September 29, 2010

Volunteer! Become a Notetaker at UCLA

It amazes me how hard it is to locate certain resources and opportunities while navigating UCLA's websites. As one of my professors noted, it certainly is ironic UCLA is "the birthplace" of the internet. And it doesn't help that the School of Public Affairs has two official websites (OLD and NEW).

It wasn't until a classmate in my program (also a UCLA alum) told me about My UCLA, an incredibly useful website that aggregates all academic, career, financial, health, library and transportation resources associated with the university (I wish someone had told me about this website months ago!) You can even send free Bruin E-cards (why this is listed under productivity remains a mystery to me).

The same classmate tipped me off to a really cool opportunity/resource on the site. Any student is eligible to become an official notetaker for students with disabilities... and, you can even earn a $100 stipend for volunteering. Since it's so incredible difficult to find, I've outlined how to access the form below:

1. Log into My UCLA
2. Select "Your Study List" under the "Academic" tab
3. Click the $ sign next to each enrolled class (This tab will open)
4. Scroll down to the third header called "Forms for Service Providers"
5. Select "Application to Become a Classroom Notetaker"

September 20, 2010

UCLA MSW Field Module: Homeboy Industries

Ever wonder what it's like to survive a gang war? Or how to live through 29 years at a federal prison? How about how to start your life over at 46 years old, without money, a family, or the slightest prospect of a job?

This past Friday, I was fortunate enough to receive insights into these questions by attending my first field module of the year. As part of the first year curriculum at the UCLA MSW program, students attend eight field modules in order to learn about different agencies serving a variety of populations across Los Angeles.

To gain exposure to a criminal justice setting, a segment of our class attended Homeboy Industries, an incredible organization that helps ex-gang members become contributing members of society. What's so incredible about this organization? Here are just a few reasons:
  • Ex-gang members are hired to run all of their small businesses including a bakery, catering business, gift shop, and silkscreen business
  • All nine of the programs, case management, therapy, education, employment, Homeboy press, legal assistance, twelve step meetings, solar panel installation/training program, and tattoo removal are free, so long as members take a vow to stay out of the gang life
  • Regardless of jail history, Homeboy Industries opens its doors to anyone who needs their services
  • The headquarters are situated at an $8.5 million facility in a gang-neutral part of downtown, allowing members a chance to geographically separate from their old lifestyle
  • The facility runs free tours!

Vance, our tour guide, started us off in the Homeboy Industries bakery. Not only is the cafe worth a five-star rating on Yelp, but it has some really unique menu items (I recommend getting Angela's Potion -- spinach infused mint green tea with limeaid).

Our tour continued through the gift shop, various conference rooms, past the tattoo-removal clinic and upstairs through the offices. I was thoroughly impressed with the availability as well as the comprehensiveness of all the services being provided. Did I mention it's all free?

By far, the best part of the tour was listening to Vance's personal story. Thrown into juvenile hall as a teenager for attempted murder of his step-father (a retaliation to a domestic violence incident involving his mother), Vance recounted the horrific details of the next 29 years of his life. He also recounted the survival tactics he learned while serving his sentence at Folsom State Prison in Sacramento, California. The facility is notorious for being "the end of the line" for many inmates, since such a large percentage are killed while serving their sentences.

While Vance spent a generous hour delving into his personal story, I wanted to share just a few of his anecdotes that surprised me:
  1. Inmates attempt to kill other inmates if they come in with a rape or child abuse conviction 
  2. If one inmate snitches on another, the guilty inmate becomes a murder target
  3. Inmates learn Sign Language and Swahili, in order to understand the guards as well as communicate with each other, respectively
  4. In order to survive, inmates must keep their boots on when showering, never interact with other races, and never sleep during the day
Despite the tremendous odds, and with the help of Homeboy Industries, Vance now leads a vibrant and successful life.
    Below are a few photos from the tour. Enjoy!

    Vance (Tour Guide)

    Angela's Potion

    The Cafe
    T-shirts in the gift shop
    Tattoo removal clinic
    Second floor offices
    Life collage from ex-gang member
    Memorial for an individual killed in gang warfare

      September 17, 2010

      Patrolling the Web this Week

      Worth Reading This Week...

      How do you help someone who doesn't believe that he/she deserves self-compassion? The author shares some great strategies on how to encourage depressed clients to self-sympathize. Utilizing a cognitive-behavioral therapy technique called "acting-as-is," are among her suggestions.

