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Faculty Interviews

Ask the Program Coordinator: Dorothy Farrel Discusses the Unique Aspects of the Online Master of Social Work

Dorothy Farrel

A social worker’s path can start with just one phone call and the desire to be present.

This is how Dr. Dorothy Farrel started her 25 years of Social Work practice. As the University of Nevada, Reno’s MSW program coordinator, she is passionate about her role in preparing the next generation of social workers. Find out what makes this program unique in the short question-and-answer session below.

What was your motivation for pursuing a career in social work? When did you know this was what you wanted to do?
I knew that I wanted to start social work after an experience I had in my undergraduate degree. As I started working on my bachelor’s degree I wasn’t sure what path I wanted to take. I knew I wanted to work with people so I volunteered for a crisis hotline and the first call I ever received was from a young man that I’ll never forget. He was calling, feeling relatively helpless and hopeless. Two hours later at the end of the call, he told me, “thank you for listening” and that all he really needed was affirmation that someone in this world cared. As a social worker, I quickly learned that many people in our world just need simple affirmation letting them know that someone out there cares. Since that phone call I knew that social work has been the right path for me.

How is social work changing? What are the trends you see that will shape the field in the coming years?
The field of social work is a very adaptable profession and it changes as our societal and cultural needs adjust and change. A really good example of that is our shift towards trauma informed care. Whether it being working with veterans, abused women and children or through the immigration and current refugees, there’s a tremendous amount of trauma that is occurring within our culture that social workers need to be responsive to. At UNR we’re very careful to make sure that we’re up to date on current and best practices so we can be informed in working with our students to make sure that we are meeting up with the needs of the society.

What does it take to be an effective social worker?
To be an effective social worker, there are a couple things to consider. The first is pretty innate as far as personality and just having the desire to be present and engaged with other human beings. A little bit of kindness is really all that it takes to make an impact on a day to day basis. The other piece of being an effective social worker is to really be aware of best practices, skills, knowledge and values that can be obtained through practice and education.

What is the value of an MSW in today’s social work marketplace?
The value of an MSW in today’s marketplace is invaluable. In the state of Nevada, we have some pretty significant workforce issues. And across the country it is pretty equitable, in the fact that we don’t have enough social workers to meet community need. The value of obtaining your master’s degree over the bachelor’s degree, really opens up not just windows, but doors of opportunity for you to make a true impact within your community.

What makes the University of Nevada, Reno online MSW program stand out from the crowd?
UNR’s online School of Social work program is unique in nature. It is completely developed by the faculty that are invested your education and professional growth of the social work profession. We have a real passion for what we do, not only here in Reno, but also throughout the rural areas of Nevada and throughout the United States, making sure that our reach provides a unique and innovative stance on providing social work education.

What could you have learned from the program that would have helped you during your career? Is there a course that you look at and say, “I wish I had that class when I was in school?”
As a student, I remember thinking I wasn’t really sure what I learned through my master’s program. There were a lot of areas that I wasn’t really sure how to concretely describe what I had learned. One of the things that UNR is doing that I think is really innovative is we have developed a case study cumulating class at the end of your program which will give you the opportunity to really pull together all the piece of your program into one course and really allow you the opportunity to understand everything that you have acquired through your field placement, through the classes, and your experiences here at UNR.

Do you have questions? Learn more about your role in social work’s future with the University of Nevada, Reno’s online Master of Social Work program today. The School of Social Work at University of Nevada, Reno has a long history of educating Nevada’s social workers and professionals in the United States. Its focus is to educate, advocate, and empower.