Linda Anngela-Cole, Ph.D. received her Master of Social Work degree from the University of Nevada, Reno in 1992 and Ph.D. from the University of Hawai’i in 2002. She has spent the last 20 years working as professor in social work and began her career specializing in gerontology as a practitioner in home health care and hospice care. She now lives her life advocating for people in grief, loss and end of life, while also encouraging prospective students with similar interests to pursue the master of social work program.
Below Anngela-Cole shares her personal journey in social work, details about the strong support staff at UNR, the online vs. on-campus social work programs and her top tips for online students.
Making her mark in social work
Currently educating through practice classes at the University of Nevada, Reno, Anngela-Cole has been teaching social work practice courses for the last 20 years. She spent 18 years working for hospice and home health care programs in Hawaii, and now currently has a private practice where she focuses on helping clients deal with grief and loss issues.
“My way of looking at human nature, issues and challenges is observing through a lens of grief and loss,” she said, speaking to how she started her career in social work. “Therefore, I was drawn to places where such services were provided. Now, in my private practice, I work with similar clients who are struggling with grief and loss issues.”
Beyond living and working in Hawaii, Anngela-Cole also spent time in Hong Kong and other parts of Asia during her studies. Her dissertation, titled “Working with Japanese and European American Family Caregiver of Older Adults with Cancer,” assessed the way people of different cultures approached death and dying.
Let the strong support staff at the University of Nevada, Reno lead the way
In the last five years, the university has transformed tremendously, according to Anngela-Cole. One of the most impactful changes is the new support staff that has joined the faculty. It’s this strong group of professionals that is contributing to the master of social work program’s positive reputation.
“Everyone in the school of social work has a strong research agenda they bring to the table,” she said. “Most everyone who is teaching now has taught, traveled, or researched international issues. They have rich experience that can help students to understand that there is a whole world of different cultures. To have so many people on our faculty that can speak to conditions that others experience is a big bonus.”
Pursuing the online program vs. on-campus program
Because the MSW program is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), student learning objectives for both the online MSW program and the on-campus program are identical. The delivery of those learning objectives is where the difference come into play. Anngela-Cole said professors take the foundation of the on-campus program and modify it to work for online students.
The online program provides more direction to get from point A to point B in the course when learning about a specific issue or topic. Students who study online have the opportunity to review the material over and over, in different context, until they understand it wholeheartedly. In the classroom, students who speak face-to-face may interact and steer the conversation in a different direction—this pathway will not get the student to point B directly, rather, the student will take the “scenic route”. It doesn’t mean that dialogue isn’t valuable but it does mean you may not get there as directly.”
At the end of the day, it all comes down to personal preference, according to Anngela-Cole. With an on-campus class, students typically have more face-to-face time with classmates and more opportunities to interact. Online programs strive to offer similar benefits, with University hosted online cafés and different outlets for communication; however, the face-to-face interaction is reduced significantly and only available through online learning activities.
While some students interested in pursuing the online program are convinced they might have to dedicate less time to course work, that’s certainly not the case. It’s critical that students carve enough time out of their schedules to stay engaged and dedicated to their studies.
“A lot of work has gone into bringing students the best possible content in the online courses, but if the student is not prepared to take advantage of what is in front of them because their life is too busy, they are missing out on great programming they have signed up for but don’t have time to take advantage of,” said Anngela-Cole.
Just like on-campus students, those pursuing the online program have access to numerous university resources. They can access the disability center, writing center, library databases and research support space and student resource center. They can also connect with a support team and course instructors based on weekly sessions and times they make themselves available.
Linda Anngela-Cole’s tips for online students
By pursuing the online master’s of social work program at the University of Nevada, Reno, you can gain the same knowledge and experience as on-campus students by taking advantage of learning resources, communicating with support staff and focusing on your studies. To be successful as an online student, Anngela-Cole provided the following tips to stay involved and engaged in online learning:
1. Practice time-management skills. Block out specific times during your schedule dedicated to your courses. If you are pursuing two courses during the week, be sure to block off nine hours per course of uninterrupted time to study and complete assignments.
2. Take advantage of all provided materials. “In my online courses, I put a lot of required activities and assignments up, as well as additional optional information for students that can be useful. Dive into those other aspects provided by your professors to enhance your ability to pursue this profession and do it well,” says Anngela-Cole.
3. Stay focused and determined. Stay up-to-date on all activities, assignments and readings in each weekly module to be successful. Students who stay focused and engaged gain the knowledge and skills they need to thrive as a social worker. Most importantly, don’t give up. Stick with the courses even when it becomes difficult.
For more information on the CSWE-accredited online Master of Social Work program at the University of Nevada, Reno, call 1-877-417-4324 to speak with an enrollment advisor.
L. Angela Cole, personal communication, August 8, 2017.