Mary-Margaret Sweeney

Mary-Margaret Sweeney

Social Justice Solutions | Staff Writer
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Chronicling an MSW Internship

The trees outside my living room window are quickly going from green to gold. It’s a new school year. Even the years between college and graduate school, I thought each fall about the thrill of packing up a book bag full of fresh paper and pens, the sound of new textbook spines crackling open for the first time, sounding much like the leaves underfoot. I love this time of year.

I began graduate school in January, as my program has a rolling admissions policy, and I couldn’t take one more moment in my former job. And while I felt I had made the right move, the blasts of frozen wind coming off of Lake Michigan of a Chicago winter are not as inspiring to me as the golden fall. I got through that first semester, feeling dazed and unsure of what kind of social worker I would eventually become. I completed my first field placement over the summer in a macro level role with my local NASW chapter, working in policy and programming. I knew that my second level should be clinical–it would be good for my resume, but also for me. Maybe I could be convinced that clinical work was my thing. But I knew I had until January of 2014, a full year into my graduate education. This soothed me. I had time, and I would have my entire foundational year under my belt.

The day after I submitted my intent to begin my clinical placement in January of next year, the field work office called me, saying they found a las minute placement that I might really like. “How would you feel about a fall-spring internship?” my coordinator asked.

“I’m graduating next fall, Joanne. I don’t want to extend a full semester for a placement,” I said. (Although, the idea of putting it off just a liiiiiitle bit longer was appealing, I’ll admit!)

“No,” Joanne replied. “This fall. Like, now. Can you work that into your schedule?”

I did indeed have two full days a week without classes. I could work it in, for the right opportunity. After interviewing with the agency, I left knowing that I had to make this work. As scared as I was, as unprepared as I felt. The placement made a lot of sense for me.

I will be chronicling the events of second level MSW internship for SJS over this academic year. The purpose of this column is to help prepare students for this experience, to give some insight for current supervisors, and to explore the connections between macro-level and micro-level work.

I will be serving as a case manager and health educator with a refugee resettlement agency in Chicago, IL. It’s also in my neighborhood, and I may very well run into my clients while walking the dog or coming home from the local bar. My first exposure to client interaction will be with clients who do not speak any language I’ve ever studied. I will be working mainly in the youth program, and I am not a “kid person.” I thought I would work in macro-practice, and I’m trying my hand at micro. It will certainly be a year of learning, trial-and-error, and juggling of responsibilities.

Written By Mary-Margaret Sweeney
SJS Student Liason

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