By Catherine Donnelly
Flexibility and an engaging curriculum were two of the requirements Sheila Harewood had when she decided to pursue her MSW. In addition, she wanted an online program that would allow her to meet all of the requirements she had as a non-traditional adult student-parent-employee.
“I realized that I want to have an active role in guiding people to thrive through adversity. Social work is the ideal vehicle to facilitate this process,” said Harewood. “I’m a non-traditional graduate student, I’m a mom, and I’m not in Buffalo, but when I found the online program at UB, I knew that was it. UB offers a rigorous program for part-time grad students like me without watering down the delivered content, plus there are so many electives.”
Harewood’s path to a career in social work has been a slow but steady awareness that this is her true calling, although she has succeeded at several others. She graduated from the CUNY Brooklyn College with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts (after graduating from the "Fame" High School of Performing Arts) and a minor in secondary education. She taught for 10 years, has worked as a graphic artist and rape crisis intervention counselor, and is still working part-time as a Supervised Visitation Coordinator and Parent Educator in the Southern Tier while completing her course work.
“The best part of my experience at UB has been the learning opportunities, fieldwork, and being challenged academically. The online program is just as rigorous as the in-person program and perhaps more so since I have to advocate for help if I need it, no one is going to notice me having a bad day,” she continued. “However, I can honestly say that help is only a click or a phone call away and UB’s professors want you, want me, to succeed.”
As she begins her second year of the online program, she is starting to have her field placements on top of her classes. “I am exploring so many career options, I am drawn to helping adult survivors of childhood sexual assault, individuals in foster care, family services, or those coping with substance abuse.”
UB encourages its online students to participate in all campus activities and students can launch new opportunities too. Harewood is a founding member of and current secretary for the University at Buffalo Chapter of the Association of Black Social Workers (UBABSW). She is also a peer support leader for UBSSW.
Harewood offers the following advice to new students in the MSW program, “Self-care is key to maintaining success. Take each day with a long breath and tackle each requirement one piece at a time. Remember, you can still live your life. You can do all the things you enjoy, you just can't do them all at the same time.”