June 4, 2021
In recognition of their daughter’s achievement in earning her doctorate, the parents of an Ursuline College faculty member made a gift to the College that will enrich student learning in the online Social Work Program.
Grant and Sue Grinnell’s donation celebrates their daughter, Assistant Professor Stacey G. O'Brien, DSW, MSSA, LISW-S, on the completion of her doctorate in social work, which she earned from Capella University in March.
“We are so proud of Stacey for completing her doctoral work. She has enjoyed and been rewarded by her career in social work that included working with diverse groups in a range of practice areas. The opportunity to celebrate her achievement by supporting a program for future social workers felt like a great fit for us,” the Grinnells said.
Their gift enabled the establishment of the Social Work Department's “Virtual Town Hall” program, which will be implemented next year. The donated funds will be used to cover expenses including the technology and software required to create and maintain the program, fees for outside speakers, and materials that will support student learning and professional development.
Dr. O’Brien explains she developed the Virtual Town Hall program following research about the Social Work Program’s learning environment. After inviting feedback from students and the Social Work Program advisory board members, she created the framework: Town Hall gatherings to be offered several times a year with input from students. Areas of focus will include social justice, social work practice, current trends and themes, as well as other issues identified by students. The benefits of the Virtual Town Program are expected to be:
- Strengthen diversity using diverse speakers and panelists as well as through the discussion of diverse areas of practice and populations.
- Role modeling, community building, and collaborative opportunities can be provided to students through discussion in breakout rooms and interactions between leaders or alumni and students.
- More frequent opportunities for students to provide feedback to the Social Work Program and to see values-based decision making modeled by practitioners and faculty
- Personal and professional support can be strengthened through relationship building across cohorts and with alumnae.
- Students can learn about practice trends that will help them more clearly develop a picture of the reality of practice.
“Discussions with and presentations by alumnae and other speakers can help reinforce the values, behaviors, and attitudes of professional social workers and leaders,” Dr. O’Brien said.
“This is yet another way in which we demonstrate that the Social Work program at Ursuline is distinctive in the degree to which we engage students and help them to be socialized into the field,” said Kathryn LaFontana, Vice President for Academic Affairs. “Great teaching is founded on the relationships among students, faculty, and staff, and this Virtual Town Hall Program facilitates these relationships in a powerful way.”
Dr. O’Brien’s doctoral research explored the implicit curriculum, or the environment in which students learn in the College’s Social Work program. “The implicit curriculum is not the actual content, assignment, or syllabi, but rather how professional social work values are modeled, how policies are implemented, how learning occurs through interactions with other students and faculty, the availability of and access to supports and services, and the extent to which diversity is valued and respected.”
More information about Ursuline’s online Social Work program is here.
Above: Social Work student Aimee Tomsik intereacting with Stacey G. O'Brien, DSW, MSSA, LISW-S, in an online course.