Stephanie Fagundes is a second-year student in the AWELL (Advancing Health and Well-being across the Adult Lifespan) concentration; her current field placement is with Napa State Hospital. This conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
What were you doing before you came to Berkeley Social Welfare?
Before I came to Berkeley I was working in nursing, and I had been working in community mental health alongside social workers. That's how I learned about the role. Berkeley's program aligned with my goals for community mental health and also with my values.
Why did you choose Berkeley?
Anti-oppressive, anti-racist practice are a growing converstation in mental health and Berkeley Social Welfare had already been doing work there. It also feels like they build a space where I can bring my personality and experience into the room. Everyone's bringing something to the table and we build; I very much feel that in the classroom and in my internship.
I didn't really know what to expect from higher education because I did a trade school program, so coming to Berkeley was kind of intimidating but the support that I get from my peers, my professors, and my advisors has been huge. Even though it's the pandemic, right?
And I'm really grateful that I get to do my internship, even though that's a fragile thing right now with everything that's been going on, but I'm feeling good about that decision and I feel more prepared for when I graduate.
Can you describe your field placement with Napa State Hospital?
It's mostly in-person with the exception of some meetings that have been moved online. I'm still doing direct patient work, and I feel like that's where I'm getting a lot of my learning right now.
Has the team at Napa State Hospital been a positive experience for you?
Their internship program is well thought out. And David Muchin, who heads the internship program, is thoughtful and present. I feel like he's always anticipating what the students might need, and I feel comfortable checking in with him. There are constant changes in terms of how comfortable students are feeling going in to internship — changes with [COVID] data, with anxiety etc. — and they are always responsive to student needs.
Your cohort has had to live with a lot of disruption due to COVID. How has your experience been overall?
I do feel like my class has been really good at advocating for ourselves, which I'm proud of. And I feel like the department has been really responsive to those requests. I mean, we're all figuring it out day to day, right? But there has been space for difficult conversations and space for people to have their feelings and brainstorm. I really feel like they stayed solution-focused during this, and I never felt like I was alone with it.
Some of our MSW students with in-person field placements will have access to the vaccine soon. Will that be the case for you?
I actually got my first dose of the vaccine and I'll be getting my second dose next week. So that's a little peace of mind.
What do you appreciate most about the programs here?
The network. I feel like I've had so many opportunities that I couldn't have imagined. It's just a matter of finding your interests: on any given day, there are work groups, trainings and info sessions. I also feel really good about the communication within the department. They're invested in me and I feel very much invested in them.
What keeps you busy outside of the MSW program?
I don't really have hobbies these days, but I'm collecting moments to get me through all this. Like conversations with strangers, or taking walks. I just have to keep it simple these days.