Academic excellence, service combine in restoration efforts
OXFORD, Miss. – Velmer S. Burton Jr., a noted expert and author on criminology, has been named the new dean of the University of Mississippi’s School of Applied Sciences. Burton is special assistant to the senior vice president for system academic administration and professor of social work at the University of Minnesota at Twin Cities. He officially joins the UM faculty Aug. 1, pending approval from the Board of Trustees of Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning.
A University of Mississippi-led team is at the forefront of improving child welfare training in the state. The new UM Child Welfare Training Academy, established through a four-year grant administered by the Mississippi Department of Human Services, has overhauled the pre-service training curriculum required for all Mississippi child welfare workers and supervisors. Read the story.
TUPELO, Miss. – Sometimes people surprise themselves by accomplishing something they never imagined they could. This is exactly what happened to Toni Reiner of Fulton, a recent graduate of the University of Mississippi’s Tupelo regional campus. Reiner, who graduated last fall with a bachelor’s degree in social work, was named a UM Taylor Medalist for achieving one of the highest grade-point averages within her program.
“I can’t believe how well I did or how much I enjoyed college,” Reiner said.
“I didn’t like high school at all. I didn’t go straight to college out of high school because I didn’t think I would do very well. I didn’t know that I could be a good student until I tried.”
Reiner joins three other Ole Miss-Tupelo students who were awarded the university’s highest academic award, the Marcus Elvis Taylor Memorial Medal, during a recent Honors Convocation on the Oxford campus. The other Tupelo campus awardees are Carroll Lee and Kerri Franks, both of Amory, and Matthew Craig Pharr of Marietta. Taylor Medals recognize no more than 1 percent of the Ole Miss student body each year for meritorious scholarship and deportment. Recipients must have at least a cumulative 3.90 GPA. Reiner worked a variety of part-time jobs after high school before she realized she wanted more than a job – she wanted a career.
“I came to the realization that I needed to be able to provide for myself financially, but at the same time, I really wanted to make a difference in the lives of others,” she said. “I wanted my career to be worthwhile.”
Reiner works as a social worker with an emergency children’s shelter in Tupelo. Pharr decided to enroll at the Tupelo campus to become better equipped to serve the educational, emotional and spiritual needs of area residents. Pharr graduated from Booneville High School in 2007 and enrolled at Northeast Mississippi Community College. He began serving as a youth minister in local churches while he was a college student.
“A great deal of ministry is education,” Pharr said. “I knew that earning a teaching degree could be useful as I minister to others. I want to continue on in my personal education by enrolling in seminary and perhaps working on my Doctorate of Theology in the future.”
Pharr worked as a student teacher in the sixth grade this spring at Itawamba Attendance Center in Fulton. He learned about using best practices for teaching students who are transitioning from childhood to the teenage years, he said. “I was blessed with a wonderful mentor teacher and really great students,” he said. “I learned to use everyday things to teach creatively. There is really a push to be innovative in the classroom, and I learned to build on this concept.” Franks is another UM-Tupelo graduate who feels she had an eye-opening experience during her semester of field experiences at Itawamba Attendance Center.
Mentored by seasoned special education instructors, Franks appreciates the chance she had as a new teacher to experience a different type of educational environment.
“During my semester of student teaching in a special education classroom, I would wake up in the morning wondering what more I could do for this particular student, or what I was not teaching in the classroom that I should be,” Franks said. “This was truly the first time I realized that I was a teacher.” While taking courses at the Tupelo campus and completing teacher-training hours, Franks was also caring for her 5-year-old daughter, Jadyn. “Having a child of my own gave me a different outlook on education,” she said.
“I understand how important those early years of education are to the foundation of a student’s learning ability. This is where it all begins. I also took a different approach to my own education. I had to take it more seriously and have the end-goal in mind at all times.” Lee enrolled in the radiology program at Itawamba Community College before she realized that her true calling was in the education field. “It just grew clearer that teaching was what I had always wanted to do,” Reiner said. “I changed my major and switched classes when I realized that this was the profession I needed to pursue.” Lee worked as a waitress on the weekends while taking her junior- and senior-level college courses at the Tupelo campus.
