School of Thought: Learning with New Perspective
School of Thought: Learning with New Perspective
"Understanding the ideals that have shaped civilizations, and the roles and functioning of individuals and groups within those civilizations, is absolutely foundational to any education worth its name," says Dr. David Evans.
"In courses offered in the School of Social Science, Philosophy & Religion, our students encounter difference, think critically about history and their place in it, and seek to understand culture in a multidimensional way. Students are greatly enriched by the varied perspectives in these courses," says David Evans, vice-president of academic affairs and dean of the faculty.
One of the fundamental roles of higher education is to prepare students for successful and productive lives, not only in their careers and communities, but also as responsible citizens of an interconnected world.
In today's unsettled times, students' awareness and understanding of the many complex forces — economic, political, religious and social — that have shaped, and will continue to shape, our world are essential to their comprehensive educational experience and the growing body of knowledge with which they will forge their futures.
At Buena Vista University, the School of Social Science, Philosophy and Religion is the hub of the study of history, philosophy and religion, political science, public administration, psychology, social science, social work, criminology and criminal justice. The School has a highly talented, eclectic faculty — including three professors who have received the prestigious Wythe Award for Teaching Excellence, the University's highest faculty honor.
"The disciplines within our School offer multiple ways of understanding the world — each with unique perspectives," says Dr. Peter Steinfeld, professor of religion, dean of the School and the 2003 Wythe Award recipient. "How can one know the world without history? Without politics? Without philosophy and religion? Without psychology?"
"Understanding the ideals that have shaped civilizations, and the roles and functioning of individuals and groups within those civilizations, is absolutely foundational to any education worth its name," says Dr. David Evans.
"No one is exempt from the forces of history, nor the workings of politics and society," notes Evans. "Religion is both a source of great strength and comfort and a point of serious conflict, and people who have some perspective both on the content of religious teachings and of the social and political roles religion can play are in ambush better position to understand, make judgments about, and participate in current events than those who lack that perspective. For example, businesspeople and scientists should understand the ethical implications of their actions, and politicians should be aware of history in forming current circumstances. We live in a 'therapeutic society,' and thus a foundation in psychology can help citizens understand and evaluate the claims of popular culture."
Students who major in programs in the School — as well as other students who take its general education exploration courses — are exposed to multidisciplinary approaches to learning that make them 'well-rounded,' notes Steinfeld. "Well-rounded students are better prepared for multiple careers, and will have the agility and self-confidence to change careers as needed."
A Dynamic Team
You might say that Dr. Brad Best and Lisa Best have the political science/public administration program at Buena Vista University well covered.
Not only do the husband and wife team comprise the entire faculty in the department, but they also have made their mark on the development of two important related academic programs that attract students from all disciplines, as well as political science and public administration majors:
- One is the Washington Center internship program in which students are placed in semester-long, high-profile internships in Washington, D.C. at such locations as the White House, the Smithsonian, Congress, Department of Interior, Department of Justice, "NBC's Meet the Press" and various "think tanks." Brad is BVU's campus liaison with the Washington Center, a nonprofit organization that coordinates and facilitates these internship opportunities. Students can earn 12 academic credit hours for these internships
- The other program is BVU's award-winning mock trial team, which has seen a resurgence since the Bests arrived on campus. Lisa is the team's attorney coach and Brad is the academic coach. Students can earn 3 credit hours for participation on the team.
Brad and Lisa, both associate professors of political science, came to Buena Vista in 2002 from Clarksville, Tenn. where Brad was on the faculty of Austin Peay State University. Lisa practiced corporate defense law and was an adjunct professor at the school. They met at Southern Illinois University/Carbondale where he was in graduate school and she was in law school. In 1999, Brad earned his PhD in political science, and Lisa was awarded her JD. Lisa had earned her bachelor's degree at SIU, while Brad received his bachelor's degree at Wartburg College and his master's degree at the University of Northern Iowa. They were married in 2000.
Both teach a broad range of courses in the department, with Lisa's academic specialty in the various legal studies courses. Brad's primary interests are in public law, American politics and public administration and policy, with a specific focus on Constitutional law and the U.S. Supreme Court's decision-making practices.
More Opportunities for Research
Over the past several years, the Bests have implemented changes in the department's curriculum with some definite objectives in mind.
