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News

Social work students pivot to meet field requirements

February 02, 2021

Despite the challenges of COVID-19, students in Carthage’s social work program are still making a difference in their communities.

By the end of their senior year, each student completes at least 450 hours of active field work in organizations that address different social issues. Each field work experience is unique, with students creating projects — suggested policy shifts or new program ideas — that can make an impact even after they’ve graduated.

Check out three students and the work they’ve done in their 2020-21 field work placements:

Haley Olson ’21

Haley started her journey at Carthage as an English major, but the Introduction to Literary Studies course persuaded her that social work is the best way to actively address the important social issues raised in those English classes.

Haley Olson ’21She’s completing her field requirements with an agency that supports sexual abuse survivors, doing everything from manning the phones of a sexual abuse hotline to research for presentations at local schools. Although most sexual abuse discussions center on women, a male caller prompted her “to reflect and rewire my own expectations” for the complex profession.

Even though Haley has had to work remotely because of COVID-19, she’s able to provide a variety of her agency’s services virtually. Over the phone, for example, Haley advocates for sexual assault survivors in emergency rooms.

“I’ve been humbled by the experience of working with so many amazing people,” she says.

Rhiannan Gahgan ’21

Rhiannan started as a psychology major but, with the help of a first-year advisor, found a better match for her interests in the Social Work Department.

Rhiannan Gahgan ’21Completing her field work with a local elementary school, she bridges the gap between families and teachers and provides support for students facing adverse conditions from poverty to trauma. Many of those issues have been amplified by remote learning.

One essential part of her work is completing home visits for students, “from dropping off supplies to talking to students through their front door to figure out how to get them to class each day.”

“Young people are just at the right age where, if the right person walks into their life, they can pull a complete 180,” Rhiannan says. “I want to be that person.”

Abigail Rivera ’21

After starting out as a pre-med student, Abigail took a course called Understanding AIDS that made her “more aware of how policies are just and unjust.” Determined to change that, she shifted to social work.

Abigail Rivera ’21Now, Abigail is completing her field work with a local agency that offers services to those escaping human trafficking. Working in case management, Abigail provides logistical support and counseling.

She’s been able to hold case management sessions over the phone during the pandemic, but it has complicated the logistics. For instance, when dealing with international trafficking cases, people have limited travel options to return to their home countries.

“Learning about people is different than being with people,” Abigail says. “I don’t believe I would be able to succeed as a social worker without field work experience.”