As a social worker and adjunct professor, Trish Hayes’ students get a great deal of hands-on opportunities through internships that help prepare them for their future career paths. When COVID-19 abruptly halted in-person opportunities, students turned to Professor Hayes for her guidance and expertise as they all worked through the challenges of the pandemic together.
“Covid changed so much,” Hayes recalled. “It changed my students that were in my agency, and it definitely changed everything at MTSU.”
As part of their degree requirements, social work students do internships with different agencies for hands-on opportunities that help prepare them for their future career paths. When COVID-19 hit, in-person internships weren’t an option.
“They were all in agencies; it’s not like they were in the classroom doing academic work where we could just transfer to Zoom. They were in agencies doing internships with required hours and competencies they had to meet,” Hayes explained.
As agencies across the state shut down, Hayes and her students were left trying to navigate their next moves that would ensure success.
“We were able to be creative with agencies and with students and create opportunities for them. There’s some real learning from COVID that we’ve experienced. There are definitely advantages to the virtual platform and the expanded training opportunities and continuing education opportunities that are available,” she said.
She continued, “It offered us different opportunities for professional development, growth and education. I think students benefitted and ultimately their clients and future clients.”
And while the last few semesters have been anything but normal, Hayes believes her students will be better social workers in the future because of their experience.
“I think in some ways Covid really accelerated some areas of growth for folks. I think in some ways it showed people how resilient they are,” Hayes said. “I think the situation they were presented was really challenging and required them to increase their ability for flexibility and their willingness to roll with things and not demand that things go a certain way, but to be accommodating and that’s important with our clients.”
In addition to teaching future social workers, Hayes has worked full-time at the Juvenile Division of the Metro Public Defender’s Office in downtown Nashville since 1990.
Hayes said she believes her dual role at MTSU and her position with the Public Defender’s Office helps her help students as they learn the ins and outs of social work.
“I think it’s a good way to be professionally involved and develop and to give energy to the next generation (of social workers),” she said. “I want to be the kind of social worker my students think I am and I don’t ever want to disappoint them.”
Hayes has taught in MTSU’s social work program since 2013.
-DeAnn Hays (firstname.lastname@example.org)