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Cara Harmon '18 receives MSW Clinical Social Work Student Award at 2018 convocation
May 31, 2018
By: Katherine Prull '19

We are extremely proud of all of our graduates from the Class of 2018 who walked the stage to receive their hard-earned and deserving diplomas during convocation on May 14th. During convocation, a select few were chosen by faculty to receive special awards for their dedication and passion as students and professionals. Congratulations again to all who were recognized by Dean Cathryn C. Potter. 

Among those who received an award, one of our MSW graduates, Cara Harmon '18, was honored with the MSW Clinical Social Work Student Award. Harmon was nominated for this honor by multiple proud faculty members at the SSW. 

Since her spring semester in January 2017, Harmon has worked alongside Associate Professor, Dr. Shari Munch, as a graduate research assistant. The position granted Harmon the ability to co-author two of Dr. Munch's publications and one related presentation: 

Munch, S., McCoyd, J. L. M., & Curran, L., & Harmon, C. (Under Review). Women’s experiences of their health care providers during hospitalization for medically high-risk pregnancy. Journal of Pregnancy.

Ciocănel, A., Lazăr, F., Munch, S., Harmon, C., Rentea, G. C., Gaba, D., & Mihai, A. (2018). Helping, mediating, and gaining recognition: The everyday identity work of Romanian health social workers. Social Work in Health Care, 57(3), 206-219.

Munch, S., McCoyd, J. L. M., Curran, L., & Harmon, C. (2018, May). Shining light oncommunications between women with medically high-risk pregnancy and theirperinatal health care team. Paper presented at the meeting of the Forty-Second Annual Conference on Perinatal Social Work, Long Beach, California.

"In her role as my graduate research assistant, it has been a pleasure to collaborate with Cara on a variety of scholarly projects," Dr. Munch enthusiastically shares. "Cara’s commitment to clinical social work practice is impressive; she is an excellent ambassador of the social work profession."

Harmon credits much of her accomplishments to her "encouraging and dedicated network of professors." Faculty members like Mr. Charles Chear offered valuable feedback on her work, while Dr. Emily Greenfield referred her to Dr. Munch whose areas of study include perinatal healthcare and clinical social work, similar to Harmon's interests. “I’m so grateful to Dr. Munch for offering me so many opportunities to be involved in her work," Harmon states. “And her colleague, Dr. Judie McCoyd couldn’t have been more welcoming when I flew out to California to present with both of them.” 

Prior to finding her niche in the field of social work, Harmon worked in magazine journalism for many years, before starting a bridge career as a birth doula and childbirth educator. Working with pregnant women and addressing recurring issues they and their partners faced helped her uncover a passion for counseling, which ultimately led her to the Rutgers School of Social Work MSW Program. 

During her first semester in the MSW program, Harmon worked as an OBGYN social work intern for the Paterson Community Health Center. She then entered Rutgers School of Social Work’s Violence Against Women and Children certificate program and began her second internship at the Bergen County Department of Human Services, where she worked with both survivors and perpetrators of domestic violence. 

Asked what it means to be recognized for her coursework, Harmon considers herself to be just one of many accomplished classmates, stating, “I’ve made dear friends in this program, and their brilliance, level of engagement, and humor have inspired me daily.” She also counts herself lucky to have a “rock-solid support system, including an incredibly understanding husband and dedicated sitter for my kids that allow me to balance my student, professional, and personal life.”

Harmon shared pieces of wisdom for students who may be in the same boat. To start, prioritize. Having a more-than-full plate is tricky but “making space to focus on course- and field work is worthwhile in the end—even if it means noticing your kids' paper snowflakes are still on your windows in May," she says. Next, she suggests that students form professional relationships with their professors. Harmon explains that doing things like reaching out to professors you "click" with to talk about thing you're really interested in helped her to create these contacts that became very meaningful to her. And lastly, she urges students to "say yes" to opportunities. This piece of advice came from one of her professors who encouraged her students to step out of their comfort zones. "It's become almost a mantra for me,” she says. "It’s helped me to overcome the natural fear of facing something unknown and facing new, unfamiliar challenges." 

Harmon's top post-graduation priority is to find a supportive work setting like the one she had during her time as a research assistant to Dr. Munch, as well as during her most recent field placement. "The supportive supervision and mentoring I’ve received has been a vital part of my learning experience," she says. 

Following graduation, Harmon will be working for a program offered through the Jewish Family Service and Children's Center of Clifton-Passaic. She will be facilitating an 8-week summer memoir-writing workshop for the agency's senior center to help them craft their life stories. She sees this job as an opportunity to blend both her past and present professional experience.  

To learn about and find open research assistant positions like Harmon's, please visit our employment page.

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