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MSW Newsletter | Winter 2011

December 2011

 From the Desk of Our Director

Greetings from the School of Social Work! This time of year, I always appreciate what we are able to accomplish in the previous year here in the School. (That is, after the papers are graded and the end of semester details are wrapped up!) In the service of our mission, Director Katie Van Blair prepares competent and ethical social work professionals who enrich lives and advocate a just society, we are humbled that we learn as much from our students and clients as we seek to teach. Thanks to all of you who have played a part in that process.

Our greatest recent accomplishment is excellent news to share. At its October 2011 meeting, the Commission on Accreditation of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) reviewed the Self Study, the letter of Instruction to the Site Visitor, the Site Visit Report, and the Program's response to the Report for the Reaffirmation of the St. Ambrose University MSW Program. The Commission voted to reaffirm the program's accreditation until its next scheduled agenda date for Reaffirmation in October 2019. Faculty and staff heaved a hearty sigh when we received this letter and look forward to the next eight years of Social Work Education at St. Ambrose.

Another accomplishment is the development of a study abroad trip to India, taught by Dr. Johny Augustine. He will accompany five social work students to several locations in India, both rural and urban, in order to study the Mental Health delivery system in that country. Faculty and students alike are enthused about this trip. Dr. Augustine has written a brief article about it for this newsletter.

Finally, the School continues to grow. We have experienced slow, steady growth in our full-time and part-time cohorts, as well as our Advanced Standing cohort. It is a gift and a challenge to be sure to facilitate strong education and professional development with existing resources, as so many of our social service partners are well aware of. We have begun offering more courses online and hybrid (online and in-seats) in order to supplement the classroom experiences. These courses are routinely valued by students, with excellent ratings. Some students actually prefer that format. Even in this ever-changing electronic context, our focus on empowerment social work remains the same.

So, please enjoy this newsletter, highlighting some faculty, students, and alumni as well as a few recent events we'd like to share. Happy Holidays to all of you, and a safe and Happy New Year.



In the news


    The Council on Social Work Education has reaffirmed accreditation of the St. Ambrose School of Social Work for an additional eight years, the maximum years possible. "The accreditation is an honor reflecting both the academic excellence of our degree program and the quality of our faculty," says Katherine Van Blair, director of the School of Social Work. "We look forward to eight more years of preparing competent and ethical social work professionals who enrich lives and advocate for a just society."
    The School of Social Work is excited to offer its inaugural winter International Social Work program based in Bangalore, India. Bangalore, otherwise known as the Silicon Valley of India, is a multi-ethnic location with top-notch educational institutions, temples, shopping centers, restaurants, and parks. Students will spend their three weeks working with mental health professionals at the National Institute of Mental Health & NeuroSciences, one of the premier academic institutions in mental health and neuroscience in India. The program also includes excursions to Mysore, home of the magnificent Mysore Palace and Chamundeshwari Temple, and Cochin, for a cruise in the backwaters of Kerala. Accompanied by Dr. Johny Augustine, program participants will depart from the Quad-City International Airport on December 26 and will return on January 21, 2012.
    Dr. Brenda DuBois, Professor of Social Work, has been invited by the University to give the commencement address at this year's winter commencement on Saturday, December 17. Commencement will be held at 11:00 am at the River Center in Davenport, Iowa.




Stephanie Olson is in her final year of the SAU School of Social Work Program. Olson currently lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with her husband and son. She commutes to Davenport from Cedar Rapids and is currently completing her field experience at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

Olson originally began her education with a focus in elementary education but eventually changed her major to Social Work. She said she thinks most people choose to go into social work because of something that has happened to them or someone close to them. For Olson, it was growing up with a sister that had a disability and she watched her mother struggle to take care of her. Olson believes it was this experience that caused her to shift her focus toward social work. She also states that after watching her mother cope with these difficulties, she wanted to help people better understand the health system. She also states that her mother has been a substantial inspiration in her life.

Olson graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in 2005 with her bachelor's in Social Work, worked for Tanager Place in Cedar Rapids for two years, and then at Big Brothers, Big Sisters for three years. She feels she has known for quite some time that she wanted to eventually go back to school and work towards her Master's degree. It was in 2009 that her husband was deployed to serve overseas. Olson says that it was this news that motivated her to go back to school. She states that she "needed to have something to work towards while her husband was away."

