Online MSW Program Drives Home Real-World, Career-Building Experiences

Widener’s online MSW program delivers an interactive, in-depth learning experience. For Erin Waters ’22, the program is not only advancing her career as a social worker, but helping her shape the future of the field.  

An online MSW student is seen sitting at a desk working with a client.
With guidance from the online MSW program, Erin Waters '22 is fulfilling her goal of serving and advocating for the unsheltered population.
Erin Waters
Class of 2022
Graduate
|
Master of Social Work (Online)
  • College of Health & Human Services
Career Goal: Housing Counselor and Policymaker

Erin Waters is passionate about her job. The Bucks Country resident is a housing navigator with the Bucks County Opportunity Council. As a full-time social worker, Erin is a fierce advocate for members of the unsheltered population, particularly children and individuals with mental health needs. 

“Anything that surrounds changing housing for those unsheltered – I’m in,” said Erin.

Experience on the job, along with support from her late father, inspired Erin to purse an advanced degree and take her career to the next level. 

“A masters always seemed so far off for me,” said Erin. 

A distinguished reputation and glowing alumni testimonials attracted Erin to Widener’s masters of social work (MSW) program. With dedicated faculty and a convenient online option, Erin knew Widener could deliver the learning experience she wanted. 

Widener has stood up to its reviews -- it’s an exceptional school. The educational experience is priceless." —Erin Waters

Thriving in an Online Program

The program’s online, flexible format provided Erin with a seamless transition back to school, which was crucial for the full-time professional and new mother. 

 

“I had a nine-month-old and a full-time job and I could not have had a smoother experience. I can’t imagine how I could’ve done this program somewhere else,” Erin explained.

 

With every interaction in Widener’s robust online learning community, Erin was able to grow intellectually and emotionally.

 

“It was a really intensive, true learning experience and that can be really hard to find online,” Erin said.

 

At each step of the program Erin felt motivated by the program’s commitment to preparing social workers with the professionalism, behavior, and collaborative nature needed to succeed in the field. 

Classroom Lesson Meets Client Success

During her internship, Erin sought out an opportunity that was both meaningful and convenient to her demanding schedule. She worked one-on-one with her faculty advisors to create a strategic framework to complete her internship at work. The plan wove together academic objectives and competencies with her daily work responsibilities and projects. 

 

“Widener went out of their way,” said Erin. “It couldn’t have been easier to set up; it couldn’t have been easier to get moving forward.”

 

She implemented theories and best practices on a select group of her clients. One client, Karen, presented a challenging situation that tested Erin’s ability and skill set. She credits Widener’s MSW program for helping her successfully manage such a complex issue. 

 

“The internship and some of the theories and practices I was using were actually helping me to find different ways to work with people, especially people who have high barriers like Karen did,” said Erin.

 

The case drew attention from local media who highlighted Erin’s thoughtful work and explored the hardships faced by the unsheltered population and the agencies that aim to serve them. 

 

“I was able to really implement those lessons into my day-to-day practice of social work,” said Erin. “I felt like it was really hands-on.”

A New Way to Help Clients

While agencies have the tools and resources to help clients re-enter the home or find independent living, Erin sees a need to create a role that offers additional support through a therapeutic approach. 

 

According to Erin, “a lot of times our focus is not on the trauma of housing or addressing the root of what is traumatic for a client about having successful housing.” 

 

Erin is now channeling her passion into creating a housing therapist role responsible for reducing agency recidivism and helping clients build sustainable habits and processes that support continued independent living. 

 

“I feel like it is important to have a piece in the community agencies that can work with clients while they’re housed,” said Erin.

 

She’s currently leveraging research conducted at the agency and community levels to secure a grant for this position at the Bucks County Opportunity Council. 

Career Goal: Housing Counselor and Policymaker

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