Regis College’s online MSW program includes field placement requirements for all students. This experiential learning component gives students the opportunity to put their newly acquired knowledge to use while familiarizing themselves with the responsibilities and requirements of the social work profession. Students work with the MSW field director to find field placements in their own or neighboring communities.
Learn more about what you can do in a field placement by reading about what one current student, Jennifer Melanson, is doing for her field placement.
Can you tell us a little about your MSW field placement? What are some projects you took on?
Jennifer: I served as the lead for the Health and Community Supports Domain for Chelmsford’s Age-Friendly Initiative as part of my practicum placement. Age-Friendly is an initiative set forth by the AARP that seeks to make communities “livable for all ages.” We looked to make improvements to the community across seven “domains of livability,” including housing, transportation, communications, and health and community supports.
The most recent Community Health Needs Assessment conducted by the Greater Lowell Health Alliance (released in October 2019) cited that Chelmsford residents identified increasing access to healthy foods as a top need. As such, I made this a top priority to be addressed by my Age-Friendly domain with my community garden project. The garden project is just one initiative to address increasing access to healthy foods for Chelmsford residents. Six raised garden beds have been installed on town hall property that have the potential to grow up to 250 pounds of produce this season.
The project was funded completely through grant money and sponsorships that I secured from local businesses. I have even gotten additional funding to ensure the sustainability of the project through future growing seasons.
How is this project impacting your community?
Jennifer: In my community garden project, 100% of the vegetables produced by the garden beds will go to needy families in town. I will distribute this in a couple of ways. Chelmsford Public Schools has been supplying supplemental foods to needy families since January. These have typically been shelf-stable foods (canned/boxed goods) and have not included fresh produce. This program is continuing despite the school shutdown due to the pandemic, and they hope to continue through the summer as well. Another avenue to get fresh produce to needy residents is to utilize the local food pantry. They are a private organization that I worked with very closely. A third route is to distribute the produce to individuals in need who live within Chelmsford Housing Authority. I had a wonderful, cooperative relationship with the housing authority, which provides housing to many of our low-income residents. There is certainly no shortage of need in the community, and while this project cannot fill all of the needs, it is a great starting point.
How has what you’ve learned at Regis in the MSW program impacted your work in your field placement?
Jennifer: Vital to the success of this project was the support of my Regis MSW field placement faculty supervisor, Dr. Gerritsen-McKane. This was all work that was very new to me — from serving in a leadership role for my domain, to using research skills learned through my MSW coursework to assess for community needs, to applying for grants and securing sponsorships. My field supervisor and Dr. Gerritsen-McKane were my go-tos for guidance along every step. The flexibility of the Regis MSW program allowed for me to complete a macro-level practicum that has the potential to provide lasting benefits for the community in which I was placed.