Olson has had to cope with her husband being overseas and balancing the roles of being a mother and a full time graduate student. She is grateful for her supportive family and friends who have helped her with managing these tasks. Olson also states that during her time at Saint Ambrose she has always made her professors aware of her situation and the challenges that come with it and that the professors have all been very understanding and have worked with her to balance her schedule. She is relieved at the level of understanding the professors have provided and how they have tried to accommodate her needs.

Olson is not completely sure of where she would like to be after graduation but she did state she enjoys working in the hospital setting and also has an interest in working in child welfare.
Olson's advice for students getting ready to graduate is, "As social workers we need to remember to be patient with our clients and meet them where they are at. These are people's lives we are working with and while what we are doing may be routine for us, it is not necessarily routine for our clients. We need to understand and respect their situations."


Karla Miley



Professor Karla Miley graduated from Augsburg College with a bachelor's degree in Sociology and Psychology. During her time at Augsburg College, Miley had the opportunity to have a field placement in a settlement house, an experience that validated her success in facilitating groups. This experience, combined with her religious and spiritual roots in social justice, led to her deciding to further her education at the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration where she earned her Master's degree in Social Work.

Although Professor Miley had originally planned on being a social worker in a church, her first opportunity for employment took her down the path of becoming a school social worker in suburban Chicago. She stated that her experience in schools got her "feet wet" working with children and allowed her to strengthen her group work and counseling skills.

After moving to Quincy, Illinois, she focused on volunteer work for the YWCA and Girl Scouts. When her husband's work relocated the Miley family to a small community 50 miles south of Springfield, Illinois, Miley found employment at a local nursing home where she provided direct services about ten hours per week. As a result of this experience, she realized that she had fallen in love with aging services. She states that what she learned from this is experience was, "When you learn to listen to the person, you learn to listen to their story."

Once again, the Miley family moved, this time to Woodhull, Illinois. While waiting for the "perfect job" to come along, Professor Miley initiated her private practice as a nursing home consultant. During this time an opportunity arose for her to teach at Black Hawk College. She indicated that she almost did not apply for the term contract teaching position, but her family and friends strongly encouraged her to apply. She stated she was shocked when she got the job. In all, Professor Miley worked at Black Hawk College for nearly 30 years, serving as the Chair of the Department of Social Behavioral Studies for eight years, and, after her official retirement in 2009, as the Interim Dean of Instruction and Student Learning for about a year.

While teaching at Black Hawk, Professor Miley met Dr. Brenda DuBois, who was a professor of social work at Marycrest College. It was through this interaction that Miley and DuBois launched their idea for an introductory social work text. With the success of this text, Social Work: An Empowering Profession (in its 8th edition), their publisher asked them to develop a text for generalist social work practice. Professor Michael O'Melia joined their writing team to author Generalist Social Work Practice: An Empowering Approach (coming out in January in its 7th edition). As a result of their work on empowerment, Miley, DuBois, and O'Melia have had opportunities to present at various conferences around the world.

Professor Miley started teaching at St. Ambrose University approximately 14 years ago as an adjunct professor.

Through all of her teaching experience she indicates that she enjoys watching students discover where they were in their lives and maximizing their strengths. She states that she plans on continuing to teach and benefits from the routine that teaching provides. In her free time, Professor Miley enjoys reading, gardening, traveling, and various hand crafts such as quilting, needlepoint and knitting. Professor Miley enjoys spending time with her two children and their families, now totaling six grandchildren, who all live in the Chicago area.


Reina Reyes, Alum



St. Ambrose School of Social Work alum Reina Reyes graduated from the program in 2005. Reyes graduated from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale with her BA in Psychology and BS in Administration of Justice in 1993. Reyes chose the Ambrose program because it was local and the part-time program allowed her to continue working while she worked on her degree. Currently, Reyes is the Intake Coordinator at Arrowhead Ranch in Coal Valley, Ill., a residential treatment facility for at-risk youth. This means she has the dual responsibility of being the school social worker for the program and completes the clinical assessments on at-risk youth to see if they are suitable for Arrowhead's programs. The agency provides the youth with counseling, education, and social services. As of this year, Arrowhead has been approved by the Illinois State Board of Education as a residential school. Reyes has become a licensed clinical social worker and is a certified school social worker. Reyes stated that the faculty and staff were helpful while she was in the program and have been just as helpful since she graduated. Reyes stated that she has kept in touch with the faculty and staff since graduating and it has kept her current on events. Reyes also stated that she enjoyed how understanding the faculty and staff in this program are when it comes to the lives of their students. Reyes said that the SAU program and its faculty and staff provide good skills for the graduates to live by.

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