Social Work Launches Mentoring Club

"Buddy Meetings" Offer Support and Friendship

Marist’s Social Work Program welcomed some exciting changes during the fall 2015 semester, starting with the creation of its “Buddy Meetings.” Formally known as the Social Work Mentoring Club, these meetings bring Social Work students together using a variety of creative and interactive methods.

The Buddy Meetings are the brainchild of Dr. Daria Hanssen, director of the Social Work Program, and are open to any student within the department. The upperclassmen volunteer to meet with underclassmen and act as their mentor throughout their time in the major. In the past, the juniors and seniors would have an annual meeting in the spring, but Hanssen thought more meetings would be more beneficial for the underclassmen.

“I wanted the upperclassmen to be honest about the pros and cons of the program,” explained Hanssen. “The Social Work Program is a degree program and a professional program, so I think these meetings help students keep their feet on the ground and find a person to discuss everything with. It’s all about bringing everyone together to get to know each other and have a cohesive program where they can have fun and learn some ways to de-stress.”

The Buddies meet once a month and discuss every aspect of the program from their field work and internships to what to expect from classes and professors. The meetings have also become a great way for students to share their experiences, seek advice, and provide support for one another.  

“Being under the tutelage of someone who has done what you are doing is the best way to learn,” said Joseph Starnes ’17, a junior who joined the club as a means to gain more insight on what his internship would entail. “Talking with the seniors calmed my nerves; I was told that the professors in our department care about us and will do everything they can to make sure we succeed. I gained reassurance that the process would be enjoyable and worth the ride.”

Since its first meeting, Hanssen has been very involved in getting the club off the ground. In the past, she has provided the group with treats like pizza and cookies, and she even brought in her dog for those who missed their pets at home. Lauren Haggerty ’16, a senior “Buddy,” applauds Hanssen’s dedication to the club and the efforts she has made to bring the students together. Through her participation in the Buddy Meetings, Haggerty has met some “amazingly genuine people” and expanded her network within the Social Work Program. She hopes to provide the same mentorship opportunity for the younger members of the program that she received when she was in their shoes.

“The connection the club creates is extremely beneficial to the underclassmen because it offers them an outlet for any questions or concerns they may have regarding the class material, professors, or the field placement process,” said Haggerty. “The meetings are so beneficial and foster a sense of community within the major that extends beyond their individual cohort.”

Marist College Social Work Mentoring ClubIn addition to giving the students a friendly environment to get to know each other and the Program, the meetings also offer a creative outlet to de-stress using paint and other artistic supplies. In December’s meeting, the group painted a mural that featured the inspirational quote “Believe There is Good in the World,” a quote Hanssen, Haggerty, Starnes, and the rest of the students feel reflects perfectly the morals and values of the Social Work Program. The mural is proudly being displayed outside of Hanssen’s office for all to see.

“I want it to be less institutional and more open and friendly,” said Hanssen. “The painting helped people move out of the classroom atmosphere and I think that they thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s like a break and they get to know each other in a different context rather than just in class; it’s a good time to unwind.”

Due to the success of the first paint night, Hanssen plans to host another painting night for this semester’s group of Buddies. She also plans to have the students do creative work with clay and introduce them to meditation. Hanssen uses these activities as a way to teach the students the importance of self-care and stress relief. She looks forward to meeting this semester’s group of students and getting to share some fun experiences with them.   

“In the program, we practice a lot of self-care and the importance of learning to take of yourself when you’re out in the field, especially when working with clients at internships,” Hanssen said when discussing the benefits of these activities. “It’s also a break from classes and I think that it helps people let go and be centered, and maybe they can use what they’ve learned here when they’re on their own as well.” 

Written by Emily Belfiore '16

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