Brad points out that several areas of study have been added to help prepare students who plan to go on to graduate studies or law school. "While the curriculum is not targeted singularly at post-baccalaureate study, we have added some requirements that are part of the preparation for graduate school, such as a basic course in statistics," he explains. "We've also added a senior seminar that functions as a review and extension of students' familiarity with research methods. There is a significant emphasis on building and enhancing analytical skills, especially in public law courses, so students are ready to hit the ground running in law school and are familiar with the types of tasks that are associated with being a graduate student."
One important outcome of the focus on research has been students' increased participation in the Midwest Political Science Undergraduate Research Conference, which is held each spring at different schools. BVU will be hosting the conference this year on March 20-21 with up to 40 students and 20 faculty members expected to attend.
"The emphasis of the conference is the celebration of the scholarly and creative enterprises of our students," says Brad. Some students also submit their work for publication to the Missouri Valley Social Science Journal and may also use their research papers and presentations in their graduate school applications.
Lisa has also expanded the range of legal studies courses available in the curriculum. Increasingly, she and Brad are adding course content that places developments in American law and courts in a comparative or global perspective. They require students to view American law and legal systems as part of an interconnected world.
"We have also placed more emphasis on encouraging students to do internships, thus giving them the opportunity to move from theory into practice," she notes.
Washington Center Internships
The Washington Center program is considered a premier internship program for BVU students, and is a key selling point for their department, says Brad. In addition to the prestigious internships offered in Washington, D.C., the program now has an option for internships in London.
"We are indebted to Dr. Joe Patten (a former professor of political science at BVU) for his groundwork in building BVU's relationship with the Washington Center," says Brad. "When students apply for a Washington Center internship, it's a total campus effort involving many faculty and staff, and we are just part of the process."
Buena Vista students in the program also benefit from the generosity of BVU Trustee Don Lamberti and his wife, Charlene, who established an endowment that helps support the expenses of the students while they are interning.
Typically, four BVU students are selected per academic year for the internships. "We find that very good, highly motivated students often self-select into this program, and they thrive," Brad adds.
For Lisa Best, Buena Vista's long history of mock trial team competition was something that immediately caught her attention when she arrived on campus. Read more
As a two-person department, the Bests find they work well as a team. As Brad notes, with a hint of a smile, "We can have departmental meetings at home over breakfast."
"Having one another available when an idea or important issue comes up and to have that ongoing interaction is very valuable," notes Lisa. "When we look to each other in a professional capacity, we always have our most trusted advisor to discuss these issues."
The Bests take great personal satisfaction in the many levels of success their students achieve — both as undergraduates and as alumni in professions ranging from education, to law, to politics and public service.
There is also another aspect of the feedback from alumni that Brad finds reassuring. "It is most rewarding for me when I hear back from students in the first year or so after they graduate and they tell me that they miss being a student, that they miss being around ideas and working with ideas in the way that we do here," he comments. "That is important to me because I want our students to recall their time here as one of the best experiences of their lives."
Sam Wooden, a second year student at the University of Kentucky/ Lexington School of Law, made academics a priority at BVU, but also found that what he learned outside the classroom was important to his total educational experience. Read more
As a scholar, Brad has written a number of shorter contributions to reference materials, as well as solo authored and co-authored contributions for edited books. In 2002, he published Law Clerks, Support Personnel, and the Decline of Consensual Norms on the United States Supreme Court, 1953-1995, which was an extension of his PhD dissertation and is part of a growing literature on the role of law clerks at the high court. He has also authored a student study guide for a major legal process textbook on the American legal system, which includes some chapters written by Lisa. Lisa is licensed to practice law in Iowa, Illinois and Tennessee and maintains her licensure through ongoing Continuing Legal Education.
It's Politics as Usual For This BVU Aluma
Talk about advancing rapidly in a career you love, Amy (Murray) Beller, Class of 2004, is a shining example. Within six months of graduating from BVU, Amy landed a staff position in the Sioux City office of U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). Two years later, she became Harkin's chief scheduler in his Washington, D.C. office. Last December, she and her husband, Justin, moved back to Iowa to be closer to their families, and she started working out of Harkin's Des Moines office.
For Amy — a political science major at BVU — the road to Washington, D.C. was paved with a lot of volunteer work for the Iowa Democratic Party during her student years.
