College of Nursing & Professional Disciplines

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Celebrating Social Work Month: Empowering our Social Workers

social work alumni
UND Social Work alums share their advice on how to support and empower social workers for effective practice.

In the spirit of Social Work Month, it’s time to shine a spotlight on the invaluable contributions of social workers—the often overlooked pillars of our communities. Aligned with this year’s theme, “Empowering Social Workers,” we turn to some of our University of North Dakota Social Work alums for insights on how to support and empower social workers for effective practice.

Impact your Community

I enjoy uplifting future social workers and seeing them set and achieve their personal and professional goals while impacting the communities they serve… High-quality supervision can help support social workers, where they can learn with and from others and learn from their challenges and successes. Having agency-inclusive, anti-oppressive policies in place that support and uplift social workers to bring their genuine selves to their practice can be helpful in empowering social workers…Get to know yourself and love yourself. Notice the strengths in others and in yourself. Give yourself and others grace. Reflect on lessons learned from the past, and plant seeds for future generations. Lift up others as you climb. Take naps when you can. – Ashley Rose Charwood ’18 teaches at Bemidji State University in Bemidji, MN, and is pursuing a Doctorate in Social Work.

Find your Specialty

Assisting students in obtaining appropriate internships while in school can definitely help ensure they are prepared for clinical practice. Additional education in specific skills and theory application, as opposed to only theory psychoeducation, will also benefit new therapists entering the field. You will continually be learning in this field of work in order to provide the best for your clients and our communities. Strive to find your area of expertise/specialty and continue developing your skills in order to excel in meeting your clients’ needs. – Randi Losalu ’18 is based in Cheyenne, WY, and works as a mental health therapist and executive director.

Focus on your Mission

Learning to balance self-care, change, and learning when to take a break so you do not burn out. Some days are harder than others in the field, and keeping focused on the mission of social work, why you became a social worker, can help to not give up. The world needs the passion and open-mindedness that the UND social work program does so well to cultivate in its students. – Lesley Atkins ’18 is based in Gregory, SD, and engages in mental health advocacy and community-based support.

Use Opportunities for Growth

One of my favorite things to do in my role is promoting social work, not just our program, but as a profession. Social workers do invaluable work that is often overlooked or attributed to other professions.  Many assume social workers don’t make any money, their work is “depressing” or that anyone who’s willing can do the work they do. In reality, it takes several years of education and training to earn the skill set needed to be a competent social worker.  Social workers should be recognized and celebrated for their important work. Celebrate the successes when you can, big and small! There will no doubt be some mistakes made and failures along the way. Use these opportunities for personal and professional growth. – Lani Moen, BSSW ’10, serves as an Academic Advisor for the UND Social Work Department in Grand Forks, ND.

Celebrate the Wins

Ensure you celebrate your wins. There are lots of times when things won’t work out, but the times they do will far outweigh the times they do not. Additionally, identify your role models and seek their feedback. They are a great source of support and help bring clarity when work is hard. We now live in a world where the people we serve are struggling more than they have ever struggled before. Being a social worker can be really hard at times; however, social workers are also one of the most important agents of change. Learn the system of your work and find ways for you to involve yourself in long-lasting change. – Jenna Richardson BSW ’18, MSW ’21, works as a homeless social worker in Thompson, North Dakota.

Engage. Engage. Engage.

Advocate for yourself and be a committed professional with integrity no matter what area of social work practice you are engaging in. Engage in continual growth and lifelong learning. Engage in critical thinking – lean into difficult conversations at all levels of practice in order to empower and advocate for marginalized populations. Employ a growth mindset – learn about those who are different from you. Be curious, not judgemental, and do the things that challenge or scare you – that is where the growth is. – Jennifer Fontaine Modeen ’06 is based in Grand Forks, ND, and wears multiple hats as a Mental Health Team Lead, School Social Worker, and Coordinator for Social and Emotional Learning.

Find your Passion

It is crucial for social workers to build connections, peer support, reflective supervision, and prioritization of self-care practices. Discover your passion! Take time to truly explore what drives you and find an employer that supports the meaningful work that brought you into this professional career. – Amy Bartz, MSW ’08 of McIntosh, MN, serves as a licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker focusing on children’s mental health and leadership in youth programming.

As we celebrate Social Work Month, let’s honor our social workers’ resilience, compassion, and dedication. By empowering and investing in their support and development, we can build a brighter future for all.



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