College of Health and Behavioral Studies

#CHBSChats with Morgan Epps

Read more about Morgan's field placement experience in the social work program


 

Series produced by: Morgan Bond
Creative Services Social Media Assistant

Morgan Epps

What makes the JMU social work program so special? 

The social work program makes up a small, diverse population at JMU. It's cohort-style meaning that my peers and I took all of our classes in sequence and will graduate together in May. This has allowed me to create close relationships with my peers who provide me with an excellent support system. I have met some of the most genuine people through this program who I am lucky to call my closest friends.

The curriculum for social work is special as it provides a lot of hands-on experience, allowing us to explore different paths to take with a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree. We are required to fulfill three internship requirements; 20 hours, 50 hours, and 472 hours. Our last semester we do our 472-hour practicum, where we work Monday-Thursday and have class Friday. I think that aspect is what makes us stand out across campus. Most students do not get to experience working in their field until they graduate. My hours have been with the Boys and Girls Club, Stafford County Schools and Blue Ridge Community College.

I think that social work itself is a unique field. My peers and I will all take our education and go different ways with it. We will have the opportunity to go straight into the work place and serve a diverse set of populations or to expand our education on a more specific field or population.

Tell us about your field placement at Blue Ridge Community College? 

Ever since my time as a Transfer Orientation Peer Advisor (TOPA), I have been interested in student affairs in higher education. Being placed at BRCC has confirmed my decision, as they have given me many opportunities to explore the field. They treat me like an employee and make sure that I get what I want out of my placement. 

I shared with them my interest in transfer advising, so I get to work with their transfer advisor on Wednesdays. I have facilitated focus groups for students in the college transfer program, worked the college fair, and took students on a tour of George Mason University.

I also conduct one-on-one interviews with students flagged as “at-risk” by professors. After meeting with students, I am able to come up with individualized success plans and implement those interventions. Each week, I meet with my regular students to check-in on their progress.

In what ways has your field placement helped prepare you for your future in social work? 

BRCC has allowed me to understand that I can use my social work skills in many different agencies. Most people would not put social work and higher education together, however, I have been able to showcase the skills I have learned in class throughout my practicum. I serve vulnerable populations and follow the same code of ethics that my peers do at their agencies.

They have also prepared me for my future in social work and higher education by treating me as an employee. I have the same responsibilities as my co-workers and am trusted enough to handle a case-load of my own. Every day and student is very different. I never know who is going to walk through my door and what needs they will have.

Why did you choose to go to graduate school after graduation? 

I chose to go straight into graduate school because I found a program that fit me well. I will be working towards my Masters of Education in Higher Education with a concentration in Student Affairs at the University of Virginia. It is an accelerated program, so I will begin in June 2018 and graduate in May of 2019. I felt like I had enough experience to know that I want to get into student affairs and wanted to relocate to Charlottesville. 

I had the opportunity to meet with the head of the department at UVA and the current cohort last semester before applying. They were all very welcoming and made me feel wanted at their school. I sat in on a student affairs class taught by a JMU alum and the fit was just right. It was great being around people that shared the same passions as me. 

What parts of graduate school are you most excited about?

I am excited for the internship I will have there. I will work at the UVA Career Center for Pre-health and Law Advising. I am a more hands-on learner and believe this will give me great experience outside of the community college system. I enjoy my placement now at BRCC, but I think it is important to have experience in the four-year setting as well.

I am also excited to get to know my cohort. I have already met some of them at our interview day and they all have diverse educational backgrounds and experiences that I will be able to learn from. I think that we will all bring a unique perspective of higher education to the table that will make the learning environment more enjoyable.

Do you have any advice for a social work student on why they should apply for graduate school? 

When reviewing my options of graduate school and talking to different faculty members, they all advised me differently. Some of them recommended that I take a gap year and get experience while some of them recommended that I go straight into a graduate program. I see positives on both sides, however, the person who knows you best is you. Some people know what population they want to serve while others need experience in the social work field.

A BSW is a great baseline for education as it gives experience working with a variety of populations in the micro, mezzo, and macro spectrum. After students are able to gain experience in a variety of populations and know exactly what they want to do in social work is when they should go to graduate school. There is no specific educational time-line that you need to follow. 

I think students think that because they have their BSW, they need their MSW. I would encourage future social work graduates to explore a variety of graduate programs, visit the school, and decide from there. Be 100% certain before committing to graduate school and do not compare your path to anyone else’s.

What are your long-term plans for a career in social work?

In June of 2019, I hope to work at a university close to my family. I do not have a specific university or department in mind, but a career that I serve and advise students. I think my internship next year will really help me solidify my career choice.

VISIT THE SOCIAL WORK WEBSITE

Just for fun...

  • Favorite place to eat on campus? 
    I don’t have a meal plan, so I usually go to Chick-fil-a and the Starbucks truck when I am on campus!

  • Favorite thing to do in Harrisonburg? 
    I love going downtown, specifically Ruby’s Arcade to bowl.

  • Favorite thing about JMU? 
    JMU is a really beautiful campus. I also love that I could approach any student on the quad and they would be happy to help or just talk to me. I think the friendliness of the students is what attracted me to transfer here.

  • Do you consider yourself a morning person or a night owl?
    Definitely a morning person.  

Published: Thursday, April 5, 2018

Last Updated: Thursday, April 5, 2018

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