|Megan Vitale, MSW, LSW|
I received a Bachelor of Arts in Family and Child Studies, Concentration in Family Services and a certificate in Child Advocacy. If it weren’t for MSU ‘s family and child studies program, I would not be where I am today. When I first entered college I was originally majoring in elementary education. That quickly changed after taking one of my first family and child studies courses. The class required we complete 100 community service hours in a non-school setting to expand our horizons. After speaking with upper classmen and researching online, I found that the Oasis: A Haven for Women and Children was looking for volunteers in the social services department. The agency is dedicated to helping needy women and children. Along with providing them with basic needs, the Oasis also provides numerous services and educational opportunities to break the cycle of poverty. Needless to say, it took one week volunteering at the Oasis to help me realize I wanted to change my major into something related to the social service field. I felt such passion and determination when helping these women and children that I knew I found my calling. I immediately met with my academic advisor, Dr. Cottle and he advised me on how to change my major and what specific career routes I can take with a Family and Child Services degree. I made the switch right away, and I couldn’t be happier that I did. I am now a licensed social worker in the state of NJ, and my educational career all started at Montclair State University.
I would have to say the amazing internship opportunities MSU provides its students with. The family and child services department required a final semester internship in which I needed to complete 450 hours under the supervision of a social worker. I was thankfully able to use the connection I had made with the director at Oasis to obtain an internship. Not only did this internship semester provide me with amazing learning experiences, it also gave me the opportunity to see what the real world would be like. I worked everyday from 9-5pm, and often times on weekends as well. It gave me a glimpse of what life would look like after I graduated and got my first full-time position.
Montclair State University’s program is phenomenal at networking its students to different resources and allowing them to promote themselves as professionals. This program and the staff were always supportive and hands on with the students. I think I most appreciated how honest and forthcoming my academic advisors/professors were with me throughout my four years. When changing my major I was told in full details the future career choices I would have, and even struggles I may encounter. I thought it was honorable of the staff to not steer the students in the direction of false hope. For example, when changing my major and speaking with Dr. Cottle about a future in social services, he was the one who suggested I look into graduate programs for my MSW. I would have never known I needed to further my education in social work if it weren’t for his guidance.
One of my fondest memories would be making my senior portfolio. Although I’m sure most students would read this and say, “Really? Doing work was her favorite? I doubt it,” but it sincerely was. I enjoyed making my portfolio because it gave me the opportunity to expand my professional resources beyond my internship. I was able to go to conferences, other agencies, and even school districts to learn more about social services as a whole. The portfolio is extensive proof of my growth throughout my final semester; it captures the knowledge I gained regarding the field of social work and I still use it as a reference today.
Currently, I work with both adults and adolescents/children who are diagnosed with mental illness. I provide both individual and family therapy. Along with my full-time job, I am also a child clinician in a private practice. I will be taking my LCSW exam soon, and applying for the license when I complete my hours in June 2015. Overall, the MSU program in general prepared me for a meaningful future in helping others. From this program I was able to further be molded into an empathetic, caring, and goal-oriented therapist.