Courtney Pearson '18

Social Work and Psychology

Before graduating this past May, Courtney Pearson, who majored in social work and psychology, was able to get first-hand experience of what life as a social worker is like when she completed her field internship at the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services in Springfield.

“I was an investigation intern with DCFS,” Pearson said. “I would go out and help assist in the investigation of alleged abuse and neglect of children.” 

Advocating on behalf of the child is an integral part of DCFS and one of Pearson’s main responsibilities. 

“At times that could be a challenge because we would often be in court speaking on behalf of a child and I’m a naturally timid person so those were times where I was really pushed outside my comfort zone,” Pearson said. “But it is something I pushed myself through, and I gained a lot of experience.”

As challenging as that was, she was able to use the knowledge she learned from her classes at MacMurray to help her through the internship. “I was able to take what I learned in the classroom here at Mac and apply it to real life situations,” Pearson said. “For example, we learned theories about why people do the things that they do and how to help them with interventions. I was able to use these theories to help families stay together. That was a great feeling.”

This kind of experience is an essential part to the social work program at Mac. 

“Field practica are the signature pedagogy for social work, integrating the theoretical and conceptual contribution of the classroom with the ‘real’ world practice setting,” Dr. Joseph Squillace, associate professor and director of the social work program, said. “The two interrelated components of curriculum—classroom and field—are of equal importance within the curriculum, and each contributes to the development of the requisite competencies of professional practice, which Courtney and each of our students successfully demonstrate upon graduation.”

Having an internship also gives students an opportunity to work in a professional environment. “I learned how to collaborate with other professionals,” Pearson said. “On a daily basis we would work with police officers, school social workers, the child advocacy center and we would all have to gather together in one room and work together.”

For those students about to start an internship, Pearson said to keep an open mind. “You may go in with a mindset of how things will be, but then it goes in a completely different direction,” she said. “And make sure you go outside of your comfort zone because that will challenge you to be a better professional.”

As eye-opening as it was at times, the experience solidified her career choice. She is now working at a child welfare agency assisting foster kids and helping them find families and aiding them in their everyday life. 

The social work field is not an easy profession, but it is something Pearson is extremely passionate about and, because of her experience at MacMurray, she is ready for the next step. “The one thing I learned about myself during my time at Mac is that there is an inner strength and I can always strive to be better,” Pearson said. “That’s something I will always carry with me.”