My first day of school jitters reminded me of being a kid.  I barely slept a wink the night before classes began.  My younger sister is graciously allowing me to crash on her couch while I’m in Seattle for classes every 3 weeks.  And she even made me a “first day of school” sign along with all sorts of school supplies and snack goodies waiting for me when I arrived at her apartment.  Sisters are the best!!!


One of the questions I’ve been asked most about going back to school is, “What does MSW mean?” Master of Social Work is the full title of the program, and the field has a long and interesting history (which I am totally geeking out over, so if you have a few spare hours, I’ll take you on a trip down the memory lane of social work compliments of my required course readings).  Social work is often one of those obscure fields of work that leave people who don’t work in the field wondering what exactly it’s all about. While some consider it a noble profession,  others have negative impressions based on personal experiences or observations from the media.  Some have accused the field of having a bit of an identity crisis since practitioners work in a wide variety of roles.  From my perspective, the social work field is appealing because of these vast opportunities including leadership and direct service roles, research, policy, “licensed” clinical work, and many opportunities to affect social change.

The following definition was approved by the IFSW General Meeting and the IASSW General Assembly  in July 2014:

Global Definition of the Social Work Profession

“Social work is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work.  Underpinned by theories of social work, social sciences, humanities and indigenous knowledge, social work engages people and structures to address life challenges and enhance well-being.

The above definition may be amplified at national and/or regional levels”. (

I’m still in the process of exploring the type of field work (internships, practicums, etc) that I’d like to pursue, which comprises a large percentage of my education in this program.  Meanwhile, I find myself feeling inspired by the faculty, and fellow students in my cohort.  After meeting many of my professors at orientation in September, I am not at all surprised that this is a top ranked program worldwide.

But still….why social work? Why now? Well, first of all there is A LOT of work to be done when it comes to oppression and social issues in this country, and around the world.  I’m rolling up my sleeves, and ready to be in the thick of it because there is too much pain and suffering for me to ignore this calling in my life.  I’ve woken up to the fact that I am extremely privileged in many ways, and yet my disability has allowed me to experience a degree of prejudice and inequity firsthand.  Also, the advocacy and education work that Joy and I started on this blog over 6 years ago would likely not exist if it were not for the counseling services I received from a licensed MSW, which gave me the space I needed to explore feelings of grief, anger, and sadness over my vision loss.  I am beyond grateful for the people in my life who are supporting me as I begin this journey – my husband, kids, parents, siblings, extended family, friends and neighbors.

“In the unceasing ebb and flow of justice and oppression we must all dig channels as best we may, that at the propitious moment somewhat of the swelling tide may be conducted to the barren places of life.”
― Jane AddamsTwenty Years at Hull House


(Visited 105 times, 1 visits today)

2 thoughts on “First Day of School

  1. Thank you for being a positive bright light in our family and the world. The program is fortunate to have you! I can’t wait to hear about it all!

  2. Wow! This is so exciting! I’m so inspired by you! I would love to “geek out” about SW with you and hear more about your studies. Truth be told, if I could, I would be a professional student and get Masters degrees in many areas, including SW. Love you Nelly!

Comments are closed.