We're checking in with our students, alumni, faculty, staff, and friends on the front lines of social work during this historic time. We hope their stories will provide many lessons for future generations of social workers. If you would like to share your story, please contact our communications team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We recently had the chance to speak with Karina F. Daves, a graduate of our MSW program. She shares how the current global pandemic is affecting her both personally and professionally and explains how her social work education prepared her for this moment.
What do you do for work and how has the pandemic affected it?
I am the Assistant Director of Administration for the Rutgers Filmmaking Center at Mason Gross School of the Arts. My role is to be in charge of the daily operations of the center, supervise a small team, and academically advise the entire BFA in filmmaking student cohort.
The pandemic has shifted an already very fast-paced environment in the arts. At the BFA filmmaking level, we are used to making quick, but thoughtful decisions and produce at a higher than standard level. COVID-19 forced us to make quick decisions that none of us were prepared for, but I believe that instinct and care for our student population caused us to move quickly and effectively.
We had a very short window to work with our faculty, students, and small staff to create a workflow system that was virtual and off campus. Thankfully, I work with a small but very gifted staff that can work on the cusp! Especially during this season, we knew that the challenge ahead of us wasn’t only the current student population, but also the incoming, already admitted students. While the effect of the pandemic was heavy, as a team we constantly broke ourselves from the chains of stagnation and came up with sustainable solutions for our population.
Have you noticed any positive things that have come out of the pandemic?
COVID-19 has rerouted us back to the heart – the heart of students, the heart of our faculty, the heart of our own program. It has resurfaced the humanistic part of us that can get lost through the daily grind and order of operations. As administrators we are called to put out daily fires, but the pandemic brought to light different issues that no longer were alone operational but all had a string of personal impact – and sometimes a very heavy impact. I honestly believe that our students were able to also see a different side of us because there was now a birth of transparency on both ends because COVID-19 ultimately affected all of us in some way, shape, or form. My belief is that while our world is obviously going through a lot in this moment, the positive things that have been created and caused us to wear our hearts on our sleeves will forever be remembered. I would much rather be remembered for caring rather than following guidelines from a manual.
How has social work prepared you to handle this crisis?
The School of Social Work is my constant cornerstone for the way I treat people and the way I manage my job. As someone who chose to go in the management and policy (MAP) route, I always say I am thankful for the foundational courses that allowed me to be able to understand how to work with people. There are very few degrees in administration that actually teach you the fundamentals of working with each other, and when I take a step back and think about the most progressive colleagues I’ve had the opportunity to work with, it’s usually been a graduate of a social work program.
What advice would you give to our current students who are dealing with a variety of challenges?
Speak up. As someone who felt lost when I migrated to this country but also had a very high ego, I know how much it takes to speak up and say, “I need help.” However, I know that, now more than ever, not only as a professional school but as a university, Rutgers is there for our students. We are trying everyday to help within our reach, and if we don’t have the solution, I do know how hard we try to find another resource that may help even more. All you have to do is ask so we can get the ball rolling. Please don’t get lost.