She first became hooked on politics as a junior in high school when she participated in a mock legislative session in Des Moines, and served as a page the following year in the Iowa House of Representatives.
"Politics interested me because it is a world unique to itself," she says. "Because it is consistently changing from one administration to the next and there is always something new and challenging."
At BVU, Amy was involved in several student organizations, including the College Democrats, serving as its president during her junior and senior years. She did volunteer work with the local Democratic Party and was the university representative for Senator John Kerry's presidential campaign in 2003-04. Her senior year, she interned with the Iowa Senate Research Staff in Des Moines during BVU's January interim.
Her heavy involvement with Democratic politics, as well as her internship, opened the door for a job as a caseworker/staff assistant in Harkin's Sioux City office. When she was asked to consider working in the nation's capitol as Harkin's scheduler, she jumped at the opportunity.
As lead scheduler, Amy was the gatekeeper for Harkin's meetings with constituents, Congressional colleagues, and others. She also worked on all of his travel arrangements and logistics and was the head scheduler for his 2008 reelection campaign.
"I have enjoyed assisting Iowans and working for Senator Harkin," she comments. "It is a position where you get to see every part of the political process. It was a great fit for me; however it is not a job that someone could probably do for life because you are on call 24/7 due to the senator's busy travel schedule.
"Working in politics has been very rewarding," says Amy. "It is amazing to work with Senator Harkin because you can see his passion for helping people every day. It's great to learn from him."
Amy credits Lisa Best, associate professor of political science and Dr. Elizabeth Lamoureux, Class of 1983, professor of speech communication, with encouraging her in her educational and personal goals. "They pushed me to look beyond the obvious career opportunities in the political science and communication fields. Without their support through my four years at BVU, and after, I would have never have thought of leaving Iowa to work in Washington D.C."
While they were in Washington, D.C. Amy's husband worked for the U.S. Senate Sergeant at Arms office.
Philosophy & Religion
Class Uses Comedy for More Than Laughs
When students in Dr. Laura Bernhardt's logic course sit down for their first day of class, they're likely to see a video clip of the Abbott and Costello classic "Who's on First?" comedy routine.
If not that, it may be the Monty Python "Argument Clinic" skit or assorted Groucho Marx routines. What does comedy have to do with logic?
A lot, says Bernhardt, associate professor of philosophy, who has been teaching this course since she came to BVU in 2001. "Some of the best places to look for logic, and problems with logic, are jokes," she says. Bernhardt first taught a logic course in the late '90s while she was a graduate student at the University of Illinois, Urbana where she earned her master's degree and doctorate.
"I begin logic the way I begin all of my classes in philosophy — I let students know that confusion can be a good thing, and that this class is all about providing them with the tools for confronting it effectively," she says. "I try to get them to see that once they understand how the structures of human reasoning work, certain other tasks become a lot easier, or at least a lot more interesting."
It also gets her students' attention when the discussion turns to politics. "Political utterances usually tend to demonstrate failures or abuses of logic rather than appropriate uses," she says. "I also like to point out major figures in the history of philosophy who have also been important in the history of other disciplines. One cannot talk about the history of science, for example, without also talking about logicians such as Aristotle and Leibniz. For the literary crowd, I like to introduce Lewis Carroll, who in addition to giving us Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass was also a logician. Alice is even more fascinating stuff to read with a background in formal logic."
"I count myself successful if my students end the semester with a clearer notion of what arguments are, what makes them good or bad — structurally/inferentially speaking — and how to criticize bad arguments and create good ones."
The best students of logic learn how to handle complex situations systematically, she says. "They know how to find strategies for reducing the complex to the manageable without losing the most important elements of the complicated situations they encounter. They are also tougher to fool — they know when they're being sold a lot of nonsense, and they can tell you why it's nonsense."
"Personally, I believe that we will always do our jobs better — whatever those jobs may be — if we understand why we do what we do and can think seriously and effectively about how to do it better."
"I also think that an education in basic logic is indispensable for the development of the kind of informed citizenship necessary for a functioning democracy," adds Bernhardt. "People who can't reason their way out of the proverbial paper bag aren't much use when there are problems that need solving."
