April 30, 2020
(ATLANTA, GA) - MSW Online Student Mary Beth Cole was recently selected by the University of Georgia to participate as an expert panelist for COVID-19 Virtual Design Spirit.
For five weeks, UGA students use their skills and creativity to create innovative solutions for the challenges faced in light of COVID-19.
Experts from various professions, such as health care, entrepreneurship, biomedical engineering, and social work were chosen to provide students with assistance and perspectives on real-life challenges faced.
Recently we asked Mary Beth to share more about what her community in Georgia is facing and how she hopes her participation in the Design Spirit Panel will help foster a sense of collaboration for those who are aiming to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Name: Mary Beth Cole
Preferred Pronouns: She/Her
Program and Expected Graduation Year: MSW 2022 (fully online)
Whose work has inspired you to continue your education in social work?
When I was a caseworker for the state of Georgia, I worked under a fantastic county director. She was equal parts professional and compassionate. Her fierce commitment to serve the children well in our state was so inspiring. She started as a caseworker in her twenties and served in children services for nearly 40 years.
What are some of the biggest problems you believe your local community is now facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
We are a community that is very intertwined with our public university. The absence of these nearly 35,000 students removes 1/3 of the population from our economy. Our city suffers from one of the highest poverty rates in the U.S. Economic impacts felt across our country will be felt exponentially here. Our unsheltered citizens are also incredibly hard hit and virtually cut off from clean water and access to showers.
What was the most exciting part of the panel discussion for you?
The most exciting part of the panel discussion was to be able to represent our profession alongside doctors, ecologists, educators, and medical researchers.
In what ways has the GCSW prepared you for the panel discussion and the topics it sought to address?
The GCSW has opened my eyes to see the underserved in my community. The GCSW has also helped me to start thinking critically about the systems that oppress them.
Why do you believe it is essential for social workers to collaborate with other fields?
Social Workers often have the privilege of seeing people in their environments. We often have access to the full picture of how our clients function at work, home, and school. We bring a unique perspective to the table that other disciplines, though equally as critical, may not be able to see or readily access.
Where do you see the opportunity for the most growth with it comes to social workers and social work students responding to the pandemic?
In my community, I would like to have seen more opportunities for social work students to choose to continue to serve if they felt comfortable doing so during the pandemic.
Any other information you would like to share?
I am very impressed and grateful for the outpouring of support social work received from the 180+ students participating in this Design Sprint.