Photo: Women’s March on Washington, January 2017
Name: Kate Tessmann
Class Year: Master of Social Work Candidate, First Year
Major: Clinical Social Work – Children, Youth and Families
Favorite Class So Far: Diversity and Cross Cultural Issues
What can you see yourself doing after graduation?
Upon graduating, I hope to work full time in either a middle school or high school as an Adjustment Counselor (the official Massachusetts name for a School Social Worker). I have worked in schools previously, and I really enjoy the community and teamwork associated with being a school staff person. Working with youth and young adults has always been a passion of mine, and I hope to find a position after graduation that allows me to continue serving that population.
What are you doing to get there?
There are several requirements to becoming an Adjustment Counselor in Massachusetts. First, you have to do a placement in a school for one year while receiving your MSW. I am currently in the placement process for next year to be matched with a school. Beyond the placement, you must take clinical coursework related to working with children, youth and their families, and pass the Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) exam when you graduate. To begin preparing for the exam, I downloaded an app on my phone that sends me one question a day to get used to the format of the test. Most MSW students do not focus on the exam until closer to graduation, since you cannot take it until you have your diploma. Other than those required steps, I try to network with any social workers I come across and inquire about their paths. Social work has so many possible paths, depending on what setting you choose to work in and what populations you decide to serve, and I always enjoy learning more about the opportunities available in my future.
How did you learn about Social Work, and what contributed to your interest in the field?
During my undergraduate years I earned two degrees, one in History and one in Social Studies Education, after having a crisis about my Theater major and whether or not I was really fulfilling my passions and purpose in life. During my student teaching experience senior year, it became very apparent that teaching was not my best fit and I panicked. I am very much a planner, and I had no idea where to go next. As graduation drew near, I decided to commit to doing a year of service with City Year, so I could have some breathing room to figure out my next move. It turns out that serving young people and their communities was where my heart fit best, and I ended up committing to 3 years of AmeriCorps service within Boston Public Schools. It was during these three years of living on less than minimum wage and working 50+ hours a week that I truly reflected on my priorities, who I am as an individual, and how I want to improve the world around me. After having many discussions with my mentors, supervisors and social workers at the schools I served, it became clear that a career in social work best matched my values and priorities. My journey to a “career” was much longer than I anticipated as a graduating senior, but it was the path I needed to take to find myself and figure out what actually matters to me in the long run.
What advice would you give to students who are also interested in Social Work?
If you are seriously interested in working with individuals and communities to improve their lives, I would suggest completing a year of service within those communities prior to attending graduate school. Social work takes hard work and unwavering commitment – and you need to make sure your priorities and values match those of the field. I would also check out the Social Work Code of Ethics, which pretty clearly outlines the values required of all social workers: https://www.socialworkers.org/pubs/code/code.asp. Also, social work is an extremely broad field: you can do macro level work with policy and advocacy, or you can do clinical work (therapy) with individuals, families, couples, etc. in a variety of settings. Speak to current social workers and really explore the different populations you can serve, and the different environments you can make an impact in.
What are you most proud of?
Taking a leap of faith and committing to three years of national service after graduation. It was really difficult for me to put my values, idealism, and personal growth above financial security, comfort, and my need to have a plan. I second guessed my decision to serve almost on a daily basis, especially when money was tight (and I had to take on another job or two) or I felt exhausted from the long days with little recognition. However, I persevered and was courageous enough to go “all in” on myself and my belief in social justice, and it has repaid me in more ways than I imagined.
Who are your heroes in real life?
My heroes in real life are my former students and current clients, who are overcoming seemingly impossible obstacles and breaking down stereotypes daily, paving their own paths to success.
My heroes in real life are also those who served by my side; who continuously inspire me and challenge me to learn, grow, improve, and keep fighting for social justice and the rights of every individual.