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Meg Omel: “Fieldwork is one of the most vital pieces of social work education.”

Years ago, Meg Omel worked with Idaho children diagnosed with cancer and their families at Camp Rainbow Gold. While serving children and families in such a vulnerable time was very rewarding work, it also had moments of sadness and grief. On one such occasion, Omel attended the funeral of a young boy, Isaiah, who passed away due to a brain tumor. She recalled this moment as being profoundly important to her future.

“I was listening to the pastor tell stories about how this little boy lived his life, and he was so brave,” Omel said.

“It made me want to take risks. Isaiah inspired me to think about what I wanted out of life.”

Motivated by Isaiah and all of the brave kids she worked with every day, Omel felt ready to jump into the next phase of her life: graduate school.

“It fits every piece of who I am. I can’t imagine not being a social worker. I’m always a social worker, no matter my official title,” she said.

Choosing Boise State’s social work program

Meg Omel first attended the University of Idaho and earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology. After graduating and working for a while, she kept thinking about returning for a graduate degree in social work.

Meg Omel, fieldwork coordinator, poses for camera.
Meg Omel, MSW fieldwork coordinator. Photo provided by Meg Omel.

The social work field felt wide open and full of possibilities to Omel, and she was attracted to Boise State’s Master of Social Work (MSW) for its generalist approach. “Some social work programs offer degree emphases to narrow your focus and that’s great, but it’s also nice to keep your options open since there’s so much you can do with a social work master’s degree,” she explained.

Omel completed her fieldwork requirement at St. Luke’s and after graduation in 2009, she was hired as a medical social worker at St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital. In 2017, Omel was approached by a former mentor and teacher, Professor Jennifer Obenshain, to return to Boise State’s MSW program to teach as adjunct faculty. She accepted and was excited to teach the next generation of social workers. Even though Omel now works at Boise State exclusively, she still considers herself a social worker.

“It fits every piece of who I am. I can’t imagine not being a social worker. I’m always a social worker, no matter my official title,” she said.

Teaching the next generation of social workers

“I was teaching one of the very first courses in the foundation’s program. It was MSW students’ very first view of social work,” Meg Omel described. “I loved being the first faculty interaction with students. I enjoyed their questions and helping them with their first-semester nerves. I also got to show them how and why their diverse experiences are vital to the profession.”

A field seminar class came next for Omel and allowed her to work with students on integrating their course work with what they were learning in their field placements. This thoughtful design ensures that learning is integrated between fieldwork and classwork.

Then came an opportunity to serve as a field coordinator for the Master of Social Work program.

Applying evidence-based practices in fieldwork

“Fieldwork is one of the most vital pieces of social work education. To take theory and put it into practice is so vitally important,” Meg Omel said.

“Social work is complex because we work with people, and everyone is different. Students learn evidence-based practices and strengths-based approaches in class, but in practice, it can be much harder. Fieldwork lets them work alongside professionals and apply their learning in a supportive environment. Students also practice professionalism, confront real-life ethical dilemmas and improve cultural competencies through their fieldwork experience.”

Meg Omel next to two family members, smiling for camera.
Meg Omel and family. Photo provided by Meg Omel.

Boise State Master of Social Work students are provided fieldwork opportunities to apply their academic and practice experiences in the reality of the agency-client-service matrix. Through the supervised field experience, students participate in and become familiar with the many components of the social work profession and its varied roles. The ideal field placement offers students a focus on direct practice methods, policy development and implementation, and other social work special projects and research activities.

“Fieldwork lets them work alongside professionals and apply their learning in a supportive environment.”

Fieldwork opens minds and hearts

The best advice Meg Omel offers her students in the field is to “keep an open mind. So many students have specific ideas and placements in mind, and we try to meet their goals, but an ideal placement doesn’t always exist,” she said.

“Trying placements that they have never thought about is a good thing — if you keep an open mind, you will gain so much. Also, treat this as a 9-month job interview. I’ve had so many students get hired at their fieldwork agencies. I have two already in a seminar that will be hired.”

“I’m also an example of fieldwork success. I loved working with young children but then discovered a love for the NICU and babies and mothers with postpartum depression. This was because of my fieldwork experience.”

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

Boise State Master of Social Work Online students benefit from fieldwork coordinators’ expertise and professional experience. As a fully online program with no location constraints, it connects students to expert social workers across the country.

Learn more about the MSW Online program by contacting a student success coach or attending a live, virtual information session.

Contact a student success coach

Attend a live, virtual information session