Alumni Share Tips on How to "Navigate the System"

February 26, 2015 / By: Andrea E. Grey and Nicole Dahl
Alumni share their experiences
MSW alumni share their experiences "navigating the system" from graduation to clinical licensure

On Friday, February 20th, the MSW Student Association (MSWSA) hosted the fifth annual Navigating the System - an event that provides graduate students the opportunity to connect with alumni to gain first-hand experience, guidance and advice about the professional licensure process following graduation. This year, Navigating the System was presented in a new format. The panel discussion presentation of prior years was replaced by a “speed dating” format. Students gathered in McNeely 100 and were seated at tables while alumni circulated between tables at twenty-minute intervals. A station was also set-up and facilitated by MSWSA Faculty co-advisor George Baboila, to accommodate distance learners and weekend cohort students, who could not attend the event in-person, but could participate via Adobe Connect.

The guest alumni represented various professional disciplines – at various points in their careers. Lisa Thibodeau (Class of ’13), a children’s mental health case manager at St. Croix County Health and Human Services, shared her experience obtaining dual licensure in Minnesota and Wisconsin. She also discussed the benefits of receiving supervision through her employer. Marisa Biolo (Class of ’12), a school social worker in East St. Paul, discussed challenges and offered advice for transitioning from being a student to having a career. Alex Johnson (Class of ’12), recently transitioned at Hazelden to Minnesota Mental Health Clinics where he establishing his out-patient mental health practice. Alex discussed how training in alcohol and drug counseling has impacted his practice, demand and autonomy as an LGSW – and the need for social workers to receive greater training within this area. Heather Holt (Class of ‘12) passed her LICSW exam this past November, and recently began private practice at The River City Clinic. Heather shared her journey from graduation to LICSW, and explored the pros and cons of private practice.

The decreased formality of the event’s new format fostered greater interaction and allowed students and alumni to ask and answer questions candidly. The event was fun, informative and reinforced the important connection between alumni and the current student body. As MSWSA Faculty co-advisor Jane Hurley-Johncox astutely pointed out in her closing remarks, ”Graduate school provides a distinct hurdle that is different from life in the professional world. When students anticipate professional deadlines, professional success is more than possible.”