends Robert for “consistently demonstrating commitment, persistence, and integrity.” While Robert was an employee of the Prescott Vet Center, he “consistently exceeded expectations in providing resources, outreach and support to Northern Arizona’s combat Veterans.” As a fulltime MSW student, Robert acted as a volunteer to help establish the Veterans Action Leadership Project, a nonprofit organization devoted to providing recreational and social opportunities for Veterans. According to Mr. Breen, Robert “is a strong advocate for Veterans.”
University of Central Florida
Brandi Fliegelman’s personal experience with the field of mental health as a child inspired her interest in providing others with the same positive guidance she received. Originally considering child psychiatry, Brandi realized she was interested in working from a multisystem perspective, rather than the medical model and with a wider population. In exploring other options, she discovered that the values and mindset of clinical social work more closely align with her own.
In elementary school, Brandi experienced bullying and judgment due to her diagnosis of Tourette Syndrome. Over time, she learned to play on her strengths to educate others about Tourette Syndrome and “to manage her tics as much as possible so she could lead a successful academic and personal life.” Her experiences in elementary school and beyond taught Brandi “the importance of not judging someone on first impressions and that everyone has strengths, no matter what barriers they face.”
Mayra Alomar-Rodriguez, one of Brandi’s supervisors at the Orlando Health South Seminole Hospital’s Behavioral Center, honors Brandi’s “positive work performance and her cheerful, bright, engaging disposition.” Brandi has successfully faced the challenge of working with difficult to engage individuals, continuing to demonstrate strong clinical skills. Ms. Alomar-Rodriguez gives particular attention to Brandi’s “ability to accept constructive criticism, her eagerness to learn, and her dedication to being a team player at all times.”
Texas A&M University—Commerce
Tabita Gonzalez traces her interest in working with individuals with developmental disabilities back to elementary school. While in 4th grade, Tabita participated in an inclusion class; general education classes were joined with special education classes for art, music, lunch, recess, and special events. In particular, Tabita became friends with a classmate diagnosed with Down Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, who taught Tabita “we are all created equal but learn in unique ways.”
Tabita has been working with Individuals with Developmental Disabilities for four years and would like to continue to do so after she graduates. Her experience has shown her that “therapy improves the quality of life for these individuals” and gaps exist “in services for this underrepresented population.” Both personal and professional experience have taught Tabita the “importance of professional competence in the field, advanced knowledge in public policy, ” and “cultural competence” to serve clients. Specifically, “the Latin American community benefits from a culturally competent, bilingual therapist,” a service that Tabita that now provides and will continue to provide as she progresses through her career as a therapist.
Carolina Maldonado, Tabita’s previous supervisor at Metrocare Services, describes Tabita as “resourceful, dedicated, and articulate.” Through research and networking, Tabita has extensive knowledge of the services available in the community. According to Ms. Maldonado, Tabita takes a holistic approach to her work, aiming to ensure that the needs of individuals and their families are met. Finally, Ms. Maldonado salutes Tabita’s “exceptional communication skills, both verbally and in writing.”
University of Maryland
Nancy Hernandez enjoys working with teenagers. She gained experience doing so in her first year internship and plans to continue working with teenagers in her social work career. Her experience taught her the importance of “listening to teenagers without judgment” and working to “understand the feelings and emotions that teens experience.” Nancy sees teenagers as being “at a crossroad in their lives,” greatly benefiting from “guidance and love.” In her internship, Nancy “learned to respect the decisions of her clients,” recognizing that the college path which she promoted “was not the dream of everyone.” Achieving success while working with teenagers was rewarding for Nancy.
Nancy’s firsthand experience with a lack of support during a difficult time directly influences her current clinical work. When Nancy’s daughter’s father passed away, Nancy felt alone in her grief. Their relationship was not understood or supported by her family. Over time, Nancy recognized that she had the “right to grieve for her daughter’s father; he was an important person in her life.” The experience taught Nancy “the importance of human relationships.” She has been able to apply this knowledge in her clinical practice by remembering that her “views of a particular person may differ from those of her clients.” Additionally, respecting those differences is critical to delivering client-centered services.
