Stories from the Field

Each student's field placement experience is unique. We interviewed some of our students to help provide a closer look at what prospective students could expect out in the field.

Social Administration:

Nikel Bailey, AM '12
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Jeff Simms, AM '12
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Darryl Clayton, AM '12
Gary Comer Youth Center 

Ifrah Magan, AM '11
Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights Refugee and Immigrant Community Services 

Allison Hollander, AM '10
Office of Policy and Advocacy in the City of Chicago's Department of Family and Support Services

Leso Munala, AM '08
The Enterprising Kitchen


Robyn Offenbach, AM '11

Emily Stolarick, AM '10
The Jen School 

Eric Brown, AM '08
Children's Memorial Hospital (now Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago)

Sandy Rubovits, AM '68 and Hazel Vespa, AM '68
Children's Memorial Hospital (now Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago)


Read more of our alumni profiles here.

Nikel Nikel BaileyBailey, AM '12

Helping youth and families create and achieve goals has been the life work of Nikel Bailey, who received a AM from SSA in March 2012. She has worked with various populations including, but not limited to, Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) residents and youth and families affected by HIV/AIDS.

Bailey has continued her work with children, locally and internationally. She completed her first-year field placement at the Children's Place Association, which was the Midwest's first residential facility for children affected by HIV/AIDS. She completed her second-year field placement at Uhlich Children's Advantage Network (UCAN) where she created and conducted a "community strengths and needs" assessment of two CHA housing developments. On her own, she did research in Ethiopia with the International Organization for Adolescents that focused on orphaned youth aging out of alternative care and transitioning into adulthood.  Read more about Nikel.

SimmsJeff Simms, AM '12

Jeff Simms, who graduated with a AM from SSA's Extended Evening Program in June 2012, says, "I chose to study social work, and especially policy, because I believe working at that level is where one can truly affect some of the wider causes of poverty and homelessness. Serving the poor is a calling for me, and I want to have an impact that is broader than working one-on-one as a clinician."

Simms completed his first-year fieldwork placement working with persons needing assistance, mostly arranging interim housing through the Department of Community Casework and Counseling of Catholic Charities. As a  Social Administration student, his second-year fieldwork placement was at the City of Chicago's Department of Family and Support Services. In addition to homelessness, he was able to take a closer look at problems facing such groups as immigrants, senior citizens, and victims of domestic violence.  Read more about Jeff.

Darryl Clayton, AM '12

Darryl Clayton was well into a 13-year career in social services when, at the urging of his supervisor at Adoptions Unlimited, Inc., an agency devoted to matching and supporting parentless children and prospective parents, when he decided to pursue a graduate degree. "My supervisor was always talking to me about furthering my education and getting all that I could get out of my career," says Clayton. After a while, the advice sunk in, and Clayton, a 46-year-old married father of two, enrolled in SSA's part-time master's degree program, with a concentration in social administration, in 2009.

Darryl's first field study placement was at the Gary Comer Youth Center on Chicago's South Side. "It has reinforced a lot of the core values that I have about doing this work while giving me the opportunity to apply a lot of what we talk about in class."

At the Comer center, Clayton tackled myriad tasks, from data entry on grants to pitching in as a homework helper in the after-school program, a job that harks back to his early days in youth services. He likes the fact that the SSA program provides him with an opportunity to apply the administrative and social service theory he has been exposed to in class to work at an agency. "This experience fills in where classwork leaves off," says Clayton, who hopes to be the executive director of a youth-focused agency one day. "I get to see all sides of how a program like [the Comer Center] works, and that's what I wanted." Read more about Darryl.

Ifrah MaganIfrah Magan, AM '11

A master's student at SSA, Ifrah Magan, AM '11, completed her second-year field placement at the Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights in their Refugees and Immigrant Community Services department, part of Heartland Human Care Services. The Heartland Alliance helps people, whether those living in poverty or those fleeing violence in their home countries, to realize their human dignity.

During her first-year placement, also at Heartland Alliance, Ifrah worked with employment services. "I helped participants with practice interview questions, job applications and resume building. This year my focus is more on outreach and advocacy work," she noted. Both years at Heartland Alliance have shown her that adequate funding is key for programs to help refugees.

Ifrah's dedication to the refugee community in Chicago inspired her to apply for fellowships that would allow her to provide enhanced services while still in school. This dedication earned her two prestigious fellowships: one of 100 Kathryn Wasserman Davis Projects for Peace and one of 250 annual Albert Schweitzer Fellowships.

Ifrah's Davis Project for Peace award allowed her to conduct peace workshops, establish literacy groups and set up a library for refugees, all work she did during summer 2010. Read more about Ifrah.

Robyn OffenbachRobyn Offenbach, AM '11

Robyn Offenbach, AM '11, a clinical student in SSA's Family Support Program, completed her second-year field placement in clinical and counseling services at UCAN, a Chicago agency that helps young people who are dealing with trauma. Her work at UCAN focused on two areas. The first is UCAN's 360° Model and the second area is individual therapy with clients who are either in the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) system or are foster kids who have experienced violence. She was mentored by field instructor and SSA alumnus, Jacob Dancer, A.B. '89, A.M. '04.

Through UCAN's 360° Model, Robyn worked at Collins Academy High School and provides therapy to clients who have experienced trauma. Collins is one of six Chicago Public Schools that use the 360° Model – a range of services provided by UCAN clinicians who offer violence prevention and self-esteem workshops, individual and group mentorship programs, teacher training, and trauma and dropout intervention.

