Events and experiences that led to applying for a master’s degree in social work
In 2005 I successfully completed an Associate in Science degree at Penn State York, with foci in human development and family studies, while still serving as a member in the Army National Guard. Further, I was also called to serve in Iraq in 2005. It was after the completion of a deployment to Iraq to 2006 that I realized I needed to further my education. After I was honorably discharged from the Pennsylvania Army National Guard in 2007 I took a break from my studies to purse employment, and to find the confidence to make the first step back into the school context of higher education. Because of my break in studies, due to my deployment in 2005, I wasn’t sure in 2009, when I decided to pursue a baccalaureate, if I would be able to perform on the same level as my peers. Further, I also struggled with some combat stress-related issues as well.
In 2008 I got service-connected with the Department of Veterans Affairs, and worked with various VA counselors to develop realistic goals and expectations. It was because of my personal experience with the VA that I realized working with veterans is my career aspiration. I began to research variables that inhibit the probability of veterans transitioning back into civilian society successfully. During my research I also explored veteran-related jobs that would grant me an opportunity to work with veterans on a federal level, which most require a Master’s degree (i.e., MSW) for entry level employment. Because I have a family, I decided to pick up where I left off in my studies with foci on achieving a bachelor’s degree to pursue a Master’s in Social Work. Since I’ve returned to school I’ve made several accomplishments including: 1) the Dean’s List several times; 2) an internship at Penn State York working with students veterans; 3) participated on an Associate Director of Student Affairs search committee; 4) Helped develop a social network among student veterans at Penn State York and off-campus veterans organizations; 5) conducted a student needs assessment for Penn State York community members; and 6) conducted a campus-wide survey for Penn State York’s student-veteran population with foci on student veteran needs.
Based on my own personal experiences as a veteran transitioning, back and forth, between military life and academic life, I understand that veterans are a special needs population. Further, during my internship at Penn State York, I have found that many veterans do not utilize transition resources prior to separating from the military, and are not aware of most resources. Whereas most Veterans are aware of the educational and home loan benefits afforded to them, many are unaware of the myriad of others (i.e., mental health services, compensation and pension, housing assistance, health benefits, vocational rehabilitation, etc.).
How the MSW will further my career goals
There are several ways a Masters in Social Work will further my career goals; more importantly, this level of education will afford me the opportunity to work with veterans in a capacity that an undergraduate degree will not (e.g., within the VA system). My career aspiration is to serve as a social worker for the Department of Veterans Affairs; however, to obtain employment as a social worker within the Veterans Administration requires candidates to have a minimum of a Master’s degree for entry level employment. If accepted, I will utilize this opportunity to help veterans who are victims of ecological distress, and assist them with making a real difference in their life. I believe that the Veterans Administration needs more social workers who not only meet the educational requirements, but are also service-connected combat veterans, veterans who can relate to the needs of other veterans and their families. As a service-connected combat veteran who has experienced working with multiple social workers within the Department of Veterans Affairs, I am confident that the Veterans Administration’s values and objectives would highly compliment my own strengths and enthusiasm.
Experiences with diversity in practice and/or life
Ultimately, as a veteran I understand veterans dynamics. And as a senior student veteran who has transitioned from the military into the school context of higher education at Penn State York, I understand civilian dynamics as well. According to the research articles I’ve explored, my educational training, and current internship experience I’ve developed a more concrete understanding of the transitional issues veteran faces from multiple dimensions. I‘ve also personally experienced transition issues, and have utilized veteran-related services to meet my career aspirations. Through my voluntary service at the Lebanon VA Medical center, I am also multiculturally competent toward the diversity among veterans who served in different eras (e.g., Vietnam, Korea, Granada, Iraq, etc.).
During my time at Penn State York as a student veteran, I strived to provide clarity on any misrepresentations or biases perceived by my peers, in relation to military culture. I am consciously aware that different cultures in today’s society interact from an ecological perspective, constantly being influenced (i.e., by other cultures and the environment) and changing. I think that some concrete steps that a human service worker can take to incorporate into everyday practice are: recognizing that both various cultures and societies views are constantly changing; to be aware that various cultures in today’s society consist of subgroups and cultures whose views differ from their counterpart; and to acknowledge how society changes in relation to its various subgroups and cultures. I just desire to help as many veterans as I can. I am aware of a lot of resources and services available to veterans, and their family members. I have also made a lot of personal contacts during my internship. More importantly, I have had an awesome experience interacting with the client-veteran population at my internship site (i.e., at Penn State York).