Julie Drake, one of Nancy’s professors at the University of Maryland, describes Nancy as an “exceptionally intelligent social work student.” Nancy’s classmates “benefited greatly from her thoughtful and insightful questions and comments.” Professor Drake praises Nancy’s passion for and dedication to the field of social work. Nancy has committed herself to “helping vulnerable social work clients.” In addition to speaking Spanish and having spent time in Central America, Nancy “is extremely knowledgeable regarding the myriad of issues facing immigrant populations.” According to Professor Drake, Nancy’s “entire focus has been on strengthening her skills in order to better serve social work clients.”
University of Denver
Lori Jurecko credits her values-based upbringing as providing the foundation for her lifelong commitment to “serving others while respecting each person’s individuality and unique potential.” These values plus her education in psychology brought her to clinical social work, which “with its strengths-based focus on systems and resilience” has proven to be a good fit for Lori.
The development of resilience is of particular interest to Lori. Having studied child maltreatment and domestic violence, Lori recognizes the profound negative impacts that prolonged abuse can generate. She sees hope in the possibilities of supporting resilience and in the fact that “strong therapeutic relationships can foster immense healing for survivors of trauma.” Lori plans to continue working with children and families.
Scott Petersen, one of Lori’s professors, considers Lori to be an outstanding student due to her “intellectual rigor and critical thinking, compassion for those with whom she works, and commitment to the highest professional standards.” Lori has demonstrated considerable dedication to her learning and professional development with “thoughtful participation in class discussions and truly exceptional written assignments.” Lori conveys her compassion for those with whom she works, in part, by “undertaking her work with an appreciation for and commitment to the central relational dimensions of the work.” Professor Petersen evinces a high level of respect for Lori, asserting that she “sets a standard at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work and for the larger social work profession.”
University of Southern California
Angela Kozak’s personal experience with clinical social work began after her 15-month Army deployment to Iraq. She describes her time in Baghdad as a mixture of “painstaking hours spent in sheer loneliness and frightening experiences where she faced the possibility” of death. She exhibited signs of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder upon her return and received wonderful support from clinicians at the Veterans Affairs hospitals. Her own experience taught Angela the importance of de-stigmatizing mental health diagnoses and passing along to others the support she received.
Angela plans to work with the military population as a clinical social worker. She attributes her experiences in the Army with giving her “a unique understanding of the military culture and how that culture affects individual service members and their families.” From her first year internship, Angela learned the importance of boundaries for both the clinician and the client. Setting boundaries allowed Angela “to provide a therapeutic holding environment for clients” and aided her in self-care activities.
Ruth Supranovich, Angela’s academic advisor, field liaison and professor, salutes Angela’s self-awareness, diligence in learning, and dedication. According to Professor Supranovich, Angela entered graduate school with a high level of self-awareness and “actively engages in self-reflection to continually examine her reactions to clients in order to offer the best possible services.” As an active learner who is attentive and participatory in class, Angela is “always working to gain new skills and insights and to apply them in her work with others.” Also, Angela entered graduate school for social work with a “clear vision and purpose to become a capable and competent clinical worker,” which is evident in all she does.
Roberts Wesleyan College
Patrick Lenney was inspired to become a social worker by his own personal experience with clinical social work. After retiring from 24 years of service in the Marines, Patrick experienced difficult challenges, including symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. With help from a social worker, Patrick came to see what he once considered a weakness as “opportunities of resilience and hope to others” instead. As a clinical social worker, Patrick wants to work with the veteran population, many of whom “have readjustment challenges, PTSD, marital issues, and financial challenges” and “don’t know how to tap into Veteran resources.” As Patrick puts it, “I have walked what they are walking and am just a little ahead of them.”
Patrick learned the importance of vulnerability in his first year internship. He discovered that showing vulnerability and being open about his own experiences helped in engaging the clients with whom he worked. While working with people facing the challenge of homelessness, Patrick recognized some ways in which he is a “privileged and very blessed person.” He was gratified to learn that “despite ethnic and race differences,” he could connect with his clients and offer them help.
Renee Goselin, Patrick’s field education supervisor at the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs, believes Patrick “looks to have a very promising career as a clinical social worker.” According to Ms. Goselin, Patrick has “demonstrated an excellent ability to connect with clients on an interpersonal level.” She also commends Patrick for his “excellent assessment skills,” explaining that he “is able to formulate appropriate treatment recommendations based on presenting needs while working in a crisis-focused setting where time is limited and quick assessment of needs is important.”