“My education professors at UM-Tupelo were definitely instrumental in my success,” she said. “They took an interest in my education and me. They wanted me to become the best teacher possible.” Lee said she hopes to continue her education by enrolling in the Master of Curriculum and Instruction program at Ole Miss-Tupelo in the near future. “There is always more to learn,” Lee said. “I know I’ll always need to keep improving as a teacher. My students will benefit from my continued education as much as I will, and that is really important.” For more information on program at the UM Tupelo regional campus, click here.
A University of Mississippi-led team is at the forefront of improving child welfare training in the state. The new UM Child Welfare Training Academy, established through a four-year grant administered by the Mississippi Department of Human Services, has overhauled the pre-service training curriculum required for all Mississippi child welfare workers and supervisors. The academy began delivering the training this year. “The children that were in the foster care system were not getting their needs met,” said Kim Shackelford, UM associate professor of social work and principal investigator of the academy. “We have taken on revising the whole training program for pre-service workers and for supervisors and have written brand-new curriculum. I think what we’ve brought to this is a high level of expertise and a high degree of experience in child welfare.” Previously offered by the MDHS Division of Family and Children Services, or DFCS, the state’s child welfare training was outdated and not available on a regular basis, said academy director Martha Houston. The new training is ongoing to ensure that new hires are trained as soon as possible. As part of the overhauled curriculum, social workers complete four weeks of classroom training and four weeks of on-the-job training in their counties, during which the academy partners with DFCS to supervise the trainees. Additionally, all new social workers are required to pass a mandatory exam. “The social workers who do this job make decisions that involve life or death,” Shackelford said. “They have to make predictions on the risk of leaving a child in their own home versus running the risk of placing them in an out-of-home situation that can cause other problems like grief and loss and attachment problems. These workers have to be the expert on physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, psychological maltreatment. We have a rule within our training unit – we won’t accept any mediocre social workers.” The academy began administering the 270-hour training in January, with its first class completing the coursework in February. Shackelford estimates the academy will train about 150 or more new social workers annually. “The training being provided by the UM Child Welfare Training Academy is critical to all newly hired child welfare workers and supervisors in the state,” Houston said. “The training curriculum is newly developed and it includes practice model information and council on accreditation standards. It provides them with a solid foundation of information to guide them in providing quality child welfare services to families and children in Mississippi.” The UM Child Welfare Training Academy also offers a 40-hour, pre-service training course and 24-week mentoring program for professionals entering into supervisor position. All mentors are trained through the academy’s Clinical Supervision Mentor Orientation. The academy also developed a “Train the Trainer” curriculum that was used to train DFCS Professional Development Unit staff on topics including how to write curriculum and improve upon training delivery. To ensure the training’s effectiveness, the UM Child Welfare Academy is also utilizing information collected by an outside evaluator in trainee focus groups to continue to improve the quality of the state’s training. For more information about programs in the Department of Social Work, click here.
OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Department of Social Work is hosting a conference with a goal of educating social work professionals and students on cultural competency and ethical issues. “Understanding Competency and Ethics,” set for 8 a.m.-5 p.m. March 9 in the Student Union, will address a range of topics including spirituality issues in social work, international social work and caregiving for elders.
OXFORD, Miss. – While planning for retirement is common, preparing for aging is often overlooked or, in some instances, thought of too late. To provide information and support services on aging and caregiving, the Caring for Aging Relatives Effectively Fair is set for 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday (March 9) in the Student Union Lobby. The 10th annual C.A.R.E. Fair is free and open to the public. It features information on topics such as retirement communities, community caregiver support groups, long-term care insurance, aging-in-place home design and recreational programming designed for adults ages 50 and older.
… Sixty-five students to serve elderly in northeast Mississippi over next two years
OXFORD, Miss. – As more people live longer, the need for geriatric service providers is growing exponentially. Unfortunately, not enough social work students opt to practice in the field.
OXFORD, Miss. – The number of Americans age 65 or older is expected to double over the next 20 years to more than 72 million, prompting more individuals to seek information about and help with caring for aging relatives and friends.