1. November celebrates rural healthcare. Can you tell us about your research project for rural veterans and their healthcare needs?
This research study is evaluating resources and capacity for US veterans in rural counties of SC. The research purpose is to identify the resources and programs offered to the US veterans and their families in rural counties of SC. We hope to utilize the results of the study to identify health and mental health needs and gaps of veteran and their families.
2. This is a great project for South Carolina! How did you get involved - is this where your interests lie?
I became involved in this project two years ago when I was still an undergrad student at Clemson University. I was a student employee with Clemson University Cooperative Extension and was offered the chance to work on Phase 1 of this research project. This involved interviewing Extension employees to learn about their interactions with veterans in their communities and through Extension programs. Once I graduated from CU and started my MSW here in Columbia, I was hired on with Clemson Extension and was able to continue working on this research project. My dad is a veteran, so this project really hits home for me. My biggest interest lies with mental health and I’m becoming more interested in macro and community level work.
3. Has rural health always been an interest for you, or is this a new project for you?
I was offered a chance to work on this project because my supervisor knew I was interested in the mental health and veteran aspects. The rural health side was new to me but I have really enjoyed learning more about it. The project and other aspects of my job has helped me see how much rural communities in SC need help and resources.
4. We hear you’re involved in Safe Space Dinners. What’s it all about?
Safe Space Dinners is a developing program aimed at meeting the needs of our homeless and housing insecure youth, while providing an affirming environment for LGBTQ+ youth population here in Columbia. Each month we provide a home cooked meal with family style table service, an evening of entertainment or games, and backpacks filled with hygiene kits, conveniently packaged non-perishables, transportation passes, food vouchers, and other useful items to take with them when they depart.
5. You’re one of our fabulous part-time students in Columbia. What’s in your future—any thoughts as to how you want to use your degree?
When I applied to the MSW program, I was interested in clinical social work. I thought I wanted to use my degree in a therapy and one-on-one setting. But since starting my field practicum, I've become more interested in non-profit and macro-level social work. I'm also very interested in research because of my job with Clemson University's Extension program. So, I am a little confused about what my career pathway could be going forward. Right now, I’m open to whatever comes my way. I still have one year to go in my program so I have time to figure things out!