We recently had the opportunity to speak with Marie Bolona, an MSW student and Dean's Excellence Scholar, about her journey to the field of social work.
What made you decide to enroll in an MSW program?
There were many influential people and experiences that led me to the decision to enroll in an MSW program. As an undergraduate, I had a formative experience with a counselor who helped me adjust to a number of challenging circumstances, including being a first-generation college student away from home, that inspired me to pursue one-on-one clinical work to have a similar effect on the lives of others.
Furthermore, my experience becoming a person with a disability in my early twenties exposed me firsthand to the lack of accessible clinical services and ineffective public policies affecting people like me. I decided that I wanted to be part of helping people cope with the circumstances of their lives and changing for the better, both on a personal level and on a greater societal level.
What drew you towards the Rutgers SSW? What are you most excited about at the School? Are there any organizations you hope to be involved with, certificates you hope to pursue, or experiences you hope to have?
I was drawn to Rutgers for a number of reasons. The variety of program options offered by the School of Social Work showed me that they are committed to making the possibility of obtaining an MSW degree available to anyone who wishes to pursue it. Furthermore, when attending the virtual information sessions and speaking with alumni, it impressed me that everyone I interacted with spoke very highly and enthusiastically of their experience in the program and their remarks were genuine.
I’m looking forward to field work and getting hands-on experience in an agency that aligns with my specific interest of providing social and mental health services to people with visual impairments. I am also looking forward to getting to know my cohort, learning alongside them, and developing lasting friendships and connections.
Tell us about your background and involvements at Elon University. What made you major in theatrical design and how did you get into the field of social work?
At Elon University, I double-majored in Spanish and theatrical design and production with a focus in stage management. I have been involved in and passionate about the performing arts since taking my first dance class when I was four years old, and I attended a performing arts high school. While at Elon, I was involved in stage management for eight university plays and dance concerts. Academically, the sociology and social justice courses I enrolled in both as electives and as part of my curriculum as a Spanish major, piqued my interest even more than I expected and made me want to learn more about the field of social work.
I understand you completed a semester abroad in Seville, Spain. Can you share a bit about this unique experience?
My study abroad in Seville was one of the most enriching experiences of my life, both academically and personally. I had never traveled outside of the United States prior to my four-month stay abroad, and learned a lot about myself and Spanish culture. Study abroad in a Spanish-speaking country is a requirement for graduation in Elon’s Spanish program, and I chose Seville because it is the birthplace of the Spanish language and has a rich ethnic and cultural history that I learned a lot about during my stay. Speaking Spanish 24/7 for the semester truly made me a much more fluent and confident speaker of my second language, a skill that I have used extensively in my professional experiences since graduation. I also wanted the experience of living with a host family, which Seville program offered. My host family took me in as one of their own and I am still in touch with them all these years later!
What was your reaction to being named a Dean’s Excellence Scholar?
I was humbled, honored, and excited to be named a Dean’s Excellence Scholar. As a first-generation undergraduate and now graduate student, it means a lot to me and my family to have the opportunity to pursue higher education and achieve my goals.
What are your hopes for the field of social work?
What intrigues me most about the field of social work is the multifaceted approach it takes to make the human experience one that is equally fulfilling for every human being that populates the earth. Whether you’re counseling an individual, advocating for a community, or changing policy that governs the way our society functions, you have the potential to make a profound impact on the quality of many people’s lives.
Given today’s social and political climate, we are at a critical moment on all levels to affect desperately needed and lasting change in achieving justice involving race, health, ability, gender, the environment, and so much more. I believe that passionate and competent social workers have the unique ability based on their training and experiences to make lasting change in all of these areas, and am looking forward to being part of this wonderful professional community and taking part in creating lasting and impactful change, one step at a time.