Professor goes ‘above and beyond’ for social work department

September 10, 2021

Headshot of Laura Mutrie

Laura Mutrie, the director of field education and an assistant clinical professor in the social work department, founded the Master of Social Work program and has done everything she could to help students succeed — even during the height of COVID-19.

“Laura Mutrie’s focus is clearly on the well-being of students and she works very hard to create opportunities to help them excel,” said Carol Awasu, the social work department chair, MSW program director and a professor of social work.

For her involvement in the university’s social work department and dedication to students’ success, Mutrie is honored with the university’s most prestigious faculty award this year, the Excellence in Service to Students award.

“Since I joined the department, Laura has been a mentor, model and friend to me,” Maya Doyle, an associate professor for the department of social work, said. “More vitally, she has been the same to our students — recognizing their strengths, supporting their goals and their personal and professional growth, and providing needed doses of reality regarding the experience of life of a social worker.” 

During the peak of COVID-19, Mutrie worked diligently to ensure her students would succeed.

Despite many social work programs not bringing on students, Mutrie was able to find internships for all of her MSW students, along with replacements for students who lost positions because of COVID-19.

As a result, students were able to transition their new skillsets from remote learning to in-person classes, as well as being prepared to help children, families and other clients cope during the pandemic.

According to Mutrie, she and the social work department had to find ways for students to gain experience and complete their social work requirements.

“I dug deep into my 20 years of history in the field and asked any colleagues of mine, ‘Is there any chance you can take a student? I’m trying to be as creative and flexible as possible while still meeting the standard,’” Mutrie said. “It was a constant balancing act. I’m lucky enough to somehow have a team of people around me and everybody else in this whole faculty and everyone who works with me and the field coordinator who all dug deep.”

Students gained more experience through volunteering with Mutrie at Quinnipiac’s Low Vision’s Clinic, to assist and support locals losing their sight.

Mutrie also volunteers with students from the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Health Sciences and the School of Nursing on the Legacy Project, a Quinnipiac University project that has faculty and students help local residents with dementia.

“I think the most important part of my job is to help students to grow and develop as social workers in whatever ways I can,” Mutrie said. “Sometimes it’s behind the scenes administratively — such as implementing a new platform for their field work experience — and sometimes it’s finding the right placement for them or helping them accept that not all placements are going to be what they want them to be, but they will still be learning experiences and grow.”

As a young child, Mutrie experienced a devastating loss, but didn’t have anyone to talk to. In later years, she worked at a learning center with children who did not receive a fair education and were physically abused. These experiences are what inspired Mutrie to help children recover from trauma.

“My motivation, initially in social work was to help kids who didn't have voices and didn't have someone to talk to find ways to heal, grow and be resilient,” Mutrie said.

Mutrie wanted to train students to go into the field of childhood trauma, which is why she started a small-agency internship program. Later, after her program was built, she saw the opportunity to become Quinnipiac University’s field education director and took it.

Mutrie hopes she can inspire students while working with and learning from her. Mutrie’s goal for her students is they will gain a sense of professionalism in the social work field and understand what it means to be a social worker.

“Social work is such a wide-ranging profession, but the core values are really significant to this moment in time for us in terms of the pandemic, socially, racially, environmentally and the justice issues that those are so meaningful to us,” Mutrie said. “However, if I had to choose one, the most important thing to me would be that students take away the core value of the human relationship as a means of people instigating change in their own lives, that is meaningful to them and to society.” 

Mutrie is honored to earn the Excellence in Service to Students award and is glad students feel satisfied from her efforts. However, she is grateful for the rest of the faculty at Quinnipiac University.

“I want to add kudos to every single colleague of mine at Quinnipiac for the service they’ve done for students for the past year and a half and continue to do with the ways we’ve changed and the ways we’ve worked and everything,” Mutrie said. “I am humbled to receive this award, but I wish everyone can as well.”  

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