Social Work/Law/ Public Affairs Pre-Grad Intern Shaylyn Mooney
The Intellectual Entrepreneurship: Pre-graduate School Internship this semester has been a wonderful educational experience, and I am very glad I was able to participate in the program. I knew I wanted to pursue higher education after receiving my undergraduate degree in Social Work, but I was not sure if I wanted a law degree, a Master's in Public Affairs, a Master's in Social Work, or a dual degree in two of these fields. Therefore, I joined the program to explore my options for graduate school with the guidance of someone who has been in the same position.
I was very fortunate to be paired up with Social Work Doctoral student Monica Faulkner. Monica has been a very helpful mentor this semester by providing me with first-hand anecdotes of graduate school and also by connecting me with many resources to learn about social work practice in the field. I had the opportunity to attend a graduate class in both the LBJ School of Public Affairs and in the School of Social Work. Through this experience, I was able to observe the culture of graduate school, and its contrast from the undergraduate environment. Each class was three hours long, and met once a week, which I learned from Monica is very common in graduate school. I observed that the students were much more passionate and knowledgeable about the topics discussed in class, since the class was likely more specific for their own interests.
A major component of my internship involved interviewing a variety of social workers who worked in government, so I could expand my knowledge about the broad field of social work and identify my areas of interests. I had a phone interview with Nancy Walker, who is a social worker and the Legislative Director for House Representative Elliot Naishtat. Mrs. Walker was very informative in explaining her role as a social worker in the legislature, included the benefits and challenges of her position. Although, she only received her Master's degree in Social Work, she advised me to pursue a dual degree in Public Affairs and Social Work if I was serious about working with policy. It is comforting to know that even if I pursue a Master's in Social Work and not Public Affairs, that there is still the possibility of obtaining a job like Mrs. Walker has. I also met with Dawn Choate, who is a social worker and non-profit lobbyist. Ms. Choate was also very informative in explaining what she does on a daily basis. I learned that a major benefit of having a social work degree and working in government is you have a great perspective on understanding how macro-policy directly affects yours clients.
One of my major goals from this internship was determining if I wanted to pursue a dual degree of either a J.D. or a M.P.A. along with my M.S.S.W. When I met with Ms. Choate at the capitol, I was able to speak with many other people who work on staff with representatives and senators. Some of these staff members had their M.S.S.W and J.D., while some had their M.S.S.W. and M.P.A., and others had a J.D. and M.P.A. Speaking with these individuals helped me see how their degrees impacted their careers. Julie, was able to explain to me how she received her dual degree in social work and law along with the application process and the pros and cons of pursuing both degrees. I enjoyed observing the office environment among the staff members, and the excitement of the legislative session. However, I have decided that at this point in my life I would like to have more direct practice with clients, and perhaps pursue macro-practice later on.
As part of the program, I also researched universities that I would be interested in attending for graduate school. I researched The University of Houston, The University of Texas and The University of Minnesota. All of these programs have dual degree options, which is largely why I chose to research them. I found out that it is best to go to graduate school in the state that you are interested in working because of licensing boards and state specific education. I am interested in working in Texas, meaning it would be a good idea to go to graduate school in Texas. The University of Texas School of Social Work is ranked sixth in social welfare programs across the nation. The location and highly ranked program at UT has confirmed my decision to attend the University of Texas for my Master's degree. Also, I learned from the internship that it is important to attend a school with faculty who are working on your research interest. Many of the research projects at UT do interest me, however I am primarily interested in the International Social Work classes I will be able to take in the graduate program, along with the opportunity I may have to intern abroad for my final field placement.
I feel much more prepared for graduate school after participating in this internship. I attended a M.S.S.W. information session at the University of Texas School of Social Work where I learned about the application process, and the various degree plans I can pursue. For example, I learned I can omit 18 hours of credit in graduate school by pursuing the "advanced placement program," since I will have a Bachelor's in Social Work. I had a 'revelation moment' during this session when the presenter explained how in graduate school, your work is never really finished. She explained how in undergraduate you have a set amount of reading, papers, projects and tests and when you have completed these you are finished. However, in graduate school the environment is much more self-led, and there is always some school work that you could be working on. I was able to meet with Social Work Student Affairs Administrator, Ramon Gomez, to ask specific questions about the Social Work Master's program at the University of Texas. Mr. Gomez was incredibly helpful in explaining what my degree would look like in the advanced placement program. I am interested in participating in an international field placement in graduate school. Mr. Gomez was able to answer many of my questions about the application process for this placement, and how it will impact my degree plan. I feel much more confident about applying for graduate school now that I know what the University of Texas School of Social Work is looking for. I now know that next Fall, I need to start preparing for the GRE, and looking for faculty members who can write me letters of recommendation.
Through the course of the internship, I expanded my knowledge about social work careers, especially the role of social workers in policy and government, and explored my various degree options for graduate school. My experience from the internship this semester has solidified my decision to pursue higher level education. The program has changed my perspective on graduate school in the sense that I have become more confident about my abilities to receive another degree, and am more knowledge about the culture and expectations of graduate school. I plan on attending the University of Texas in Spring 2011 to pursue a Master's in Social Work in the advanced placement program. As of now, I have decided that I want to gain experience in the field after I receive my Master's degree for a few years. Later on, I may decide to come back to school to pursue a J.D. or a degree in Public Affairs, however, based on my own interests and the knowledge I have gained from this internship I do not intend on pursuing a dual degree without further experience in the field.