Terri Klemm, associate professor at Centenary University and director of the Hackettstown institution’s Bachelor of Social Work program, recently was named the New Jersey Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers’ 2016 Social Worker of the Year.
“The purpose of social work is to protect and advance human rights, and social, economic and environmental justice. What’s unique about this profession is that it has social justice at the core of its mission,” claims professor and social worker Terri Klemm. “We start from a strengths perspective, and that defines and influences the way we approach working with clients, families and communities.”
Klemm, associate professor at Centenary University and director of the Hackettstown institution’s Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program, is no stranger to putting her focus on the profession into practice. She recently was honored by the New Jersey Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) as its 2016 Social Worker of the Year.
In announcing the honor, NASW noted that the professor, through her activism and deep commitment to social work education and scholarship, “epitomizes all that social workers hold dear,” and that she was selected to recognize “her many years of dedication to social work students, social work education and the future of our profession, and especially for her recent activism and work for environmental justice.”
The educator, together with five others, including actor James Cromwell, attempted to disrupt the construction of a controversial fracked-gas power plant in Orange County, N.Y., believing it creates unacceptable health and safety risks to the public.
Fracked gas is a major contributor to climate change, Klemm said. Despite grass-roots effort to stop the project, the fracked-gas power plant still is under construction and protests against it continue to take place weekly.
Klemm, who also is pursuing her doctoral degree, said she was proud to accept the award, presented at the NASW’s annual Social Work Gala in October at the Forsgate Country Club. Being selected for the NASW-NJ honor is an opportunity to illustrate the importance of civic engagement, the professor and activist said.
On the academic side, Klemm also holds a Master’s in Social Work (MSW) and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), with certifications in Clinical Social Work Supervision, Disaster Response Crisis Counseling, and Trauma Response &Crisis Intervention.
She’s proud to note that the Centenary University program, which offers a robust education in one of the nation’s fast-growing professions, has expanded exponentially since it began in 2008.
“Our first graduating class, in 2008, was a cohort of only three students and, since then, we’ve grown dramatically,” Klemm said. “There are currently about 50 students in the program. Students can start here at Centenary, or apply to transfer into the program as juniors.”
The professor said that the junior year is geared toward providing students with the expertise and understanding they need before they begin a two-semester internship during their senior year.
Students can pursue a broad range of avenues with the degree, from working with children and families, or veterans, to pro¬viding support in a variety of health care settings, she said. For those who are unsure about which path best fits their passion, an alumni day is held as a way to bring graduates back to share their experiences and explain how vast the opportunities are to work with different populations over the course of their careers.
Once they’ve given careful consideration to their options, students collaborate with Candice Daly, LCSW, field director, to find internship opportunities that allow them to put their skills to use and demonstrate competency in real-world settings.
Before students begin their internships, they’re paired with actors who present concerns social workers face in the field. Centenary’s communications department videotapes those sessions, and students have a chance to review and learn from them before their internships begin.
“It’s rigorous, but students really walk out very well-prepared, whether they decide to do some work in the field or choose to go directly on to grad school,” Klemm said. “One of the things that we emphasize in our program is the idea of self-care to really help students apply what they’re learning to keep themselves in a good place to do this work long-term. We take that seriously and include it in part of the curriculum.”
Having earned national accreditation from the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), the program thoroughly prepares students for careers in generalist social work. Or, should they choose to further their studies, students can apply for advanced standing in Master of Social Work (MSW) programs throughout the country, and transfer up to 18 credits toward their graduate degree. In recent years, Centenary alumni have been accepted as advanced standing students at an array of prestigious graduate programs, including Columbia, Fordham, New York and Rutgers universities.
With small class sizes and thoughtfully-structured senior year internships, social work students are able to take the knowledge, values, and skills they’ve learned in the classroom and apply them in a meaningful way.
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