Spotlight on Lauren-Over the Rhine Residency Program

Congratulations and great work to our students who completed the fall 2015 Over-the-Rhine Residency Project as a part of their Social Work Field Experience: Lauren Gould, Stella Norris, Maggie Botts, and Sarah Busemeyer. This unique program allows Social Work students to live for one semester in the Over-the-Rhine community and to complete the first part of their Senior Field Experience at local social service agencies. The program also counts fully toward the thematic sequence requirement. Applications are accepted in October for the following Fall term.

From Thomas Dutton, Director of the Miami University Center for Community Engagement in Over the Rhine:

“Offered through the University’s Center for Community Engagement in Over-the-Rhine, students from many walks of life moved to Over-the-Rhine for a full semester, living together, taking courses, engaging in reflection, and serving deep community need with neighborhood organizations, residents, and organizers… a primary goal is for students and community members, through the relationships and trust they build, to come to see the humanity beneath the narratives that circulate about Over-the-Rhine. Too often these narratives dehumanize; we come together to develop empathy.”

Today we spotlight a reflection from Lauren Gould from the Family Studies and Social Work Department:

“My time here in Over-the-Rhine has been by far the most meaningful and influential experience I have ever been a part of. Through this experience I was not only able to gain knowledge about the neighborhood through classes, or gain skills through social work practice in my field placement, I was able to gain a sense of community and a better understanding of different individuals and their backgrounds and experiences. I was able to walk in another’s shoes, not just in my placement with my clients at the Drop Inn Center, but in community member’s shoes such as Mr. Earl or Miss Dorothy, in my professor’s shoes like Bonnie, Tom, and Alice, in my classmate’s shoes like the architects and the teachers as well as the many others I encountered throughout this semester. Allowing and willing myself to walk in others’ shoes and alongside their journeys with a spirit of humility and a genuine desire to meet and talk with others helped me expand my view of the world and gave me a new framework of thinking about the world.

This lived experience and new way of thinking reminded me of two different quotes from two of our journaling sessions. The first is a quote from our first journaling session, by Richard Rohr: “we don’t think ourselves into a new way of living; we live ourselves into new way of thinking.” The second quote is from our journaling session with Steve Elliott, who I am a very big fan of and respect very much. The quote reads, “I learned that my instincts are not always right, my first impressions are not always true, and my way of doing things and of living is not the only way to live.” These quotes are both very powerful to me because there were several times throughout the semester that I seriously questioned my thoughts, beliefs, and values and how I viewed the world. Discovering the enrichment that comes from seeing other ways of life allowed me to let go of some of my toxic ways of thinking and let these new ways of thinking wash over me like a wave, each and every time.

A journal entry I did on November 11, 2015 is a great example of the ways in which my thoughts, values, beliefs, and views of the world were challenged. The prompt asked how we have been stretched throughout this experience.

My response was: “I have been stretched in every sense of the word. I have been stretched physically, mentally, and emotionally. I have been stretched physically by taking on too much. A thirty-hour work week, three classes, volunteer work, and my work with NAMI have taken a toll on my body. I have been stretched mentally because I am constantly in a mental conflict about how to think and feel and act. Why do I feel like I’m being forced to change the way I think? If I don’t think a certain way, am I still a good social worker? Am I doing everything I can to help and advocate for my clients and their needs? Am I doing everything I can to be the best version of myself? I have been stretched emotionally through the Program, but especially through my placement at the Drop Inn Center. Working with clients who have nothing, who are stereotyped and discriminated against, who have so many challenges and obstacles to face, and knowing I can only do so much, which is usually not enough, has been very hard on me.”

This entry was difficult for me to write, but was also very helpful because it made me take a step back and look at what was really challenging me and allowed me to rethink my stressors. My life could be so much worse or I could have real problems and real challenges I have to face like so many of the people I’ve encountered during this experience. Knowing this helped me open up my mind, body, and spirit and helped me rid myself of those negative thoughts and feelings I felt rolling in like a freight train with no breaks.

My time in Over-the-Rhine has been by far the best experience of my life thus far. I grew so much as an individual, as a community member, as a student, as a social worker, as a family member, and as a leader. I learned to appreciate the little things like a funny conversation with a homeless man or a meaningful group discussion with my classmates. I learned to not take anything for granted because I saw first-hand with my clients that nothing is guaranteed and you can lose so much so quickly, regardless of your race, class, ethnicity, etc. Finally, I learned to be more understanding and empathetic of others and their situations because you truly never know what they have been through or are going through. I am so thankful for this experience and for my time here because it not only opened my eyes to a new world, it made me a better person, and for that I will be forever grateful.”

For more information on our Social Work Program, please visit:
http://miamioh.edu/ehs/academics/departments/fsw/academics/majors/social-work/index.html

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