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Plenty of Fish in the Sea

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We want to feel valuable, fulfilled, challenged, and loved. But there are a lot of options out there…

To help students find their perfect match, on October 20th, the College of Social Work hosted their first “Speed Mentoring” event. More than 20 alumni, now working in various areas of social work, volunteered their time to have personal conversations with current social work students. With a speed dating-like setup, alumni mentors sat on the inside of a large rectangle of tables. At the sound of a bell, students proceeded to a new mentor. The alumni mentors shared stories about their professional journeys post-graduation – the opportunities, the surprising twists, and how they found successful, fulfilling careers.

Tammer Attallah (MSW ’01) shares the insights he’s gained as associate director of Children’s Services for Valley Mental Health.

The alumni mentors showcased the diversity of the profession. Among the group were directors of state social service agencies and nonprofit organizations, including the Utah Division of Child and Family Services, the Utah Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, Project Reality, and the University of Utah’s Women’s Resource Center; school social workers; a number of private practitioners with various specialty areas; and forensic social workers, including a counselor from the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office. The alumni mentors have worked with substance abuse, refugees and immigrants, older adults, abused children, troubled teens, LGBTQ groups, people with Alzheimers, veterans, hospital patients, victims, and offenders.

Lani Taholo (MSW ’01) tells MSW students about her role as clinical director of Child and Family Empowerment Services.

Alumna Mary Eileen Lehman (BSW ’03, MSW ’04), for example, worked for a substance abuse counseling center, then the Salt Lake County Jail, and the University of Utah Hospital before pursuing her passion and opening her own private practice. “I absolutely love what I do,” she said. “I feel so honored, amazed, and blessed by what people bring in to me.”

“You have tender moments that the [client’s] family shares with you,” said alumna Kelly Otteson (MSW ’10), who works at the George E. Wahlen Ogden Veterans Home. It was evident to students who talked to Ms. Otteson that, although it can be emotionally challenging, she truly enjoys her chosen specialization and the older veterans with whom she works.

Zach Bale (MSW ’07) talks about earning the title of vice president of external relations for Volunteers of America, Utah, while Debra Daniels (MSW ’84) explains why she loves being Director of the University of Utah Women’s Resource Center.

As social work students left the hour-long speed mentoring event to head to their next classes, a few shared their thoughts with College of Social Work faculty and staff. They reported that the conversations were “helpful” and eye-opening. The only complaint: they wanted more time and opportunities to talk with each of the alumni mentors.

Dubbing the speed mentoring a success, Ray Betancourt (MSW ’98), president of the College of Social Work Alumni Association (which sponsored the event), said he hopes the College will host similar events in the future. “Besides offering students a fun, personalized look into many different areas of social work,” he said, “this speed mentoring event was a terrific opportunity for them to network with professionals well-established in their respective fields. We really want these students to find their perfect fit – a career they’ll love for the rest of their lives.”