The University of Maryland School of Social Work has undertaken an initiative—under the leadership of former Dean and Retired Colonel Jesse Harris—to increase the School's capacity to educate students to better serve soldiers, returning soldiers, veterans, and their families. Although this Initiative is still under development we have developed the following components.
IMPROVED ACCESS FOR VETERANS
In addition to the wide array of courses at the University of Maryland School of Social Work—which has one of the largest and most diverse curricula in the nation—we have courses that are especially germane for preparing to serve returning soldiers. These courses include several new offerings:
Traumatic Stress and Stress Management Techniques
Social Work with Military Service Members and their Families
Social Work Response to Mass Violence and Disaster
We also have strong programs in Employee Assistance, Health, Mental Health, Aging and Services to Families and Children.
Although we have not fully implemented many of the components listed above we have had many students in our MSW and PhD programs with military connections. One of them recently graduated from the School and wrote the following to our then Associate Dean for the MSW Program, Deborah Rejent.
I am graduating this year, I'm not walking because I have military obligations. So, before I am done, I just wanted to make sure that you knew how much you have helped me and how grateful I am for your help. When I first started I had trouble securing a placement. You became aware of the situation and called me. At that time I was feeling pretty low, because of placement difficulties and I began having serious doubts about being able to continue in the program in addition to feeling a little hurt because my family was very proud that I had been accepted into a graduate program and I did not want to let them down. I am still the only member in my family and even my extended family that has graduated from a university. After you had called and discussed with me the process given my drug possession charge, I felt a sense of relief and a few weeks later I was having more positive discussions with field coordinators. I can't thank you enough for intervening when you did, it gave me hope.
Last semester I was informed that I should not take 18 semester hours, because of the intensity. Over and over I heard how that was a bad idea. The Army had allowed me to attend full time for one academic semester and I had to make sure I had those classes in order to graduate. You allowed me to take the 18 hours and I told myself I was not going to drop a course and that I was going to give it all I've got in order to pass. The result was a A+,A, A-, B+ and a Pass in field placement. It was very hard, but I learned a great deal from that experience especially that I can still do a good job and be an effective worker given an intense workload. I would not have gained that confidence if you had not allowed me to take 18 hours.
The final challenge occurred this semester where I had to fulfill my military duties as a full time soldier and as a lab tech doing research along with a 15 hour course load and a placement. By the time the semester rolled around I was prepared and made sure to start working on my assignments, projects, and readings as soon as I got them. I had to really learn effective time management and to hold on to my values as a soldier and as a future social worker. I advocated strongly for clients, residential staff, and myself. Despite the challenges I feel ready and confident to practice social work.
Now that I am done with my placement, I have been able to establish a discussion with the Vice President of (name removed) and will present how Crisis Services can be used to provide effective services to the Hispanic and Immigrant community. I have been aware of the situation for quite some time, and was upset when I learned that Crisis Services was not reaching out to Hispanics even though they had the capabilities to do so. I kept the issue going until mid March when I had to address a series of events that had unfolded. Since that period Crisis Services brought in the only Hispanic Client to come through the house two more times, and the mobile treatment team made 3 assessments with Hispanics. Those numbers are minimal, but in that last month after I voiced my concern, those numbers were higher than what they had previously been from September 08 to April 09. In one month Crisis Services had made more contacts with Hispanics than they had previously done when I had first come on board in September. I learned that addressing a concern to as many people as possible is the best option, someone is bound to hear and take action. Dr. Rejent you were that voice for me and I write this because you had a positive impact on my life. Even though I corresponded with you online and on the phone, your assistance made it possible for me to succeed here.
I mention this last bit, because I wanted you to know that without your help, motivation, and assistance, none of this would have been possible.
I am very grateful and I can't thank you enough for allowing me to further my education. I went from being an 18 year old drop out, to getting my GED, Associates, Bachelors, and now a Masters degree. Dr. Rejent thank you for believing in me and help making this happen.
If you would like to discuss the opportunity to improve your capacity to serve returning soldiers and veterans please contact us via email.