Think of what you’d like a social worker to be—someone who serves with integrity and compassion, who understands the importance of human relationships, who values the dignity and worth of every person. For Jacob Stock, the value of looking out for others instilled in him at a young age has been built upon through the WSU Social Work program.
Jacob is a senior at WSU pursuing a major in social work with a Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies (WGSS) minor. In the social work program, Jacob is learning how to turn his empathy for people into constructive support and assistance for solving problems.
As Jacob described the aspirations for his future career as a social worker, it was evident that he is excited to apply the values of caring for others – for those left behind and left out.
Why Social Work?
When picking a major, the variety in career options for social workers seemed fitting for Jacob’s passion for people. Some social workers plan and administer social justice programs as a community social worker. Others work with abuse and neglect cases as Child Protective Services (CPS) social workers.
Jacob knows he would like to gear more towards community level intervention to support groups organizing around social justice. However, there isn’t a specific population or group of people that Jacob wants to work with. That comes partly with the understanding that many of the problems social workers encounter are interconnected.
“Social work is both an art and a science,” Jacob stated. “We have evidence based practices that stem from psychology, sociology and political science, but at the end of the day, you are also working with people – each with unique situations and problems.”
Jacob continued to explain, “What I really like about social work is that it’s not me going in and saving people, it’s really more about building on the strengths that are already in the communities, groups, families and people I am working with.”
Being a native of Decorah, Iowa, the Winona scenery made WSU feel like home from the very beginning. But it wasn’t just the breath-taking bluffs and winding river that had Jacob sold.
When touring WSU, Jacob decided to meet with a few professors to learn more about the social work program. The professors stressed the idea that social workers are professional problem solvers. They explained that the WSU Social Work program offers students a wide knowledge base for addressing a variety of problems and the ability to offer diverse solutions.
Life in the Social Work Program at WSU
Although helping people has its rewards, working with people struggling with difficult issues day in and day out can really take a toll on a social worker. That is why the WSU social work program warns students of compassion fatigue and burnout.
“The professors do a really good job of making themselves available and stressing the importance of having a support system and having activities that you enjoy outside of work to take your mind off of it every now and again.”
Jacob used the analogy that social workers are “the tool.” They don’t use hammers or maps to help solve problems, they use themselves. They use their own counselling skills to help clients. Therefore, it is important to take care of your tools and instruments. For Jacob, that can be as simple as taking a nap or reading a good book from time to time.
When preparing for a career of working with people, there is only so much you can learn from a few textbooks. Jacob has taken his education beyond the classroom walls in a variety of ways. He has had social work internships, participated in clubs such as the Re-Initiative, and even studied abroad in Mexico for a semester to learn about the experiences of social workers in a different culture.
Jacob is eager to take what he has learned and the education he has received and go out and do something with it.
More Than a Major
Jacob knows the cost of compassion for people can bear a heavy burden. Although some days it might feel impossible to create change in this world, his determination to make a difference in the lives of others is inspirational.
“At the end of the day I tell myself, “Well, I can either do something about it or I can do nothing about it.” And I would rather do something.”
Choosing to do something means taking action on someone else’s behalf even when it’s challenging. For Jacob, the social work program is more than just a major, is about meeting people where they are and helping them solve problems themselves.
Liked Jacob’s story? Meet more awesome students in the More Than a Major Series!
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