Melissa Huntley, a junior from Charter Oak who is majoring in psychology, philosophy and religion, is a student in the Logic class. "Dr. Bernhardt definitely portrays the subject as important and relevant for me as not only a philosophy major and a college student, but also as an individual who has arguments of my own," she says. "Now, I'm able to identify weak spots in an argument and how some premises don't add up to a given conclusion. In my own arguments, I can also prove those weaknesses and inconsistencies."
Student is Active Advocate for Social Change Causes
When you want to find BVU students who are involved in causes to remedy social injustices and help people who live on the margins of society, you don't have to look far.
Several of the most dedicated voices for improving the human condition are students in the School of Social Science, Philosophy and Religion.
For example, Dustin Killpack, a junior from Logan who is majoring in both public administration and philosophy and religion, has been a leading advocate for social causes since he was a freshman.
Last September, Dustin and several other BVU students took part in the "March of Our Lives" at St. Paul, Minn. during the Republican National Convention — a demonstration in support of the right to healthcare, housing and all economic human rights.
"As issues like hunger, poverty, unemployment and homelessness grow throughout the United States, political leaders should not forget about the people who are affected and their rights," says Dustin. He and the other BVU students discussed their experience on the St. Paul march at an event on campus later that month.
"Poverty is the most important social cause to me, because, from everything that I have witnessed, to live in poverty is to live without choices," he explains.
Locally, last fall Dustin and another student, Allison Even, led a student driven service project in the BVU community to collect donations of items for the Upper Des Moines Opportunity food pantry which was running low on supplies because of skyrocketing demand.
Last summer, Dustin took on more responsibility in his commitment to social causes. He was one of 50 college students selected from across the nation to become an Oxfam America CHANGE leader and attended the organization's training program in Boston. Oxfam America is an affiliate of Oxfam International, an international relief and development organization that creates solutions to poverty, hunger and other forms of social injustice.
The CHANGE initiative trains college students to become engaged in Oxfam's social justice mission and work on those issues on their campuses during the academic year. This semester, for example, Dustin is planning a hunger and poverty campaign that will include a hunger banquet, food drives and peaceful demonstrations.
He was also planning to go to Washington, D.C. in February to lobby Congress to bring more attention to climate change and its impact on the poor in developing nations.
Dustin, who is vice-president of alternative events for student Mobilizing Outreach Volunteer Efforts (MOVE) — an organization that coordinates volunteer outreach service activities — also led a group of BVU students to Cedar Rapids to help victims of the summer flooding in that area.
His studies, campus involvement and interactions with other students and faculty have reinforced his convictions to help make a difference in the lives of those who are less fortunate.
Dustin says the BVU professor who has had the most impact on his life is Dr. Swasti Bhattacharyya, associate professor of religion. "My second semester at BVU I took two classes from her. She is a rare kind of teacher, one who passionately loves what she does and excels at it. She has been an inspiration for me to reach for the stars and find my own path along the way. Through her, I have learned the importance of having a good idea and ways to make it even better and more credible through research, practice and persistence."
Professors of History Hold BVU's Highest Faculty Honor
Seeing spouses teaching in the same college, and even in the same academic department, is not uncommon.
What is uncommon about Drs. Bill Feis and Dixee Bartholomew-Feis, professors of history, is that their dedication to their students and excellence in teaching has been recognized with Buena Vista University's highest faculty honor, the Wythe Award.
In the 22-year history of the Wythe Award, they are the first couple to have received the honor — Dixee in 2000 and Bill in 2007. Endowed by BVU Life Trustee Paul McCorkle and his late wife, Vivian, Class of 1959, who was also a trustee, the award comes with a stipend, which is now $30,000, and a semester long sabbatical to pursue professional development.
"My faculty mentor here nominated me for this award and the fact that he did so was very humbling," says Dixee. "For me, the Wythe Award was a validation of my work, especially since I had not been at BVU that long. For professional teachers there are not many awards of this type out there, anywhere."
"The Wythe Award, with its stipend and sabbatical, opens doors to things you have always wanted to do professionally, but could not," says Bill. "To be selected by your peers, especially by a committee that includes former Wythe recipients, places you in some pretty special company. In creating this award, the McCorkles were not only generous, but they did it right."
