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College of Social Work

College of Social Work Remembers Professor Melissa Reitmeier

Melissa Reitmeier, University of South Carolina alumna, professor and Director of Field Education at the College of Social Work, passed away on February 13. Reitmeier was a true Gamecock, receiving her bachelor’s degree in psychology from USC in 1993, her Master of Social Work in 2000 and in 2010 her doctorate, also from USC. 

A native of rural Spartanburg, SC, Reitmeier worked for decades in the social work field. She worked as a dialectical behavior therapist for the S.C. Center for Dialectical Behavior Therapy for many years. After receiving her master’s, she taught as part-time faculty in the college and worked as the Director of Quality Assurance and Training for Protection & Advocacy for People with Disabilities, Inc. before joining the faculty full time as the Director of Field Education in 2012. 

Reitmeier was well known for her advocacy of the social work profession within South Carolina and placed hundreds of students each year in over 350 internship opportunities around the state. She was active in social work organizations including the National Association of Social Workers and the Council on Social Work Education, where she served as chair of the Council on Field Education and the Commission on Educational Policy. 

“Melissa was an extraordinary educator, friend, mentor and social worker. She will always be remembered for her devotion to her students and to the social work profession,” said Juliana Paylock, Director of the National Association of Social Work’s South Carolina chapter. “As the recipient of the 2023 NASW-SC Social Work Educator of the Year, no one deserved this more and she was a true testament of what the award stands for. She will be forever missed.” 

She was a prolific scholar and led multiple grant-funded research projects including several US Health Resources and Services Administration and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration awards and national and local peer-reviewed presentations. Her most recent HRSA multi-million dollar award focused on preventing burnout in health care professionals across South Carolina. 

Reitmeier was actively involved in interprofessional education at USC, supervising students at the USC Neuroscience Movement Disorder Clinic and serving as its Center of Excellence Social Worker. She also oversaw students interning in an interdisciplinary HIV clinic at Prisma Health. With her broad involvement in the field, Reitmeier was considered a leader in the profession by many in the Palmetto State. 

“Melissa was a pillar in our social work community, locally and nationally,” said Katherine Watts, Director of Medical Social Services at Lexington Medical Center. “She was committed to our profession and always looked to elevate others so that we could give back. I am truly a better social worker because of her influence in my life.” 

“Melissa was a kind, passionate, energetic colleague and friend. She dedicated her life to her clients, students and the social work profession,” said Midlands therapist and faculty member Scott Fairweather. “She truly cared about people.” 

A member of South Carolina's state Mental Health Planning Council, Reitmeier was also an expert in the case method of teaching, co-authoring a book on social work field education and co-organizing a national case methods training academy. 

Her student involvement included USC International studies, where she led student trips to India, Vietnam, and most recently, Social Work in Japan. Her work in the field and with students garnered her both the Graduate Student and Faculty of the Year awards from the SC NASW. 

Melissa Reitmeier was one of the kindest and most generous souls you could ever meet. Her smile, her zest for life and traveling the world, her passion for teaching and learning, and her commitment to social work were unmatched. She was always the first person in the building and the last one to leave – she had one more student to meet with, one more grant to finish, one more paper to write. She always felt like there was more to do – for her students, for the community, and for the College.

Aidyn Iachini, PhD

Social Work Dean Teri Browne reflected on the loss of Reitmeier. 

“Melissa will be deeply missed, and her legacy will live on in ways that are too many to count and name – through the many student scholarships she developed and supported through her grants, through her contributions to field education in social work both here in at USC and nationally, and through the incredible number of lives she touched as a mentor, collaborator, teacher, supervisor and friend. Her daily presence in our COSW will be missed, but her work and passion will live on through all of us she touched in the COSW and beyond.” 

Reitmeier’s legacy includes an outstanding practicum placement and her rapport with students. She was well known for her daily campus walks with Timber, the college emotional support dog, and arranged for multiple mental health sessions with Timber for student groups on campus. 

A memorial service is planned by the College for March 29, 10 a.m. at Rutledge Chapel, Historic Horseshoe, USC Columbia campus. 

Melissa Reitmeier Memorial Field Education Endowed Scholarship Fund

Melissa Reitmeier passionately focused on advancing the behavioral health workforce and preparing future social workers for the challenges of the post-COVID-19 mental health and substance use pandemic. This scholarship in her honor aims to carry forward her legacy of aiding students and supporting rural South Carolina.

Gifts to support her legacy may be made here.

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