Jarom Matheson’s interest in social work was sparked by his experience working as a caretaker for a child who struggled with symptoms of Bipolar Disorder with severe depression and schizophrenia. Working closely with the child for two years and witnessing the child “going through different phases on a daily basis” was a “rich experience” for Jarom, one that prompted an interest in working with people who experience mental health issues.
Jarom approaches obstacles as learning experiences. He has encountered many obstacles in his life due to his inability to hear. Recognizing that many people “have not encountered people who maintain a handicap and still function as a normal health individual,” Jarom regularly teaches others about the similarities between people with and without disabilities. Jarom plans to use his clinical social work skills and his knowledge of multiple sign languages (including American, French, British, and Australian) to work with people who are hard of hearing and deaf.
Jason Martin, who supervises Jarom in his internship, describes as showing “great promise as a social worker,” due to his empathy, passion about his work, and dedication. According to Mr. Martin, Jarom “works hard to try to relate to his clients’ own struggles.” Jarom demonstrates dedication and persistence, not letting “any challenge get in his way and working hard to overcome difficulties when they arise.” Mr. Martin considers Jarom “a wonderful person to work with.”
University of Chicago
Kristin McKay “loved facilitating creativity” while teaching Pre-Kindergarten through twelfth grade art for several years in Guatemala. While teaching, she created a “comfortable, informal space for kids to share feelings, frustrations, and hopes” in her classroom. Her longing “for a more substantive, discerning, and skilled approach to helping students approach their lives” brought her to the field of social work. She plans to study art therapy, play therapy, drama therapy, and other therapeutic techniques that are engaging for children, as she continues her social work career.
Several years ago, Kristin suffered a traumatic brain injury that “gifted her with a unique perspective with students who are experiencing or discovering their own learning disabilities.” Due to the injury, Kristin has had to shift her logistical and emotional approaches towards graduate school. She now “approaches time management differently, values completed assignments with more pride and accomplishment, and has had to work harder academically than ever before.”
Jennifer Meade, Kristin’s field consultant, praises Kristin’s “unusually high degree of poise, maturity, and self-awareness.” Professor Meade describes being “continually impressed with the questions Kristin asks of herself and her peers as she explores her own and their clinical work” in the clinical field seminar; Kristin’s participation in the seminar promotes her own growth, as well as that of her peers and Professor Meade. Kristin’s “passion for clinical social work translates into persistence, flexibility, compassion, creativity, and commitment.” Professor Meade is “proud to call Kristin a colleague.”
Washington University in St. Louis
Heidi Tobe’s journey to social work began with an interest in psychology. During the latter part of her undergraduate studies, she began to notice differences between the views on mental illness in psychology (i.e., “disordered individuals”) and social work (i.e., “looking at a person in her environment with all of her unique experiences and make-up leading that person to where she is today”). She felt drawn to the profession that “sees the person, not the diagnosis, first.” She plans to work with individuals who have experienced trauma and with individuals who have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. Heidi considers this “an exciting time in treating Borderline Personality Disorder, as Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is the first treatment that has been found to be extremely effective for a diagnosis that was once thought impossible to treat.”
Heidi developed her leadership skills during a yearlong trip abroad. Initially, she led from “a place of insecurity, looking to those she led for approval and affirmation,” causing her to be a “fearful, poor leader.” Over time, Heidi learned to “value others’ opinions without finding her security or worth in them.” Heidi also credits her current practicum placement, at the St. Louis Center for Family Development (STLCFD), as a major influence on her development as a clinician and a person. She describes STLCFD as a “wonderful place of safety and love that balances high expectations with complete acceptance.”
Ryan Lindsay, Heidi’s professor and practicum supervisor, praises Heidi’s “sense of compassion, her integrity and her openness as an individual, ” qualities which Professor Lindsay sees as the “cornerstone of a strong clinician.” Heidi’s compassion, along with her strong desire to help others, “drives her to take initiative, seek out education, research interventions, and present challenges, without bias, to supervisors for feedback.” Heidi’s sense of integrity shows up in her belief “that her personal and professional responsibility is to develop her knowledge, understanding, and skill set.” Professor Lindsay considers Heidi’s “willingness to show vulnerability in her work” and her effort to “bring an openness to learn in every interaction” as indications of a “strong and promising clinician.”
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