Tables lined the salon in the Barnhardt Student Activity Center on a November day as UNC Charlotte’s nationally ranked School of Social Work hosted its Field Education Fair. Students like Tachina Hardy buzzed in and out of the tables, speaking with agents and learning about upcoming internships. Hardy is well aware of the networking opportunities the fair presents, and has logged hundreds of hours in field experience in pursuit of undergraduate and graduate degrees.
“I love the fact that social work integrates internships into our program,” said Hardy, who returned to UNC Charlotte after receiving her bachelor’s in social work to earn a master’s degree. “It’s so beneficial to us because we get to graduate with at least two years of experience in the field.”
The field education process is a critical component in the education of social work that involves working as an intern with agencies in the area to gain hands on experience in the field. The university uses a concurrent field placement model, which allows students to gain field experience while simultaneously completing courses in the classroom toward their degree.
Juniors are placed in a field of interest, ranging from child welfare and counseling, to aging, schools and substance abuse. They complete roughly 230 hours of field work within their internships each semester of their senior year.
For some college students, finding an internship that offers great experience and is flexible enough to accommodate a full-time class schedule can be a challenge. That's where Dr. Ticola Ross, director of the field education program, comes in. Ross connects students with agencies in their areas of interest by hosting networking opportunities such as the field education fair.
“I was very pleased with the turn out of this event,” said Ross. “There were 46 agencies present with some highlighting internships in schools, foster care, healthcare and domestic violence services.”
The fair not only provides students with connections and information about internships, it also gives students a sense of the diversity that exists among social work agencies. Students can then discover they may want to pursue as a career, an opportunity that Hardy believes has been invaluable to her education experience.
“One of the reasons I chose to come back to UNC Charlotte for graduate school is because they allow you to filter through different areas of interests to see what best fits you professionally.”
This preparation for a professional career in social work is what the field education process is all about.
“The benefits of the field education program are extensive,” said Ross. “This program provides exposure to hands on social work, networking with agencies, taking what students have learned in the classroom and applying it, resume building and working on professional development.”
by: Anna Henderson