      Driving Projects Into the End Zone: Why we tend to stall behavior as we near the end of large or small projects or tasks. Creating a consistent sense of urgency, tackling unpleasant tasks first, and taking a real break from the project help ensure you reach that finish line.

      Gen Y's Most Perilous Trait?: The author weighs in on why the prevalence of narcissism, especially among Gen Y'ers, is prohibitive for succeeding in school, today's job market, and having the ability to have compassion for others.

      Slow Food USA: A great overview of recent food-borne illnesses, and why there should be a greater sense of urgency around food safety. Definitely worth the 2 minutes. 

      September 14, 2010

      UCLA MSW Field Internship: Exposure to the Other Four Senses

      Trying to describe my internship at an inpatient psychiatric unit, feels like trying to explain stage-fright to someone who has never been on a stage... or better yet, someone who doesn't even know what a stage is.

      I have interned only two days at UCLA Harbor Hospital, and I can already tell I have my work cut out for me. The psych ward is staffed with two doctors, four residents, three to six nurses (depending on the shift), and two to three clinical social workers. The ward has 24 beds (12 of which are currently in use), a nursing station, two seclusion rooms, a cafeteria, and a place for patients to lounge. The office I share with my supervisor is tucked behind a hallway on the floor of the ward. The office door is always bolted, and the office comes equipped with a panic button (something I hope I never have to use). 

      The image I just described might sound familiar. Nearly all of us have some notion of what a psych ward looks like, probably due to Hollywood's portrayal of them in the classic film, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, or more recent films, Girl, Interrupted and Gothika. I have to say that Hollywood does a pretty good job of depicting what a typical psych ward looks like: a white, sterile environment, with patients wandering the halls in hospital gowns.

      While these films accurately depict the scenes of a typical psych ward, they only offer a loose sense of what it is really like to be present and interacting with patients in the unit. To give a more compelling idea of this reality, I'd like to push beyond the sense of sight by detailing how my other four senses (hearing, smell, touch, and taste) are actively engaged in the psych ward.

      Hearing: The most shocking part of working in the psych ward are the sounds I hear: patients screaming, singing, shouting, rambling, crying, mumbling, etc. I was quick to learn about Code Green (combative person/elopement risk/person with internal disaster), when an unruly patient burst into rounds and had to be restrained by security and the nursing staff. Later that day, I encountered one patient who, according to the nursing staff, had been belting out lyrics for six hours straight, and had to be moved into seclusion so she wouldn't disturb other patients. Lack of sound is surprisingly shocking as well. In contrast to the patient who was singing, I met another individual who has not uttered a single word for over a year.

      Smell: Being a state hospital, UCLA Harbor receives its fair share of homeless individuals. Regardless of whether the patient is homeless or not, patients are encouraged to shower everyday. However, no one is forcing them to do so. As you could imagine, it's not the most pleasant to conduct a psychiatric intake interview when someone hasn't showered for multiple days or weeks. On the bright side, all hygiene is documented in a patient's chart, so at least I know whether or not they have showered prior to when I interact with them.

      Touch: Physical interaction with patients is limited, nonetheless, it happens. A patient, for instance, reached out to shake both of my hands, and held them for what felt like an eternity. His hands were shockingly cold, dry and frail. Moments later, he volitionally fell on the floor. When I grabbed his arm to help him up, I was shocked by how light his body was.

      Taste: I'm not sure if it's the hand sanitizer stations, the lingering smell of rubbing alcohol, or the combination of both, but I seem to barely have active taste buds by the time lunch rolls around.

      I can say, with confidence, that I have never had such eye-opening experiences in such a short amount of time. Who knows what the next 8 months will bring, but I certainly welcome the challenges that will no doubt come my way.

      Photo Credit: loojie

      September 12, 2010

      Patrolling The Web This Week

      Worth reading this week...

      Letting go of fake needs: mnmlst discusses how people created "fake needs," such as the compulsion to read all the posts in your rss feed (guilty), the need to constantly check your inbox (guilty), or the desire to look a certain way before work (again guilty). The point of this article is to urge all of us to take a step back, and ask ourselves if we really need to do something? If the answer is "no," it's only a matter of learning to let go.

      Google Reader -- An Introduction: Ignacio gives a very in-depth, step-by-step guide for how to use google reader, which is a fantastic tool that aggregates all of the websites and blogs you read or subscribe to.

