After spending my first semester at UVM in the sciences with the intention of pursuing a career in medicine, I enrolled in an introductory class called Foundations of Social Work taught by Celia Cuddy. The class changed my perspective of the field completely.
Before taking the class, I had no idea about the vast career options that social work had in the field of medicine, mental health, community engagement, and policy work. I was drawn to the endless possibilities in the field and the interpersonal nature of the profession.
I value a strength-based approach to social work and was fortunate to be taught through this lens during my time at UVM. Experiencing fieldwork so early on in my education was a thrill, and it gave me confidence moving forward in my career.
During my senior year, I was excited to work in the field as an intern at the Lund Family Center in their Residential Program, which provides treatment to parents experiencing challenges surrounding substance misuse and mental health. It was an opportunity to work alongside experienced social workers, family educators, and counselors, learning from their unique expertise. Through this year-long internship, I gained skills that will serve me as a future social worker.
Another valuable and unique experience for me was volunteering in the community at a local after-school program through our Social Work program’s Working with Refugees course. I worked at the Integrated Arts Academy in their afterschool program, which is run by the Boys and Girls Club. It was a great experience where I could form meaningful connections the children there.
I love that the College of Education and Social Services (CESS) makes for an incredibly intimate college experience. Knowing so many students and faculty members makes it feels like a tight-knit community where my opinions are valued. The faculty and staff within the Social Work Department are extremely unique in the sense that they work to develop strong relationships with individual students. I felt supported by both my professors and advisors when it comes to my coursework, field experience, and developing career goals. Professor Christine Velez taught us about social work theories and frameworks with an extremely engaging and inclusive approach. My academic advisor and BSW (Bachelor of Social Work) Field Coordinator JB Barna always provided the guidance and support I need.
Possibly my favorite part about the Social Work program is my relationship with peers in my cohort. I’ve found a great amount of support through my classmates, and am so happy that I got to experience my classes with such a tight-knit group of students. They were always there to answer questions about assignments, discuss class projects and conversations, and share their opinions about social work practice. They have been the most amazing resource for me at UVM, and I feel extremely fortunate to be a part of such an incredibly talented and wonderful group of young professionals.
I was grateful to be a part of several groups on campus that advocate for important change within CESS and UVM. As the student director of program initiatives in our Student Services office, I collaborated with staff and administrators to work on projects and advocate for students within the community. I also took on a leadership role on the CESS Student Advisory Board, which is made up of a group of students from various majors who represent the student body in discussions with senior leadership. And through partnership with the University’s Student Government Association (SGA), I joined the Diversity Curriculum Review Committee as UVM’s undergraduate student representative. It was exciting to work with faculty from different departments across the university.
Moving forward in my post-graduate career, I feel confident transitioning into graduate school and eventually full-time fieldwork. As I’ve continued to learn and grow in social work, my interests are narrowing down to focus on individualized mental health care and treatment. I would love to practice clinical social work in either a medical or specialized treatment setting, but I’m definitely keeping my mind open.
I'm happy that I was able to find my place at UVM, and feel grateful that my colleagues in the CESS community so greatly supported my efforts and professional goals.
About the author: Marisol Garcia (’20) is from Silver Spring, Maryland. After completion of her Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program at the University of Vermont, she will further her education through an advanced standing Master of Social Work (MSW) program at the University of Illinois at Chicago.