Grad discovers calling through Master’s in Social Work program

December 15, 2020

Gina Gates headshot

Gina Gates, MSW '20, would say that social work is her life passion; however, it took her an undergraduate degree and some soul searching to figure it out. She always knew that she wanted to help people, and throughout her studies became interested in psychology, criminology and forensic science.

Gates put a lot of thought and exploration into how her interests fit together. With the help of a mentor, Gates discovered her calling and it all came together when she entered Quinnipiac’s Master’s in Social Work program. Each one of her interactions in her undergraduate program led her to where she is today, and she is grateful for that.

Upon graduating with her MSW, Gates accepted a social work position at a community-based non-profit health center where she works with adults who have addiction and behavioral disorders. She is exactly where she is meant to be.

You can say Gates was destined for Quinnipiac. She applied as a freshman and a transfer student and decided to go elsewhere. As Gates said, “Third time's a charm!” She accepted admittance into the MSW program and is so happy she did.

The Quinnipiac faculty instills the importance of community throughout the MSW program. Her class size was small and that meant students and faculty got to know each other very well over the three years she was a Quinnipiac graduate student. That same sense of community has carried over into their professional lives. They support each other with encouraging texts and celebrate with congratulatory messages.

Gates said that the bonds formed are an important part of her personal and professional life.

Gates’s internships were an important training ground where she put into practice her classroom experience. She was placed at Waterford Youth Services as part of the juvenile detention center review board where she worked closely with school officials, law enforcement and social workers.

Her second placement was with middle schoolers where she worked with a variety of students. Her last placement was in the Law and Psychiatry division at The Connecticut Mental Health Center where she worked collaboratively with professionals and graduate students from other universities.

Gates says that she gained so much from this placement and was disappointed when it was cut short by the pandemic shutdown. However, she was grateful for the experience that solidified her interest in working with people in the criminal justice system.

Upon graduating from Quinnipiac’s MSW program, Gates began to apply to jobs and found a solid fit at Wheeler Clinic in Connecticut. In fact, Gates applied to Wheeler and was able to meet them in person before the shutdown at a career fair Quinnipiac hosted. These types of events are an invaluable part of the connections Quinnipiac fosters.

There was a little delay from when she interviewed in February and when she was hired in April due to the shutdown across the state of Connecticut. Gates was eager to put into practice all that she has learned over the years. Although she began her first social work job virtually, Gates felt she was prepared to do her job and do it well.

Instead of meeting her coworkers and clients in person, Gates completed onboarding training, she shadowed via virtual meetings and learned how to document and complete intakes all online. Since then, Gates has ramped up to a full case load where she conducts intensive outpatient group and individual therapy virtually. If someone requires an in-person session, she is equipped to see them, meeting all COVID protocol in accordance with the State of Connecticut and CDC guidelines.

It is not lost on Gates and her colleagues that they are front-line workers and are a much-needed resource for many people.

In the last weeks of her MSW program at Quinnipiac, her professors emphasized the importance of their profession during this time and the essential need of taking care of themselves as well as others. Gates has created boundaries for her self-care. She teaches hip hop at a local dance school. Exercise is a great way to relieve stress and get you moving after sitting all day in front of a computer, she says.

Teaching kids hip hop is one way to have fun, stay mentally strong and physically healthy. As much as she is keeping herself balanced, she is staying true to who she is.

Her dance students are benefitting from Gates as well. She encourages them to have fun! She is making every effort to stay balanced and suggests that everyone does something to relieve their stress – safely, of course.

Q & A

What was one big take away from your MSW graduate program at Quinnipiac?

There's a place for social work in nearly every area of life. The work done in this field is so valuable, no matter what it is.

How do you feel your professors/program prepared you for the unexpected?

We were always taught to expect the unexpected - because life as a social worker is unpredictable with every client/situation you encounter. 2020 has proven this! With it, understand your limits, and that you only know as much as you know. And be confident in that.

Was there one course that you particularly liked and why?

Each of my classes has contributed so much to my learning. I've found what I've learned in Adult Trauma, taught by Dr. Amber Kelly, has been used significantly in my position.

When did you sense that Quinnipiac’s MSW program was the right fit for you?

Learning about the small class and faculty size was key for me. Also, being an alumnus to such an amazing university is a great plus!

In general, can you talk to your on-campus experience as a graduate student?

Coming to the North Haven campus for class always felt like it was an exclusive experience. I spent more time studying and writing papers on campus than at home! Between classes, it was always a good time relaxing and catching up with classmates (now, incredible colleagues).

If you have a passion for helping others like Gates and want to explore a career in social work, Quinnipiac is a great place to start. You will be surrounded by a supportive community of faculty, students and staff. Learn more about Quinnipiac’s Master’s in Social Work program.

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