Many of the reasons for the selection of Dixee and Bill for the Wythe award are embedded in their experiential approach to the teaching of history and the impact they have on their students. They first met when they were doctoral students at The Ohio State University in Columbus. "The teaching assistant office was alphabetized and we ended up in the same little cubicle with back to back desks," recalls Dixee. They were married in 1993.
Bill had earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and received his master's degree in history from the University of Nebraska. Dixee earned her bachelor's degree in history from West Virginia University, received a certification in French from the Sorbonne in Paris and her master's degree from the College of William and Mary.
In 1996, they arrived at BVU ready for a new adventure and their first full-time faculty positions.
Though they each have their academic specialties — Bill's is American military history, specifically the American Civil War, and Dixee's is Asian history, with a focus on Japan and Vietnam— they complement each other in many ways.
"We do a lot for two historians," says Dixee. "Because of our diverse specialties, we cover a lot of the world pretty well." (A part-time adjunct instructor teaches European history.)
As spouses, talking about work does not end when Bill and Dixee leave the campus. Their ongoing and sometimes spirited conversations about history, teaching and their students bring an added dimension to the classroom and their students are the beneficiaries.
"We take what we do very seriously and we love it and I think we show that the study of history can be enjoyable, even for those people who are not particularly interested in it," says Bill. "We both tend to teach and mentor students from the approach that history is a big story and it is about the human experience.
With an eye on exploring in more depth the relationships and complexities of historic events, such as WWII and the Holocaust, they have also developed complementary courses and have been guest lecturers in each other's classes to give students different perspectives.
They also want to do more team teaching. "We did this in a senior seminar and the students really ate it up because they saw two historians arguing and we both had the evidence to substantiate our positions," says Bill.
They are always looking for new ideas to try in the classroom and in the curriculum.
For example, to say Bill specializes in the American Civil War is an understatement. "I have loved the history of the American Civil War since I was in the fifth grade. It is endlessly fascinating every time I teach it."
His Civil War classes sometimes become a stage as Bill shows up as "General Feis" or "Private Joe Smith" decked out in period Union or Confederate uniforms from his personal collection and ready to answer students' questions about what it was like to be in the war. In the Civil War tactics and technology section of his class he may bring period weaponry and other artifacts, also from his collection, for students to touch and examine.
"It's a fun way of connecting with students that they don't ordinarily get," says Bill. "For 50 minutes of class time they are in 'Civil War land' in a very tangible way."
Dixee also brings her own brand of innovation to the classroom and, in fact, to the campus and the community. The most striking example was her leadership in the development of the Holocaust Year of Studies, a cross disciplinary program that was offered for the first time in the 1999-2000 academic year. She is currently planning the third Holocaust Year of Studies for 2009-10.
The first Holocaust Year of Studies included linked courses in science, the humanities and social sciences. Speakers were brought to campus — some who were survivors or children of survivors of the Nazi concentration camps — through BVU's Academic and Cultural Events (ACES) series. About 20 students also went on a Holocaust studies trip to Poland and Israel during the January interim.
The Holocaust Year of Studies was again offered in 2005-06 and included a component where BVU shared speakers and other presentations with classes at the Alta Middle School.
"The Holocaust Year of Studies is a great example of what Buena Vista University really prides itself in, which is combining classroom and out-of classroom experiences in a lot of disciplines with travel and ACES," she adds.
Jason Hillman, Class of 2006, traveled thousands of miles the August following commencement to pursue graduate studies in Middle Eastern History at Tel Aviv University. Read more
Dixee believes it is important for students today to take advantage of the many opportunities available to develop a global awareness. In addition to what she does to bring a global perspective to campus in her classroom and through the Holocaust Year of Studies, she also serves as the coordinator of BVU's study abroad program.
Study-abroad can be transforming, she says. "Students experience a growth that comes from being significantly outside their comfort zone and having to interact in a place where the culture is not their own and where they may share values, but also find significant differences. They learn to be self-sufficient in new ways and to rely on their mental stamina and inner reserves. They learn what it is to be a global citizen and why that is important."
Like a good number of historians, Bill and Dixee have also written books and authored many papers for professional journals. Bill's first book, Grant's Secret Service: The Intelligence War from Belmont to Appomattox, was published in 2002. Dixee's book, The OSS and Ho Chi Minh: Unexpected Allies in the War Against Japan, was published in 2006. Both books are on the reading list of the Central Intelligence Agency, as well as a number of colleges and universities.