Robyn also provided clinical services through UCAN's FamilyWorks program during home visits throughout Chicago's south side neighborhood of Riverdale and its Altgeld-Murray Homes. FamilyWorks is an on-site case management program for Chicago Housing Authority residents that assesses, supports, and transitions families in their efforts to achieve economic and social self-sufficiency.

Through her field placement, Robyn recently created a grief support group for adolescent girls on Chicago's west side who have experienced the loss of a family member. Robyn co-facilitated it with another intern from UCAN and incorporated different psychoeducational information for the girls along with art therapy, journaling, and other creative projects.

Emily Stolarick, AM '10

Emily Stolarick, AM '10, who graduated with a clinical concentration and a specialization in school social work, says, "One thing that drew me to SSA is the volume and diversity of field placements that are offered."  Her first year field placement was at the Jen School, a therapeutic day school housed within Maryville Academy in Des Plaines, IL. She worked with students in one of Maryville's dual diagnosis programs for young men with Mental Illness/Substance Abuse, providing interventions within the classroom setting and individually as needed. She also developed a curriculum based on Illinois state social/emotional standards that was implemented by counselors and social workers at the school.

When asked what she enjoyed the most about her field placement, she said, "What an exciting place to work! The work I do each day varies a great deal and the students make sure that there is never a dull moment. Thinking together with the students about their progress in the program and the lasting affects of their rehabilitation is what I enjoy the most. The young men at the Jen School are articulate and insightful; they are some of my best teachers." Read more about Emily.

Allison HollanderAllison Hollander, AM '10

Allison Hollander, AM '10, completed her field placement at the Office of Policy and Advocacy in the City of Chicago's Department of Family and Support Services. There, Allison drafted sections of the state and federal policy agendas and assisted with the development of new legislation. She has also done policy research and analyzed youth programs and food access issues. Her recent work included co-authoring the report evaluating the City's summer youth employment program now featured on the Department of Family and Support Services website.

She loved it. "I've never done policy work like this before and I've had the opportunity to participate on so many different levels."

As a first-year student, Allison completed a field placement at Youth Organizations Umbrella. In addition to her field placements, she also volunteered at the Night Ministry in Chicago's West Town. Now that Allison is finishing her studies, she must give up her field placement and her volunteer work. "It's hard to do, but I'm looking forward to putting my education to work in a job that combines program design and management with direct service." Read more about Allison.

Erik BrownErik Brown, AM '08

Eric Brown, AM '08, completed his field placement at Children's Memorial Hospital where he provided case management services and brief counseling to children and families in the Kidney Diseases and Oncology departments. Eric's field placement provided him the opportunity to apply his academic knowledge in a professional setting. He completed a presentation on how evidence-based social work practice informs assessment and interventions for adolescents who are not adhering to medication protocols.

"Social work training predisposes one to conceptualize challenges in a different way than physicians or nurses. Presentations of this nature are fundamental for bridging the respective approaches of medical staff and social workers, with respect to the challenges faced by our clients."

During his field placement, Eric also participated in other activities around the hospital, such as cooking meals for the Ronald McDonald House and the Family Services Department's annual fundraiser Step-Up for Kids.

"These activities enhanced my internship experience by further integrating me within the service delivery infrastructure of the hospital. I began to understand how the work of various departments within the hospital is connected and driven by the larger agency mission to support children and families."

Eric is currently working at a research institute that conducts studies related to urban education and reform within the Chicago Public School system. 

Leso MunalaLeso Munala, AM '08

Leso Munala, AM '08, was placed at The Enterprising Kitchen (TEK), which is a nonprofit social enterprise that provides workforce development and support services to women working toward self-sufficiency and economic independence. While in her field placement, Leso assisted in writing the Chicago Mayoral grant, which ultimately awarded TEK $250,000. The grant boosted the organization's operational budget, providing the opportunity to hire a job specialist to assist clients attain permanent employment.

"The field programs are more than just internships. SSA students constantly come up with innovative ideas on how to improve the day-to-day operations of Chicago human service organizations. The impact students have on these organizations can be seen in service delivery."

Leso is now pursuing a Doctorate degree in Public Health. 

Sandy Rubovitz and Hazel VespaSandy Rubovits, AM '68 and Hazel Vespa, AM '68

Hazel Vespa and Sandy Rubovits, both alumnae of SSA's master's program, class of 1968, are among the doctors, nurses, nutritionists, and therapists who have helped create Children's Memorial Hospital's (now Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago) transitions programs. With intensive training in long-term counseling for chronic illness, they have helped hundreds of patients and their families meet the challenges of finding adultlevel care and social supports.

During her master's fieldwork at the Jewish Family and Community Services, Vespa wrote her first research paper for a class taught by Professor Mary Lou Somers that framed the family unit as a small group—a unique perspective for its time. She says that this early research enabled her to later develop Children's programs for patients with PKU, a genetic condition where children cannot metabolize the protein phenylalanine. Treatment is entirely diet modification.

Rubovits says that Children's legacy of hospital social work is due to its decades of field placement programs and student interns from schools such as SSA and hospital social work pioneers, including Betty Butler, Bernece Simon, Karen Teigiser, Shelton Key and Phyllis Wexler— SSA graduates and instructors during the 1940s through the 1970s. SSA has provided particularly strong consultation and direct field instruction to the student unit. "It has been a wonderful opportunity for students to learn—and to the benefit of the patients," Rubovits says.

Rubovits' own internship was at Children's, working with the "caring and insightful" Betty Butler. "We did groups on the medical floors with patients in ward service, at times with a mixture of medical diagnoses. First- and second-year SSA students attempted to help patients express their feelings and responses about medical procedures, isolation of hospitalization, and fears evoked by their respective illnesses," she says. Read more about Sandy and Hazel.