Outstanding in the Field: Jennie Renner-Yeomans and Ritu Kaur
"Outstanding in the Field" is a monthly series spotlighting the experiences of students and their field instructors at the UNC School of Social Work.
This month, the Field Education office has selected master's student Jennie Renner-Yeomans and field instructor Ritu Kaur, of InterAct of Wake County.
Renner-Yeomans, a first year student at the full time MSW program, is originally from Ohio and has lived in Chapel Hill for two years.
Kaur has been a field instructor since 2004 and has supervised about 2-3 students each year. She says that “field education is an important part of understanding the realities of social work practice — the MSW program would be incomplete without it.”
InterAct is a nonprofit agency that provides safety, support and awareness for victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault by providing direct services as well as preventative work.
Jennie Renner-Yeomans, on her field placement at InterAct:
What are your social work interests?
I decided to come to UNC because I knew it had a strong social work program dedicated to creating social justice. I feel that social work brings an important perspective into the legislative world, and I am interested in working on the macro level to create socially just policies. In the future, I would like to work on two types of legislative advocacy: Work for immigrants and immigration reform, and work on behalf of women through addressing domestic violence issues or protecting reproductive freedoms.
How did you react when you first found out your assigned placement?
I was excited when I first learned about InterAct, because working at a domestic violence agency would be a new experience for me and this placement was a good fit with my long-term interests. I hoped that I would learn more about the issues facing survivors of domestic violence and that what I learned would stay with me for work I would do in the future.
What has been surprising to you since you began your field placement?
I think the most surprising thing has been how much I've enjoyed working directly with clients. I definitely consider myself a policy person, so I was expecting to struggle with counseling clients. However, I find these personal interactions to be really meaningful — I am constantly impressed by the amount of strength and courage our clients have. I feel humbled to work with them through their times of crises.
What have some of the highlights been so far?
The highlight of my work has been my involvement with the Immigrants Seeking Safety Project, which provides culturally specific services and education to South Asian and Hispanic immigrants impacted by domestic violence. This is the program's first year, and it is funded by the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation. I have been involved in creating a brochure for the program, planning a bilingual volunteer training, helping to create the quarterly grant report forms, attending collaborative meetings, reviewing cases, and strategizing for the best ways to serve the future needs of the immigrant populations.
Has this placement influenced your ideas about your career?
This placement has been a great addition to building my career helping women and immigrants. I have worked directly with survivors of domestic violence in Wake County, and I have seen how organizations work to systematically improve their services to immigrant communities. I hope to incorporate these strategies of coordination between agencies throughout my career, following the Immigrants Seeking Safety Project’s example of how organizations can work effectively together.
Ritu Kaur, on being a Field Instructor:
What activities have you assigned your student intern and why?
Normally I assign my students to help out with the Youth Education Services program where we teach a violence prevention curriculum to elementary to high school students, as well as direct practice work such as being on the hotline and doing counseling for face to face clients. This way, students get to experience both direct practice as well as community education experience. Jennie has been a good fit for her work assisting with our new Immigrants Seeking Safety Project, a collaborative project with five other organizations in Wake County.
How did you decide to become a field instructor?
I became a field instructor because I believe I can share my social work experience with new students, provide the social work practical knowledge students are looking for, and learn from them as well. It has been a rewarding experience to see the students achieve their goals and become good advocates for the clients we serve in our agency.
How has being a field instructor impacted you as a social worker?
I have grown as a social worker by being a field instructor and by learning from other field instructors and supervisors. Having student-interns brings many benefits to our agency. They bring fresh ideas and a commitment to help with the different programs we have. Additionally, Interact benefits from having interns who bring UNC’s high standards to the agency.
What would you say to a colleague who was thinking of becoming a field instructor?
Go for it. You need to be very organized and coordinated to make sure you have enough time to give to your students, but it is worth the efforts you make because the interns assist you with serving the clients you serve.
"Outstanding in the Field" is written by master's student Madeline Seltman. She is in her foundation year at the UNC School of Social Work, and her field placement is at Jewish Family Services of Durham-Chapel Hill.
Are you interested in becoming a field instructor? Do you know someone who might be interested? Please contact Rebecca Brigham, field education director, at email@example.com.