An Online Master of Social Work Q&A with Assistant Professor, Maureen Rubin, PhD, MSW, MA

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Maureen Rubin is an Assistant Professor at the University of Nevada, Reno. She has worked in the area of mental health for several years in various capacities. She has engaged in clinical work with individuals with mental illness and their families both in the United States and in India. Through her continued interest in the field of mental health, she has served as a clinician, administrator, a researcher, and a lead evaluator of SAMHSA funded projects and developed & taught graduate level courses in mental health. We sat down to have a conversation with her about her experiences in the field of social work.

Though it probably differs by practice setting, what are the most common challenges that social workers face today?
This really varies. It could be the caseload or the number of clients each one has to work with. Some of the other challenges are for those without their license. It can be difficult trying to keep up with work and state requirements and changes within states as well as agencies.

What does it take to be an effective social worker?
The desire to understand where an individual is coming from and not making assumptions is vital to being a good social worker. Being open and accepting of the fact that you’re working on a different set of observations and always asking yourself, “What do I need to learn to work with this client?”

Acquired knowledge is important to connect with a client or people in the community. The urge to help and transfer knowledge to a skill to work with a client or in a community is a great expertise. Being a good listener and culturally aware of the various diversity-related issues could mold a person to be an effective social worker.

What goals might students have after they earn their online Master of Social Work?
The immediate goal for students after completing their masters in social work is getting a job. Then it’s licensing, which typically takes two to three years tops. Some people have goals to move further along in their career for an advanced degree as a Ph.D. or a Doctorate of Social Work, but this usually comes later in their careers.

What trends do students need to prepare for in the next five years? How do you foresee the field changing?
I think students today need to prepare for mental health. There aren’t a lot of services happening for the population aged 16 – 23. Are they children or adults? After 18 years of age, kids are on their own…and they are the ones who fall through the cracks because they don’t have access to services. How do you prepare adults for this transition at 18 years old with mental health issues and a lack of services? Students need to learn how they can be ready to make a change in this environment. Collaborative practice is a very important piece we prepare students for and the awareness that they have to work with other professionals.

Why is it important for your online master of social work program to have a focus on rural settings? How do rural (and urban) settings benefit from having Advanced Generalist Practitioners?
The profession is moving in the direction that we need to prepare social workers to work in any area. This gives us the knowledge, skill set and ability to think critically. We have to position our students to transfer knowledge. While students are in my class I provide a toolbox and each time they learn something they’re opening their box and adding a tool. I also teach them to think about what’s appropriate in the situation and how the toolbox gets better as they go through the program. This fits in any setting.

Why did you go into the field of social work?
I got into social work when it was a rather new field in India. For me, it was about helping people. I just wanted to dive in and learn more about how we can work with people. It’s really all about being creative and addressing the uniqueness of a situation that needs to be addressed.

What advice might you give to a potential student to be successful in the master of social work program? And in the field after graduation?
Graduates must prioritize and focus. After graduation, put the client needs as number one. Whether you have individuals as clients or you work with a community or an organization, the bottom line is “How will my client benefit from this?” I continually tell my students to understand the context of the clients that they serve.

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 the 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.