At the University of Saint Joseph (USJ), professors in the Master of Social Work (MSW) program prepare students to serve a variety of individuals in the community, including veterans. To meet the unique needs of the veteran population, USJ professors, like Mariann Mankowski, MSW, Ph.D., offer courses that teach students to effectively help individuals who have returned from service.
As part of her fall 2018 course, Advanced Clinical Practice with Veterans, Mankowski assigned a final project in which students researched and presented their findings on issues facing the veteran population. Impressed by the caliber of their work, Mankowski suggested they collectively submit their presentations to the 34thannual conference held by the Connecticut Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.
“I told them that this is a great networking opportunity. Plus, if you don’t have a job, it’s a good way to showcase yourself,” Mankowski remembered. “I said, ‘There’s no guarantee; it’s really competitive. You might go an entire career without ever getting a proposal accepted. Rejection rates are high.’”
Despite the odds, the class received word that their presentation was accepted right before the start of the spring 2019 semester. To ensure they made the most of this opportunity, the students – Marisa Desjardins, Michelle Castro, Areadner Cruz, and Taylor Andrews – worked diligently with Mankowski to prepare for the conference, all while completing their thesis projects during their final semester. Between their extra sessions and rehearsals, the students refined their projects and entered the conference on May 3, 2019 fully prepared to share their information with their peers.
After Mankowski’s prelude, in which she prefaced her students’ projects and more issues faced by the veteran population, the students presented on substance abuse, co-occurring disorders, moral injury, and suicide prevention to an audience of over 75 people.
“It’s valuable information for social workers who wouldn’t otherwise have access to this information,” said Mankowski. “They presented in front of agency directors, social workers who have been in the field for 20 years, and potential employers. This is the one time that social workers come together throughout the state for continuing education opportunities. For our MSW students to provide a depth of knowledge to community-based social workers is really important – particularly for me, whose area is veterans. It’s an area that is oftentimes overlooked; we wanted to dispel some myths. For our students to get that kind of exposure, that kind of experience, and then also be able to put it on their résumé is invaluable.”
Interested in pursuing a career in social work? Learn more about USJ’s programs here.