Today, the Student Voice sat down with Dr. Nikki Jones, a faculty member in MTSU’s Department of Social Work. She may have a doctoral degree in her field and even considered going to law school, but I found out that she’s also an avid travel and Netflix enthusiast who wonders why college students can’t sleep. Basically, she’s one of us!
Thanks for agreeing to speak with us today! First off, how did you become interested in social work? Share with us a little bit of background on how you got here.
I became interested in social work when I was a student in graduate school. I was finishing up my Master’s in Public Administration and I thought I was going to law school, because that had been my childhood dream. But I ended up studying for the LSAT and completed a SWOT analysis, which is an assessment tool typically used by organizations to determine their internal strengths and weaknesses, in addition to their external opportunities and threats. So, subsequent to completing that analysis on myself, I discovered that law school was not what my passion was. I enjoy helping people in a therapeutic way, and I’ve always been an advocate for human rights and social justice. And my interest was actually in employment discrimination law for law school, so I found a program that united both the helping piece and the social justice piece. So, that led me to the University of Louisville, where I completed my Master’s in Social Work.
So, you found a way to combine your passions of social justice and helping people. How did that lead to teaching?
Well, teaching… that kind of happened on accident. I was in my doctoral program where my whole purpose was to become a stronger clinician. It’s always been my goal to have my own private practice, and I did a little bit of private practice while I was in Louisville, Kentucky. I wanted to open up my own non-profit serving women and children, and my professors and colleagues would say, “you know, you really need to be teaching.” So I guess I just seemed to develop a passion, it came out of nowhere. I was doing group therapy at the time and I was like, “you know, I heard all this good feedback, let me just get my feet wet.” A position was available here at MTSU, so that’s how I got into higher education. It wasn’t on purpose.
Considering you started out on the legal track, do you still find that you use the skills you picked up during that time?
Yeah, Social Policy is one of the courses we have on campus in our department. To be a good social worker, I think that one of the good attributes to have is to be knowledgeable about law and ethics, as well as knowing how to advocate for social justices. That’s how I’m able to tie in my experiences to my undergraduate studies.
What classes do you teach, which is your favorite, and are any open to non-Social Work majors?
Yes! So this semester I’m teaching Interviewing Skills, and that class is open to non-Social Work majors. In my current sections of that course, I have Psychology majors, Criminal Justice majors, Sociology majors, so you can take that course no matter where you are at MTSU. I also teach in our College of Graduate Studies, teaching a course called Advanced Group Practice. I’ve also taught Cultural Diversity, Human Behaviors, and Social Environment. My favorite course to teach, however, is definitely Interviewing Skills. Students are very eager, so it’s a very active and exciting class. I feel that it is a class that easily allows the student and the professor to be co-creators in the environment, so I love that class.
I’ve heard that you’re working on a research project about sleep deprivation with Dr. Vickie Harden. Tell us more about it.
This semester, Dr. Harden and I began a project to measure sleep deprivation among college students. I’m really interested in how perceptions of everyday discriminations relate to sleep disparity among college students, and really just the degree of sleep disparity among college students in general.
That has to be an interesting project to work on, I just hope that you don’t look at my sleep schedule! Do you have any other passions or hobbies outside of social work and law?
I love to watch Netflix. I’m a big Netflix person. Right now, I’m watching the 70’s Documentary by CNN that’s on there. I enjoy writing, I completed a novel a couple of year ago that was spotlighted by MTSU News, Lyric & Blake, which is about the experience of two LGBT tweens traversing 7th grade, so I really enjoy creative writing. I also enjoy traveling. I traveled not too far to Durham during fall break for a writing retreat, so traveling, writing, and watching Netflix are basically my life outside of social work.. You could say I’m a bit of a nerd.
What’s one of your favorite college memories?
Hmm… there are so many! I had a great times in undergraduate school. One of my greatest memories was actually when I met who would become one of my best friends in undergrad. We went to a protest! At the time, the time the President of the United States was George W. Bush, and they were looking for weapons of mass destruction and considering war. So we went out and protested it, it was awesome! I met a guy and had a great, long discussion with him, and he became a lifelong friend of mine. There were tons of different people out there, and it was my first opportunity to participate in a college protest.
Final question: what is your best tip for student success?
Use the Writing Center! Take in the rubric or assignment guidelines alongside your draft and get some good feedback. That’s by far my best tip for students.