Concurrent MSSW/VSW Graduate
Q. What is your undergraduate degree in? Where did you earn and it and when?
A. I attended the University of New Haven in Connecticut where I received a Bachelor’s of Science in Criminal Justice in 2015.
Q. What brought you to the VSW-CP?
A. Believe it or not, I grew up terrified of all animals. I had no reason to be afraid, but I was. When I was about 13 years old I decided I wanted to stop my fear and my family got me a dog. This changed my life. The bond I created with my dog inspired me to use this bond for the good. Once I graduated with my Bachelor’s, I got accepted to the University of Tennessee to work on receiving my Master’s in Social Work. I looked into the certificate prior to being accepted; however, I wasn’t too sure what it was all about. At orientation the professors gave a brief overview of each certificate, and I found myself wanting to participate in the VSW-CP. During my undergraduate internship I worked with the Yale Child Study Center. They use a curriculum called Mutt-i-grees. This curriculum is implemented in various schools around the county, and it involves having an animal in the classroom. It focuses on the social and emotional learning aspect for the children. While in this internship, I conducted research based on various juvenile detention centers around the country that incorporate animals and the success rate of each. This was the start of my interest in working with humans and animals.
Q. Where did you complete your field placement?
A. My field placement in my second year was animal based and it was with the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office. There, they have a program called Second Chances that works with the female inmates and fosters puppies. We foster about five puppies for three weeks. The female inmates work with these puppies throughout the weeks, teaching them basic obedience (sit, down, touch), and crate train them. This also gives the puppies a chance to increase their socialization. This program is beneficial to both the female inmates as well as the puppies. The inmates learn the importance of responsibility, accountability and communication. Their job skills increase as well as their parenting skills and their pro social skills.
Q. Where will you be working and what will you be doing?
A. After my internship ended with Davidson County Sheriff’s Office, they offered me a part time position working with the Second Chances Program. I am continuing the work I was doing during my internship. I created a curriculum for the puppies that explores the stages of puppy development, the basic needs of a puppy, importance of socializing a puppy, and learning about animal abuse and signs of animal abuse. I also created a screening questionnaire that incorporates questions regarding the inmates experience with animals, what they do in stressful situations, and if they have ever committed animal abuse or seen it occur. I also encourage these ladies to talk about the abuse that they have seen. When the puppies get adopted we have a few hours to talk about how they feel giving the puppies back and help them debrief from it.
Q. How did you get this job?
A. I inquired about a part-time position during my internship and the director created this position for me.
Q. Do you have any long term goals or dreams?
A. I have a lot of dreams that I would love to accomplish. My main goal is to continue growing the Second Chances program and eventually help establish similar ones around the country. I would also LOVE to set up a work release program for either men or women to work in an animal shelter. They currently participate in this for community service, but if the inmates would get paid for this work I believe it would improve their pro social skills and community engagement. This experience would help them with possible future positions in animal settings.
I am also very interested in the link between human and animal violence. I currently work full-time with Morning Star Sanctuary, Inc, which is a non-profit organization that focuses on helping victims of domestic violence. I inquired about partnering with an animal shelter so that if we do have victims who need an emergency shelter and have pets, the pets would also have a place to go until the victim could find a permanent home for both of them.