Bill plans to complete his second book, The Worst Angels of Our Nature: Guerrilla Warfare in the American Civil War, while on sabbatical this semester.
"As historians, writing books is one of the things we do. It's the way we were trained," says Dixie. "We think it is beneficial to our students to see us not only as teachers, but scholars as well, so when we talk about research, writing and the intensity of the editing process we can relate to it within the context of our own experiences."
"I am not sure students realize how much continual growth is required in this profession because if you are stagnate and are not writing, reading and researching and growing, then you are failing to do your job in a whole lot of ways," she adds. "The university experience is about growth for everyone on campus — students, faculty and staff. It is a dynamic place."
New Psychology Class Gives Students Experience With Master's Level Research
Eight BVU psychology students found out what it was like to do master's-level research in a new class introduced last year by Dr. Wind Goodfriend, Class of 1998, assistant professor of experimental psychology.
In the year-long research thesis class, students had to create and complete their own independent research project. The class will be offered in alternate years.
"The projects had to be experimental in design and they were required to do all of the things they would have to do for a master's project — literature review, design of the procedure, submitting the Institutional Review Board (IRB) ethics form, conducting the sessions, statistical analysis and writing the entire American Psychological Association (APA) research report," says Goodfriend.
"The psychology department has always required students to complete research projects as part of our year-long statistics and methods course (which was a prerequisite for the Research Thesis class)," says Goodfriend. "However this was the first time we've offered an extensive, advanced research class. In many ways, the students' projects were like a 'practice master's thesis' and my expectations were almost as high."
"When I went to graduate school, I was fully prepared in terms of theoretical knowledge, critical thinking skills and writing ability," says Goodfriend, BVU Class of 1998. "What I was lacking was actual hands-on research experience. I wanted our students to have those experiences, making them fully prepared for graduate school."
The students were responsible for their own projects, and also served as the "second author" on another project, helping the primary author conduct the data collection sessions, analyze data and read drafts of their papers.
In addition to their weekly group meetings, Goodfriend met individually with each student every week to discuss their progress and provide support and encouragement. "This is the kind of student-professor interaction at which I think BVU excels and which is most gratifying for both parties. This work is why I came to BVU."
"The quality of their work was as good as most master's theses," says Goodfriend. "The only difference was that often master's level projects are multiple studies and our students completed only one study. However, many students planned to continue their topics in graduate school."
One sign of the quality of the students' projects is that seven were invited to present their work at the Midwestern Psychology Association annual convention in Chicago last spring. All of the students presented their research at four separate conferences and several also submitted their research papers for publication in professional journals.
All four seniors who took the course were accepted to graduate school. "One was accepted at five different graduate schools and two of the schools told her the reason she was accepted was because she had included her thesis paper in the application and that it was excellent," says Goodfriend.
Angie Eischeid, a senior from Halibur with double majors in psychology and philosophy & religion, says her project — entitled Predicting Altruism: Affect and Health — gave her a hands-on look at the work involved in this level of research. "It gave me experience working independently, which I thoroughly enjoy, but also working closely with my professor and learning about experimental design and the procedures involved in research.
Her research focused on under what conditions people will help a stranger.
The course also gave Angie a head start on a National Science Foundation internship last summer at Western Kentucky University where she learned about research design methods used by organizational psychologists. After graduation this May, Angie plans to begin graduate work and eventually become a college professor.
Criminology & Criminal Justice
Internship Leads to Work at an International Police Agency
When she was looking for a student internship in her criminal justice major, Alison Gunderson, Class of 2008, had her sights set on Washington, D.C and working with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) or the FBI. She applied to the DEA through The Washington Center program, a nonprofit organization that provides selected students with opportunities to work and learn in Washington, D.C. for academic credit.
But after the DEA lost her paperwork, her Washington Center advisor helped her with a last minute application for an internship with Interpol, the international police organization. She was accepted and started her internship in the fall of 2007 with Interpol's Communication and Command Center/Notice Section.
For Alison, who grew up on a farm near Ringsted, the Criminology & Criminal Justice change in plans worked out well. "By interning at Interpol and seeing the several other federal law enforcement agencies Interpol works with I got to see a variety of federal careers," she says.
