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Boise State’s acclaimed Master of Social Work welcomes two new professors: Dr. Nafees Alam and Dr. Kai Medina-Martinez

“If you are someone who is concerned about or sees the impact that systems have on individuals and how those systems can help people or create more barriers, then the Master of Social Work degree is the one to have,” explained Dr. Kai Medina-Martinez, a new professor for the Master of Social Work online program.

Professor Medina-Martinez stands in a graduation gown and holds a degree.
Dr. Kai Medina-Martinez on graduation day.

This is a benefit of studying social work: the ability to understand, analyze and navigate complex systems and discern the impact of those systems on people.

Ancient wisdom tells us: “Give a person a fish, and you feed them for a day. Teach a person to fish, and you feed them for a lifetime”. However, Dr. Medina-Martinez has questions about this wisdom.

“Does that person want to go fishing in the first place? They are going to have to get a license and that costs money — can they afford it? The nearest pond is miles away — do they have transportation?”, they said. “In social work we meet people where they are at and provide authentic support, individualized resources and advocacy services that take into account their definition of success and serve from there.”

Including measuring impacts and analyzing systems, there is another benefit of studying social work at Boise State. According to Dr. Nafees Alam, who is also a new professor for the program, are the innovative, forward-thinking research interests of the faculty. For example, an emerging area of study in the social work department considers how social workers might use their unique skill sets to help retired athletes transition from the game to a life without sports.

“There are a lot of athletes who are transitioning and trying to figure out who they are. I experienced a little bit of an identity crisis when I was no longer an athlete. I spent years being an athlete. Now, I’m not. So who am I?”, Dr. Alam explained.

These thoughtful questions highlight the passion felt by Dr. Alam and Dr. Medina-Martinez for social work. As the two newest faculty members for the nationally-ranked Master of Social Work program, Boise State Online is excited to welcome them and share their journeys to becoming Broncos.

“If you are someone who is concerned about or sees the impact that systems have on individuals and how those systems can help people or create more barriers, then the Master of Social Work degree is the one to have.”

Journey To Boise State

When Dr. Kai Medina-Martinez was young, they accompanied their mother to work in a college cafeteria. They colored, read and admired the college students passing by. This formative experience strengthened Dr. Medina-Martinez’s desire to become a college graduate – the first in their family. In 2019, Dr. Medina-Martinez earned their Ph.D. from the University of Utah before making their way to Boise State.

Former semi-professional athlete, Dr. Nafees Alam, sees an opportunity for collaboration between social workers and retiring athletes, and now brings that interest and passion, among many others, to Boise State as a new professor. He graduated with his PH.D. from Yeshiva University in 2018.

Dr. Medina-Martinez and Dr. Alam have been working in social work for many years. Both professors bring a wide range of experience and knowledge to the Master of Social Work online program.

Why get a master’s degree in social work?

Boise State Online’s Master of Social Work is uniquely designed to prepare students for advanced social work practice. The online degree program focuses on developing clinical skills to assist individuals, engaging in policy skills for future social justice, and diving into practical skills for working with people. With that, comes many job opportunities.

Headshot of Dr. Nafees Alam.
Dr. Nafees Alam, professional portrait. Photo by Hue Herrick.

“You don’t have many other fields where you are employable after a bachelor’s degree, gainfully employable after a master’s degree and have that master’s degree also serve as the terminal degree when it comes to practice,“ said Dr. Alam. In short, there is an opportunity to pursue your passion and your career at the same time!

Dr. Medina-Martinez emphasizes, too, that with the Master of Social Work degree, comes the opportunity to learn how to create lasting change.

Speaking of their experience with a social work program, Dr. Medina-Martinez reflected: “The foundation of the master’s degree gave me the tools to be able to navigate the different systems so I could serve my clients. Our world is always changing and social workers will be among those leading the way.”

“I think it helps students understand that they are part of the Boise State community, no matter how far away they are. I want to get to know my students, their backgrounds and goals.”

Creating a supportive online learning environment

The fully online Master of Social Work program offers students a unique opportunity to learn from well-respected Boise State faculty in a rigorous, competitive program as well as the opportunity for students to continue their obligations at home and in their communities.

How do faculty create rigorous and supportive online learning environments? For Dr. Alam, it’s about getting to know his students. For example, he hosts virtual brunch throughout the semester for students to talk to him about classes, their goals, current events, and whatever else may be on their minds. “I think it helps students understand that they are part of the Boise State community, no matter how far away they are. I want to get to know my students, their backgrounds and goals,” he explained. “Social workers really need the support of their professors. My goal is to be that positive influence on my students so that they can move forward in their career.”

All students’ needs are different. For some, relocation isn’t an option so the flexibility of online classes gives students the option to complete their degree. Boise State Online faculty meet students where they are and understand their unique and varied needs.

As Dr. Medina-Martinez explains: “The staff and faculty are very invested. Some have even gotten their degrees from online programs, so they have that experience and know-how to help students.”

Boise State Online welcomes and celebrates the arrival of Dr. Alam and Dr. Medina-Martinez to the Master of Social Work program!

Learn more about the Boise State Online’s Master of Social Work program

Boise State University’s Master of Social Work online program educates students from helpers to professional social workers who are prepared to advocate for and empower individuals, promote equality and work to make the world a better place for all people.

To learn more about Boise State’s online Master of Social Work program, please visit boisestate.edu/online/online-master-of-social-work/.

Do you want to learn more about career opportunities in macro social work or sports and social work? Contact Dr. Alam via email: nafeesalam@boisestate.edu.

Do you want to learn more about social work practice and its relationship to the homeless, gender, or sexuality? Contact Dr. Medina-Martinez via email: kaimmartinez@boisestate.edu.