      How Millennials' Sharing Habits Can Benefit Organizations: Explains why this generation is so gung ho about sharing information, whether it be through blogging, facebooking, twittering or buzzing. Unlike previous generations, Gen Y'ers primarily share to make themselves and others around them more efficient.

      Top Ten Tips for a Successful Social Work Job Interview: This applies to a lot of other sectors besides Social Work, but I thought it was a great, concise list.

      Change Up Your Study Spaces for Better Recall: Switch up where you study to actually remember more. Why? Apparently, when we try to commit something to memory, we are more successful if we have multiple sensory associations to connect it to.

      September 7, 2010

      Purposeful Action

      Tomorrow I begin my field placement at the UCLA Harbor Hospital in the inpatient psychiatric unit. Like many of my classmates, I have no formal experience working in the setting (hospital) or with the population (acute mentally ill) I am assigned to. I am anxious to see how the details of my internship unfold, but I feel much more acclimated to the field component of the program, now having gone through field orientation in the last week.

      UCLA faculty and staff gave us a ton of information, dates, assignments, and materials to process. I did, however, feel the advice given to me by my field liaison stood out amongst the administrative details. As new social work interns, she said the most important thing we could start doing is acting and making decisions with purpose, instead of just reacting; something she referred to as "purposeful action."

      I was immediately reminded of Ericcson's theory of "deliberate practice" since his framework suggests that acquiring a skill or gaining expertise is much more about how hard you work, rather than the innate talent you posses.  Both Ericcson's theory and my field liaison's advice focus on the importance of intentional action, rather than knee jerk action.

      While I know I am far from becoming an expert in the social work field, it helps to keep Ericcson's framework of "deliberate practice," or my field liaison's explanation of "purposeful action" in mind. The following are just a few ways I hope to carry out deliberate or purposeful action, while pursuing an internship in the field of social work: 

      1. Follow the client at every level. This means I need to engage and listen to clients while keeping unique cultural, physical, or emotional circumstances top of mind.

      2. Engage with others as much as possible. Even though I might be in a micro social work setting, it is my responsibility to seek out macro ways to be involved (policy initiatives, community outreach or education, inter/multidisciplinary team meetings, etc.).

      3. Never make assumptions. I cannot assume all clients are comfortable with cultural norms (i.e. a handshake or other greeting).

      4. The potential to learn comes from not-so-obvious places. Clients are just as much teachers as supervisors or faculty are.

      5. Form relationships with everyone. A security guard, administrative assistant, or someone from the cleaning crew might help me in a sticky situation.

      6. Mentally and physically prepare to work in any setting or context. This will allow me to do great work, be safe, and get to know my new work environment.

      Photo Credit: Martin the Hat

      September 3, 2010

      Grad School Fair for the Public Good has just released their annual schedule of Graduate School Fairs for the Public Good. This fair is for individuals who are interested in pursuing an advanced degree in the humanity sector.

      I wasn't aware of this fair last year while I was going through the application process, but I wish I had. This is a perfect opportunity for those who want to learn more about the admissions process, have a chance to chat with graduate admissions reps, as well as receive professional development advice. Admission to the event is free. Click HERE to sign up.

      Details for the Los Angeles Event:
      November 2, 2010, 5:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
      Kyoto Grand Hotel, Golden Ballroom, 2nd Floor
      120 South Los Angeles Street, Los Angeles, CA

      List of other cities can be found HERE. Thanks Michigan Girl Cafe for the info!

      September 2, 2010

      Transitioning from the Corporate to the Humanity Sector

      Next Thursday will be my last official day working for Corporate America.  It will also be my last official day receiving a paycheck for a while, but nevertheless, I am ecstatic. 

      When I was only toying with the idea of going back to school, it was a simple phrase my manager used to say that gave me the kick in the butt I needed to apply for a Master's in Social Work. 

      "We're not saving lives people!" she would remark, after a particularly stressful conference call or meeting. "We're just selling movies!" She was right, and I couldn't ignore it any longer. 

      Others might think I'm nuts to leave a stable job in the entertainment industry, go back to grad school, and probably earn less money than I do now. But for me (and yes, I am about to use a double negative), obtaining my Master's in Social Work is something I can't not do.

      Next Thursday is the day I finally cross over from the Corporate to the Humanity Sector... the day where I finally stop striving for work-life balance, and start creating work-life alignment. What does this mean? For me, it means going home at the end of the day knowing that I tried to make someone's life just a little bit easier.

      Photo Credit: Escape From Corporate