February 4, 2019

Employment-Based Internships Expand Horizons for Social Work Graduate Students

Colleen Itzkowitz and Mishka White

As a welfare examiner for the Suffolk County Department of Social Services, Colleen Itzkowitz has spent the past 12 years of her career focused primarily on paperwork and eligibility.

Now, as a graduate student in social work at Adelphi, she has an internship in addition to her job, spending late afternoons and evenings with the Emergency Unit at Child Protective Services.

Colleen Itzkowitz

While studying for her master’s degree, Colleen Itzkowitz has an internship in addition to her full-time job.

“The requirement is that the work you’re doing in your internship is a separate entity from the work you do in your employment, to ensure that you are learning something new,” she explains.

Itzkowitz, who is working toward her master’s degree, is one of a number of social work students in employment-based internships. According to Raquel Warley, Ph.D., director of field operations for the School of Social Work, these internships are becoming more common as a greater number of students are returning to school while continuing their careers. The internships, Dr. Warley says, help students begin to see their jobs through the lens of social work.

“The value of these experiences is manifold,” Dr. Warley explains. “They have allowed us to meet the need of students who work full time, and they help bring assistance to otherwise underserved populations.”

Itzkowitz has gained real-world experience aiding children and parents on social services calls. She’s discovered things that can’t be learned in the classroom.

“Prior to the internship, I assumed most parents would be defensive and angry at the knock on the door at 10 at night,” she says. “What I have learned is many of them are cooperative and willing to answer our questions and maybe just need some help.”

Itzkowitz is not the only social work student in a relatively new kind of internship. Mishka White, who is also studying for her master’s degree, is an intern at a library—an institution that does not traditionally provide social work services.

“At the library, the librarians provide assistance to the patrons, but help ends at a certain point,” White explains. “Now, librarians are able to direct the patrons to a social work intern.”

Mishka White

Mishka White is using the skills she’s learning in graduate school in her internship and her job.

White, who spends three days a week at the Baldwin Public Library on Long Island, speaks with patrons about public benefits and hands out flyers. She also runs a group for preschool-age children that focuses on how healthy shopping can lead to healthy eating.

In addition, White has a full-time job as a mental health worker at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Queens, New York. “Both of the positions allow me to utilize the skills I’m learning at school,” says White. “I learned about the program through a past co-worker of mine who spoke very highly of it.”

It’s not just the students that benefit from these programs. “The most rewarding aspect is knowing that we’re doing things to improve the quality of life for students and the vulnerable populations they serve,” Dr. Warley says.


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