#CHBSChats with Caroline Whitlow

Read more about why Caroline finds the social work major so fulfilling.


Series produced by: Morgan Bond
Creative Services Social Media Assistant

PHOTO: Caroline Whitlow

Why did you choose to study social work?

I chose social work because I am passionate about empowering others, and the B.S.W. program at JMU teaches us how to this effectively from a generalist perspective. In other words, we don't have to know exactly what we want to do with our lives yet.  We learn skills that are transferrable to any social work practice.

What are some of your favorite experiences from being part of the social work program?

As part of our Introduction to Social Work course, each student has to spend time volunteering in a community agency.  I ended up tutoring an amazing group of women as they worked towards becoming U.S. citizens. This really sparked my passion for working with international populations, especially those who brave the dense and uncertain immigration process. So that experience was extremely eye-opening and influential.

Every spring, we have a department-wide Social Work Celebration.  Every academic level comes together, and I love learning about what my peers are doing and what lies ahead in the program for us as underclassmen.  The celebration also has a guest speaker that highlights a particular theme.  Last year, the keynote speech was about environmental activism, and I learned a lot from it.

How has the learning environment in social work helped you become more successful?

Social work is a very hands-on, field-based major.  We earn many of our credits by engaging with the community as volunteers and interns in various agencies.  This aspect has greatly improved my professionalism and time management skills.  It also makes me more confident about working with clients one day, as I will have plenty of experience making those interpersonal connections.

Tell us about one of your favorite social work professors.

Last semester, I took social welfare with Dr. BJ Bryson.  Dr. Bryson went out of her way to ensure that we considered every perspective on an issue.  She allowed classroom discussions to take their natural course, and I became more open-minded because of what she and my peers had to say.  Dr. Bryson also made sure that we learned by doing.  We actually had to complete an advocacy project in the community in lieu of a final exam, and that really improved my research, event planning, and organization skills more than a textbook or a lecture could have.

How has the social work program helped prepare you for life after college? 

What's unique about JMU's social work major is that our academic peers are going to become our colleagues in the future.  It's a small major, and social workers are a connected community that rely on collaboration with one another for successful practice.  This program not only helps us grow those connections now, but strengthens our collaboration skills. 

Where do you see yourself going with social work after you graduate?

The exciting thing about JMU's program is that since it is generalist practice based, I could go in many different directions once I graduate.  As of now, I hope to find work in a non-governmental organization (NGO) for international development or refugee resettlement.  But if you talk to a group of social work students, you will find a wide range of goals and passion

What are some traits a student needs to succeed in social work and what would you tell a prospective student about the major?

Social work majors definitely need to be flexible and good with time management, as there are so many requirements beyond the classroom. This shouldn't turn prospective students away, as these opportunities have been some of my favorite and most formative experiences at JMU.

What do you like most about being involved in the social work major?

I love learning about the diverse passions of my peers.  Everyone in social work comes from a different background and has a different story to tell.  Talking to other social work majors genuinely gives me hope for a future filled with empathy, awareness and progress. VISIT THE SOCIAL WORK WEBSITE

Just for fun...

  • Best place to eat on campus?
    Fueled food truck!
  • Favorite place to relax on campus?
    Back on the trails in the Arboretum 
  • Favorite thing about Harrisonburg?
    How different groups (refugees, college students, agricultural workers, Mennonites, etc.) come together to create such a quirky, fun community.
  • Favorite JMU tradition?
    All of them except stealing Quad bricks. Please do not steal Quad bricks. It is dangerous for bikers and persons with disabilities.
  • Best piece of advice?
    You only regret the chances you don't take!

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Published: Thursday, October 5, 2017

Last Updated: Friday, February 19, 2021

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