Gwendolyn M. Rowland

Gwendolyn M. Rowland
Master of Social Work '17
School of Social Welfare - IAP
University at Albany, SUNY

Why did you choose social work?

I graduated from SUNY Oswego with a degree in Human Development and a minor in Gerontology and Health Science. In my time at Oswego, I was required by my program, to intern at least twice. One internship was implementing play therapy techniques with children, grades K-2. As much as I learned from that program, and loved the children, I knew that was not my calling. My next internship was an activities volunteer at a local nursing home. I instantly fell in love with the residents. Each resident was diverse and unique. Many residents had dementia, and other chronic illnesses. This did not stop us from having a great time together, and forming forever friendships. I knew I had found my calling and found the population I wanted to work with. The nursing home and its residents made me feel at home. From there, I was not sure what kind of job I might want to do, or even what I was qualified to do with my bachelor's degree. My academic advisor had encouraged me to look into a master's of social work degree. I knew I wasn't done learning yet and was excited to keep forth with my education. The social work code of ethics and core values aligned with my own, and I knew I had to obtain this degree.

What learning experiences/opportunities have you had so far in the program that has helped shape you into the social worker you want to be?

The School of Social Welfare has provided me with amazing opportunities and experiences to advance my learning, networking, and career skills. My first year placement was at Glens Falls Hospital with the care management team. Care managers are responsible for working with patients to formulate a safe discharge plan. Care managers also work closely with doctors and nurses to ensure the patient is receiving the correct care and resources. The knowledge I gained in this setting is invaluable. I struggled at first, due to my discomfort of being in a hospital. Everything was new to me. Over time I became comfortable and gained the skills and knowledge I needed to do the job correctly and connect with patients.

By the second year, I was introduced by someone in my class to the Internships in Aging Project. I knew I had to apply due to my passion for working with the older population. In particular, I wanted to work with older adults with dementia and other cognitive deficits. When I was accepted into IAP, it was time to interview for field placements. The placement at the Alzheimer's Association and the Alzheimer's Center of Excellence at Albany Medical Center stood out to me. I wanted this placement so bad. I interviewed, and thankfully earned position as their intern. At both of these placements, I am gaining intensive knowledge on Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. Furthermore, this placement provides clinical and macro experience. At the Alzheimer's Center, I am able to work with patients and their families’ one on one to provide education, support, and resources as their disease progresses. At the Alzheimer's Association, I am able to educate folks in the community, learn how a not for profit organization operates, support caregivers, attend conferences, and learn the ins and outs of grant funding. I could not have asked for a better experience. The way my two field placements complement each other is invaluable. At the Alzheimer's Center, I am often present when a patient is being diagnosed. Then, it is appropriate to refer them to the Alzheimer's Association for support and education. I am able to see the disease, from beginning right until the end. I feel fully prepared to graduate and continue this great work to help people face this terrible disease. Without these placements, I would not be as prepared as I am today, nor would I know what I am capable of.

When you graduate, how do you hope to use your degree?

When I graduate I hope to use my degree to continue to fight towards a cure for Alzheimer's Disease. Every patient, caregiver, and family I have the honor to work with, leaves an imprint on my heart. There's not one day that I second guess my career choice. I hope to continue to work in the medical field, particularly with Alzheimer's patients. Without the SSW and the IAP program, I wouldn't have had this amazing opportunity to work to my full potential. I can't wait to see what my future holds.

Photo Caption: Gwen Rowland (on the right) and Brittni Switzer (on the left). Both are IAP students and this photo was taken at the Capital Region Walk to End Alzheimer's 2016.