Master of Social Work Advanced Standing student Tyler Messel always knew he wanted to pursue a career where he could make a difference in others’ lives. He thought this would be accomplished as a school art teacher. But Messel eventually discovered another path where he could positively influence more people than a classroom of students.
Messel began his undergraduate studies as an art major at Winthrop University. But his freshman roommate was one of several people who steered him towards social work as a path to accomplish his goals.
“There were a lot of people on the floor in the dorm, including my roommate, who were already social work majors,” Messel says. “My roommate pushed me towards social work since he knew I wanted to help and influence students and help find themselves through art. He told me that I could do that in social work if I ever felt burnt out.”
Messel switched his major to social work after his freshman year. He still minored in art since he felt he could still combine the two in the future by creating community art programs. But changing majors had benefits and difficulties.
“The transition was hard because unlike art, I wasn't spending eight hours on one assignment,” Messel says. “While switching majors relieved a lot of stress, I initially felt like I gave up something that I was passionate about. But changing majors to social work gave me more tools to help people I will be working with more than if I had become an art teacher.”
Messel had to overcome his own misconceptions of social work once he switched majors. He believed social workers only worked for the Department of Social Services and when he heard of a school social worker, he thought they were the same as guidance counselors.
“Being a social worker is about advocating, connecting people with resources, and being that human service worker to ensure their needs are met,” Messel says. “It's about bringing good to the community.”
But while Messel will always have an interest in art, social work has expanded his interests and job opportunities. Last semester, he worked on a social venture project for Instructor Candice Morgan’s community-based policy class. The goal of the project was to create an idea for a nonprofit for specific areas of a community.
“I came up with the idea of a food truck because it would reach the entire community and be transportable to other places where I could feed the homeless and provide food to homeless shelters,” Messel says. “Since that project, I even looked into buying a used food truck to implement my idea.”
Messel also completed an undergraduate internship at a head start program on the Catawba Reservation in York County, South Carolina. He worked with a low-income community and saw how children ages 3-5 were impacted by poverty. Messel initially wanted to work with youth, but his interests have changed to hospital social work thanks to his current field placement at the Lexington Medical Center emergency department in West Columbia, South Carolina.
“I’m under a licensed clinical social worker and every case is worked differently. It’s adrenaline rushing, and I’m always learning something new.” Messel says. “Social work is a broad subject, and there's not one thing I have focused on and said, 'I really want to do that.' There are so many things I would love to do.”
Messel would be excited to combine his interests in social work and art. For example, he would be interested in opening an art community center where people, especially teenagers, could freely express themselves. Expanding community programs and opportunities is a passion Messel hopes to put into action.
“I would like to continue with medical social services, but I’m definitely interested in community work,” Messel says. “I want to be more involved with my community and implement social ventures, such as ones I’ve learned in class, and establishing programs that are community-based instead of individualized.
Social work has given me more depth on people, families, and the communities they live in and how every aspect of their lives affects them. It has brought me a different perspective on how I can help.”