GRADUATE STUDENTS LEARN TO APPLY CLINICAL SKILLS TO NONTRADITIONAL CAREERS
As an undergraduate, Jessica Weller ’98, G’99 assumed that a social work degree would lead to a career as a clinical social worker. “I always thought I’d do something with direct service,” Weller says. “But through my coursework I developed an interest in policy.”
Weller, like many social work students today, discovered she could use her skills as a social worker in a variety of ways. She combined social work training with her interest in policy and earned a master’s degree in public administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Now a social work graduate student, she’s putting her background to practical use as an intern at the University’s Office of Human Resources. After completing this degree, she hopes to work on compensation and diversity issues affecting the workplace.
Social work students have more nontraditional career opportunities available to them now than in the past, and realize the valuable role their training plays in such career choices, says Peg Miller, director of field placement. For Miller, the challenge is to help students acquire the basic skills they’ll need, and later assist them in applying those clinical skills to more nontraditional settings, depending on their career goals. “I may help students tailor their unique interests or encourage them to combine their strengths,” she says.
Before exploring nontraditional career opportunities, however, Miller says all social work undergraduates are required to complete field placements in traditional, service-oriented positions. This allows them to apply the skills they’ve learned in class. After putting their clinical skills to the test as undergraduates, Miller says more and more graduate students seek specialized field placements. “When the students come in, we talk about what they have done and what they hope to do,” Miller says. “We try to develop a placement that will benefit them and the employer.”
In her current field assignment, Weller assists the human resources staff with a wage and placement project and is involved in revamping SU’s staff grievance policy. Her first field assignment was with Vera House, a local agency that provides assistance for victims of domestic violence. “You need hands-on experience before you really understand how policies affect people,” she says.
Through her placement with the Niagara Mohawk Diversity Management Office in Syracuse, Carmen Young G’00 discovered that the skills and field experience she acquired as an undergraduate are useful in a corporate setting. “Having experience enables you to see how the individual fits into the bigger picture,” she says.
Young spent last semester at Niagara Mohawk and learned how the company is working to improve affirmative action policies. She helped staff members with issues related to the company’s Equal Employer Opportunity program. “With this placement, I experienced something different,” Young says. “Now I know that the clinical path isn’t the only one.”
AD DESIGN AND ILLUSTRATION PROFESSIONAL POLISH SKILLS THROUGH INDEPENDENT STUDY
For more than a quarter century, professional illustrators and advertising designers have returned to graduate school at Syracuse University without sacrificing their jobs and moving to Syracuse. The College of Visual and Performing Arts, in cooperation with University College’s Independent Study Degree Program, gives these professionals an opportunity to enhance their skills and earn master’s degrees in illustration or advertising design. “The two most important things this program offers,” says ad design graduate student Marie Thornton, “are access to professionals who are willing to help students, and the open, flexible format that allows you to work on your own schedule.”
Director John L. Sellers, who joined the advertising design faculty in 1970, initiated the program in 1974 as a way for working professionals to do graduate study in illustration or advertising design while spending only a limited amount of time on campus. “I wanted to set up an independent study program with a faculty of top professionals and students who could work full time while getting a master’s degree,” says Sellers.
In creating the highly competitive two-year program, which includes three two-week summer residencies on campus, Sellers recruited some of the best ad design and illustration professionals in the business. Since then, classes have been consistently filled and the courses continue to be taught by leading professionals. “I was elated to be one of the students admitted to the first class,” says Dave Wilkinson G’76. “The people I met were some of the best in the business, and that is still a trademark of the program.”
Throughout the year, students submit projects to the faculty and receive instruction via phone conferences. They also take weekend trips to agencies and studios in cities like Chicago and Toronto, where they meet with professionals. During the first two Summer residencies, students undergo an intensive period of instruction and complete assignments. In the third and final summer, they present the major research thesis required for graduation. Sellers says the program is rigorous, but he believes the stUdents should be challenged. “It’s demanding work,” Sellers says. “We don’t focus on the basics; we concentrate on content and strategy.”
After completing the program, students usually advance professionally because of what they have learned about the business and themselves. “They find out how truly good they are and what is really important in design,” Sellers says.
DANIELLE K. JOHNSON
Shortly before this issue went to press, Professor John L. Sellers passed away. The article appears here as it was written prior to his death, as a tribute to his memory and contributions to the program.
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