Social Work Students Fan Out to Area Agencies

January 12, 2009

Social Work Students Fan Out to Area Agencies Sixteen undergraduates studying social work at Saint Leo University's main campus will start their field placements this month to complete their degree programs. They'll be assigned to a range of different professional settings.

"They are a full-time internships, 32 hours a week for the full semester," says Veronika Ospina- Kammerer, Ph.D., who coordinates the program. She is an assistant professor of social work and the director of field education at SLU's School of Education and Social Services.

In addition to giving students the chance to work directly with clients, the senior-year field placement also provides them with the opportunity to observe first-hand the challenges of operating a private-aid agency or government department. The BSW degree equips candidates to serve communities in a broad spectrum of helping agencies.

"By having the full exposure of the classroom academics and field experience, you really learn what the career is like," says Shelley Schneider, an administrator with Gulfside Regional Hospice Inc. Schneider holds both the bachelor's and master's degree in social work.

Schneider's agency will work with two students in the field placement this semester, just as it has in previous years. Gulfside Regional Hospice serves Pasco County families. Like other hospice organizations it specializes in the care of patients nearing the end of life, whether those patients are in nursing homes, assisted living facilities or in other settings.
The availability of students from Saint Leo allows patients and their families to receive more human interaction at a stressful and sometimes lonely passage, Schneider says. At the same time, she says, students are learning valuable career skills, and current employees of the agency are gaining supervisory experience by guiding the students' work.

"I have had a wonderful relationship with Saint Leo," says Schneider. "The students are very well-grounded. They're polite, they're appropriate, they're enthusiastic, eager to learn, and serious when they need to be."

In addition to Gulfside, Saint Leo social work students will be assigned to work in the local public school district, a homeless coalition, a domestic violence shelter, a legal program, general social-services agencies, and medical settings.

Ospina-Kammerer recruited several new agencies to work with the university this year to expand the roster of partners. An increase in the number of seniors in the program at the main campus this year–from 11 to 16–prompted the recruitment drive.