Her connections developed during the internship also gave her an inside track on landing a job as a federal contract employee with Interpol last August. "My internship supervisor was impressed with my work then so when she was asked who to hire as a contract employee, she immediately thought of me," says Alison.
"I am now working as a criminal analyst in the same department and with the same people I did during my internship," she says. "I have more responsibilities now than I had as a student because my clearance allows me to use more of the databases."
Alison's job is to enter information into the Interpol databases relating to individuals who are wanted for apprehension and extradition to foreign countries. She also searches the databases to track fugitives' activities and has around 7,000 cases assigned to her. When she finds a fugitive, she e-mails the country to tell officials that Interpol has located the individual. She then transfers the case to Interpol's fugitive division to process the warrants and extradition documents.
Alison is keeping her options open as far as a career in federal law enforcement, but says she enjoys the research side of the profession and at this point prefers that to being a field agent.
Dr. Stephanie Hays, assistant professor of criminology, says criminal justice majors at BVU have to complete either an internship or a capstone research project as a degree requirement, and some do both.
"Ideally, those who do internships will be able to see how what they learn in the class applies in the real world," says Hays. "It is also useful for our students to see if it is a career that they will actually enjoy. Some students do internships and realize that being a cop or a lawyer isn't at all what they want, and that is important to know so that they can consider other career options in the field." Criminal justice and criminology internships are generally in the fields of law enforcement, corrections and the courts.
Social Work Internships Inspire and Motivate
Students who plan to enter the fields of social work or teaching have something in common: they have to complete a minimum number of hours in a field observation situation before they can take their professional licensing exams.
In teacher education, it is called student teaching. In social work, it is the Senior Field Internship, which is a minimum of 480 hours. BVU is one of eight private schools in the state to offer a Bachelor of Social Work degree.
According to Kathryn McKinley, assistant professor of social work, students have a wide selection of agencies from which to select their internship site to correlate with their area of career interest. In recent years, the sites have ranged from hospice programs to area hospitals, substance abuse treatment centers, mental health services, agencies that serve people with disabilities, AIDS case management services, to those that deal with child and family services, homeless youth and juvenile court services. Ellen Holmgren, assistant professor of social work, is the field director.
"We want our students to have the knowledge, skills and values that they need to provide services to a wide range of persons, regardless of the client's problem or race, ethnicity, gender or social class," says McKinley. "Social workers must have an understanding of how oppressions and discrimination impact persons, and be prepared to work to help that person and their family, and also work to change society to eliminate oppression and discrimination."
In many cases, the field internships can be much more than just a degree requirement. They can be motivating, even inspiring and sometimes lead to future employment.
For Darren Whitfield, Class of 2007, a field internship at the AIDS Project of Central Iowa in Des Moines was a revelation and an inspiration. Today, after earning his master's degree in social work at the University of Denver in 2008, he has returned to work at the AIDS Project as its program coordinator.
"As a student, initially I wanted to go into social work because I wanted to be a counselor," says Darren, who has a licensed master of social work (LMSW) designation. "However, I discovered my passion for social change and now I am a social worker because I believe you can make change, not only as an individual doing micro-level social work, but change on a macro level to help change systems that affect peoples' lives on a daily basis. I think as a social worker it is my job to work myself out of a job and to help people find solutions to systematic problems that affect the lives of those who have no voice."
In selecting the internship at the AIDS Project, Darren wanted experience working on a broader level of social work practice. "My internship was amazing. I did community level outreach with gay African American men to do prevention work. I did HIV testing. I was a part of community change and community awareness that is something I will never forget. I was blessed with the opportunity to work in the trenches and I loved it."
In his current position with the AIDS Project, Darren coordinates all of the agency's prevention and care services, manages its housing program, the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, does evaluations, training, quality assurance and writes grant applications and protocols. "I owe my career and my awareness to my wonderful professors at BVU, and I am indebted to them," says Darren, who would like to eventually complete his master's and PhD degrees in public health and teach social work from the perspective of a social reformer.
As a BVU student, Darren served on the Student Activities Board for four years, including one as president; was editor of The Tack, the student newspaper; chair of Time Out; assistant to the director of the Academic and Cultural Events Series (ACES); a member of Student Senate and was a member of the student panel of the William W. Siebens American Heritage Lecture series for two consecutive years.