Underneath Jacob’s Shadow

Chabad has a wonderful article on Jacob that’s worth the read. I have always felt drawn to Jacob…and as I write this in my study carrel in the UB Library and look out at the night sky, I can’t help but think of him and smile.

My goal with this blog is, of course, to write at least once weekly (if not more than that) as a way to document my studies, and as part of my self care through creative writing and reflection, and (eventually) in a professional capacity (after graduation and licensure). That being said, the second week of grad school was much busier than I had expected, and I am now happy to play catch up.

Theories of Human Behavior and Development Weeks 2 & 3
The course – so far – is incredible. Our teacher spent most of her career in New York City as a social worker, and ‘retired’ to academia to share her knowledge with us (and we are lucky to have her). The course is three hours in length, with the last 45 minutes of class dedicated to a weekly discussion presented by the different reading groups that we’ve been assigned to.

My classmates and I formed the first reading group, and we lead the first class discussion during Week 2. We had a wonderful back-and-forth on Towle’s (1944) landmark piece Common human needs in public assistance programs. While the class was dedicated to dialectical thinking and ethics in Social Work, we were also introduced to Freire’s (1968) Pedagogy of the oppressed, and Mill’s (1959) The sociological imagination as part of our weekly readings, and this helped to informed a large part of the class discussion.

For those who have not had the opportunity to read Freire’s work, do so. I love when I put down a book or an article and go “wow…my entire understanding of the universe, my framework for everything just went through a fundamental shift…” I am looking forward to reading more of his writings.

We also turned in our mini-papers analyzing just a small piece of Freire’s work, which we hope to get back (graded) in Week 4.

Week 3 was, like Week 2, fast paced, fascinating, fun, and in-depth. Week 3 continued our discussion on ethics in Social Work, and also brought in the concepts of the Bio-Psycho-Social Framework and the Life Course Perspective. We had readings by Berzoff, Hutchison, McCutcheon, and Rothman that informed the class and a spirited discussion lead by Reading Group 2 on Berzoff’s (2011) Why we need a biopsychosocial perspective with vulnerable, oppressed, and at-risk clients.

Scientific Methods in Social Work Weeks 2 & 3
This is – so far – another incredible course (also three hours in length)! Though, I’ve done research before and, in general, I enjoy it…so I may be slightly biased. The professor also teaches the Forensic Social Work course, which I’m interested in taking.

I will mention now that this course is a year long course (rather than the semester long courses most of us are familiar with). My colleagues and I will have the same professor for both this (the Fall) semester, and for the Spring semester, and we will remain together as one cohort throughout.

The second week of the course saw us discussing research in social work, and evidenced based practice. We covered methods, biases, fallacies, validity, and all of the other components that come together to create informed research.

Week 2 also saw many of us work against the clock to complete our CITI Program Human Research certificates for Social & Behavioral Research Investigators (which we need to conduct our research in the second part of the course, and are required to complete now). Fortunately, the certificate is good through September of 2018 (which is when I’m slated to graduate!) and it appears that all of us managed to get it done in time!

The third week of the course was difficult – not work wise, but content wise. We covered Ethics in Social Work research, and we took a very deep look at the Stanford Prison Experiment, after we examined the Milgram Experiment .

While I was familiar with both of these experiments, this was the first time I had ever seen video of the Stanford Prison Experiment (warning: while it’s a documentary, it’s graphic, but for those who are interested in watching the documentary, you can do so by clicking here).

To be perfectly honest, it was so shocking that I had a hard time watching it, and I was very glad when we had our class break because I needed to leave the room and take a breather.

We wrapped up with a discussion comparing Milgram and Zimbardo’s experiments within the framework of modern day NASW ethics and the Belmont Report. I think what I found most disturbing was Zimbardo’s apparent lack of actual remorse, and what I perceive as his lack of empathy…that, and the fact that he’s still making bank off of it.

In any event, it is in an absolute pleasure to be in classes that are taught by caring, passionate professors, with colleagues who are as engaged as I am, and with readings that are genuinely interesting (which makes the few hundred pages a week easily tolerable).

And with that, I wrap up, to great Jacob and head home for the evening.

“Who am I becoming?”

So today marks the first day of my first year as a Master of Social Work student at the UB School of Social Work.

At orientation they challenged us to journal or blog, and to think about “who am I becoming” as we go through this journey.

Social Work requires intensive study – but also intensive experiences – from field placements to self care. A large part of our competencies can only be developed from experiences, which is why the journey is so important.

It is my hope to share those experiences here, on this blog, along with my thoughts, struggles, triumphs, successes, and failures, so I will have something to look back upon as I go along this path.

This will allow me to see how I’ve grown, and also reflect upon where I’ve come from, where I’m going, and where I have yet to go. Hopefully this will also provide others with insight into the education process that makes an MSW, and a little bit of a glance “behind the scenes” as I advance through this program.

My hope is to also include resources on self care, policy, and other news articles that you or others may also find of interest.

In any event, welcome to my journey – I’m glad you’re here to join me!