Why We Teach: Alverno’s Social Work Faculty
Alverno’s Social Work major was established in the fall of 2017, ready to prepare undergraduate students to serve and make a powerful impact in their communities and to those in need. To meet the increasing need for social workers and counselors who are trained in substance abuse, Alverno added a Substance Abuse Counseling program last fall.
As chair of the Social Work department, Crystal Aschenbrener leads the growing team of faculty members, most of whom are adjunct instructors working full-time in the field. She loves teaching social work courses because Alverno’s faculty maximizes high-impact practices.
“As a social work department,” she explains, “we make sure we bring in a large variety of guest speakers, go on a variety of tours, and have a holistic array of assignment and assessments so as to maximize the educational and professional opportunities.”
The Social Work department has 20 graduates so far and will soon have many more, with 55 current students pursuing a social work degree. The students are diverse: 70 percent identify as a racial minority, and 90 percent of them are first-generation college students.
“Students motivate me to want to provide the most productive, purposeful, rewarding, client-centered, field-driven social work program possible for them, the field of social work, and the surrounding community. Through them (and their careers and lives), we will make a positive difference in Milwaukee and surrounding areas!” Aschenbrener says.
She adds: “With all courses and learning opportunities, we focus on the students’ interests, strengths and future careers. We are not here to make better students, but more successful professionals. We celebrate the ‘Alverno Way’ in all that we do!”
Here are some of the things faculty members in the social work department had to say about teaching at Alverno.
What do you love most about teaching?
“I love sharing my stories from the field and having students see how the education they are receiving will transfer to the real world.” — Abby Janssen ’98, adjunct instructor, Alverno College; licensed clinical social worker and clinical substance abuse counselor, Affiliated Clinical Services
“I love being able to connect with students and enjoy hearing about their goals, what they have accomplished, and are looking forward to accomplishing. It is rewarding to be a part of their educational journey, to see them fulfill their goals and dreams.” — Erica Odom, adjunct instructor, Alverno College; school social worker, Milwaukee College Preparatory School
“Teaching is fun! As the social work field coordinator, I have the opportunity to work individually with each social work student and tailor fit their final practicum to best meet their needs and their personal growth.” — Luci Staudacher, assistant professor, Alverno College
What do you love about teaching at Alverno?
“It is so exciting to come back and give back to a place that gave me so much. I love being able to teach within this new major while understanding the ‘Alverno Way.’” — Abby Janssen
“Teaching at Alverno is not just teaching a class, it is the community feeling that I feel while teaching that I absolutely love! I am proud to be a faculty member of the Social Work department at Alverno, and honored to be a part of the building, growth and education of our future social workers.” — Erica Odom
“Alverno is a family. I really enjoy being a part of and teaching at a place like this. As a person with intersecting diverse identities, I find that the diversity at Alverno brings such a rich discussion to the classroom.” — Cameron Overton, adjunct instructor, Alverno College; drug treatment court coordinator, Milwaukee County
“What I love about teaching at Alverno is having the opportunity to share my knowledge and experience with an upcoming generation of professionals. The environment at Alverno is always welcoming and I know that there is an eagerness to learn.” — Ke’Andra Hagans, adjunct instructor, Alverno College; clinical director, St. Charles Youth and Family
What are your goals as an educator?
“As an instructor, my primary goal is to encourage students to grow into their professional self and prepare them for the complexities of practice through understanding their own cultural and systematic biases, developing confidence by building off their strengths, and challenging their critical thinking and assessment skills. It is rewarding to see students build their confidence and skills to navigate practice at the micro, mezzo and macro levels.” — Coral Kline, adjunct instructor, Alverno College; Washington County Human Services Department/Children and Families Division Manager
Can you tell me about a time you knew you were making a difference?
“When a student gets excited about the material and starts to ask the question why?, that is the moment in which I know we are making a difference.” — Cameron Overton
“Social work is all about making a positive difference in people’s lives. Preparing and educating the next generation of social workers is amazing. I know today’s students will be tomorrow’s leaders in the field of social work.” — Luci Staudacher
Top row, from left to right: Abby Janssen, Cameron Overton, Coral Kline, Crystal Aschenbrener
Bottom row, from left to right: Erica Odom, Ke’Andra Hagans, Luci Staudacher