HomeCollege of Health & Human ServicesMSW Program Opens Doors to Deeper Engagement with Clients

MSW Program Opens Doors to Deeper Engagement with Clients

In the Family Violence Lab at the Yale School of Medicine, SCSU social work graduate student Alexandrya Pope is the lead research assistant on a study that focuses on women living with HIV who have experienced intimate partner violence. “I’ve really enjoyed working with so many strong and resilient women over the past two years,” Pope says, “which played a huge part in my decision to apply to social work graduate programs.”

When Pope, who has an M.S. in experimental psychology and a B.S. in psychology, decided to pursue her Master of Social Work degree, she discovered that Southern’s MSW program was a great fit for her because it offered a three-year program, enabling her to continue working full-time while taking classes. “I’m currently on the clinical track with a concentration on children and families,” she says. “Although I’m only in my first year of the program, I’m looking forward to pursuing my licensure after graduation and becoming a LCSW.”

Pope is also a 2022-23 YUWO Scholar, currently attending Southern with support from the Yale University Women’s Organization’s (YUWO) annual scholarship program. Over the past 50 years, YUWO has awarded 364 scholarships totaling over half a million dollars to women attending a wide range of schools, earning advanced certificates and degrees from community colleges, universities, and accredited online programs. According to Jane Shaw, YUWO Scholarship Committee chair, since 2004 YUWO has awarded scholarships to over 19 YUWO scholars who have attended Southern.

Eligible applicants for the scholarships work at Yale or have an immediate family member who does, or they have an affiliation with Yale as a former student or graduate.

Pope spoke with us about her graduate program and her path to earning an MSW.

Tell us about your undergraduate studies and your master’s in experimental psychology. What kinds of research were you involved with?

I graduated with my B.S. in psychology from Utica College (now University) in 2018. I started as a nursing major and worked at a hospital on a neurology/pediatrics unit. Through this experience, my interest began to shift more to mental health, rather than physical health. This shift led me to change my major to psychology, where I was able to develop and implement an independent research study examining bias and the gender wage gap, as well as assist with a faculty member’s cognitive psychology research study, which we presented at a regional psychology conference.

As a result of my passion for psychology research, I applied to psychology master’s programs and enrolled in an experimental psychology master’s program at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Throughout my two years in the program, I worked on a variety of psychology research studies focused on child development, gender, sexism, and morality. Specifically, I collected data within a local school for a study looking at decision making and fairness based on gender with elementary school-aged children. I also developed and successfully defended my master’s thesis titled, “Moral Reasoning about Sexism: The Role of Benevolent Factual Assumptions,” which is currently under development for publication.

What kinds of work do you do in your current position at Yale, working within the Family Violence Lab at the School of Medicine?

As a research assistant, I spend most of my time working with women who have experienced intimate partner violence and women living with HIV. I am currently the lead research assistant working on a study that involves both populations. My position includes programming study protocols, working with local organizations to help us recruit more women for the study, conducting interviews with the women to gain more information about them, and assisting women in developing safety plans and connecting them to local resources.

How did you decide to come to Southern for your MSW? What about the program attracted you?

Through my experiences within my position at Yale, I have been able to work with so many diverse populations and build relationships with individuals that I did not have the opportunity to get to know while in my undergrad and graduate programs. I’ve really enjoyed working with so many strong and resilient women over the past two years and talking to them about their experiences. However, within the studies I’m involved with, the timelines are short and with my previous education, I’m not able to provide them with any clinical support. This realization played a huge part in my decision to apply to social work graduate programs. Earning a master’s degree in social work would allow me to work with individuals in creating treatment plans and interventions.

Southern’s MSW program was a really great fit for me because it offered the three-year program so I’m able to continue working full-time, while taking classes. The master’s program at Southern also has an option for a clinical track, which was important to me and the opportunity to choose a concentration so that in addition to the core courses, you also receive more tailored classes and instruction that align with your interests. I am currently on the clinical track with a concentration on children and families and anticipate to graduate in 2025.

What do you like best about the program?

Southern’s MSW program is great for many reasons including the diverse professional backgrounds of the professors teaching the social work courses.

I also really like the flexibility of the MSW program. Being able to maintain my full-time position, while being able to take a full course-load with classes available after 5 p.m. has been really beneficial for me.

How do you see your MSW degree helping you on your career path?

Earning my MSW will help me get one step closer to my career goals of becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.

What are your plans for after you complete your degree?

After completing my degree, I hope to stay in New Haven and continue to work within the community at a non-profit organization that focuses on children and families.


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