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Spotlight: Psychology, Criminal Justice and Social Work

Christine Jenkinson

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Psychology, Criminal Justice and Social Work are departments that prepare their students for the world outside of Ashland University.

Dr. Mitchell Metzger, Professor and Chair of Psychology, Criminal Justice and Social Work, teaches the two main questions in psychology: why do people think they way they do and why do they behave the way they do.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re taking an introductory level course or you’re taking a brain anatomy class or a social psych course or developmental course,” Metzger said. “Everything revolves around that central theme.”

Like most majors, internships or research are required for graduation. For Psychology, students have done internships at Dale Roy School, Ashland County Mental Health Board, Drug and Alcohol Rehab centers that are in town.

“Psych is one of those degrees where it attracts a lot of people that have varied interests,” Metzger said. “If I look back over that last five to 10 years, it’s probably safe to say that half of our graduates do what you would stereotypically think a psychology major would do. They go into counseling, therapy, social work, they go into kind of the helping side of the profession. Then the other half do wildly different things. We’ve had students go on to become occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists, human resource coordinators. They go into management positions, they work in business, they kind of go all over the place. Some have gone to law school, some have gone to med school.”

Metzger said that many students have come back to him saying how they did not know how many jobs they were qualified for after earning a Psychology degree.

“That really, to me, validates the importance of what it is that we’re doing here. We’re training students to not only understand others, but training them to be better writers, better problem solvers, better thinkers, better researchers, and that’s the kind of stuff that employers want. Employers want an employee that can do work on their own, that they can think outside the box, that they can experience a problem and solve it on their own. They want people who are thinkers and that’s one of the things that we do and I think we do that very well.”

One thing Metzger cautions is that once students graduate from AU, they are not psychologists. They need additional training to be a counselor or therapist.

Dr. Allyson Drinkard, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice and Sociology, has the goal of broadening her students’ minds when they graduate to the workforce.

“The criminal justice system is huge and we really want to have people employed in criminal justice who are ethical, who understand social issues and how they relate,” Drinkard said.

Students can major or minor in Criminal Justice, but only minor in Sociology. Both received a revamp in the past two years.

“We’ve started infusing a lot more research classes and research requirements into the program,” Drinkard said. “So prior to the last couple of years, it was really more law enforcement based, and now we’ve really expanded the program to allow for students interested in graduate school, who want to be criminologists as opposed to law enforcement or police officers and so we’ve created these specializations now within the major that offer a lot more opportunities to students.”

Internships in this department are for students to get job training and build connections for after graduating

“I just created the Center for Community Research and Evaluation Services and that center has the goal of working with community members to provide them with research and evaluation at a reduced cost,” Drinkard said.

Students have worked in Safety Service here on campus, Holmes County Department of Job and Family Services, Mansfield Correctional Institution, Central Ohio Youth Center, Law offices, other correctional facilities, counseling center, insurance companies, one student works at an orphanage, many students go on to work in police departments, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and the FBI.

Social Work has been an accredited department at Ashland University since 1987. Dr. Michael Vimont, Associate Professor of Social Work, prepares his students for this “helping profession.”

“It’s rooting the idea of working with people in their environment,” Vimont said. “In order to be able to fully appreciate the situation is to understand the person and understand the environment they are in and then to develop some type of plan of action that either addresses things that the individual can do on their own to change things because most of the time they’re coming to the social worker who with a problem to be addressed. And so the focus can be on the individual, but often times the focus is not the individual himself or herself, the focus could be something in the community that needs to be changed not only to help that person, but help others in similar situations.”

For some, calling a social worker is their last resort for help after they exhaust family and friend’s help, if they can get it. Sometimes though, social workers work with involuntary clients.

“For example, Child Protective Services,” Vimont said. “Social Work is one of the professions that might be involved in working with families whose children may have already been taken away, or maybe the child or children are still in the family and they need help in order to address problems so the child won’t be removed in the future…anything that’s a social problem gets manifested and behaviors and problems of the individual and so Social Work is called upon to address those problems.”

Students have worked at a variety of mental health agencies, child protective service work, Ohio Jobs and Family Services, Area Agency on Aging, foster care and adoption programs.

According to Vimont, about half of our students go into some type of line of work directly from this program. The other half go into graduate studies to get their Master’s degree elsewhere.

“With a Bachelor’s in Social Work you can sit for a license which is called the License Social Work, LSW,” Vimont explained. “With a Master’s degree, once you get two years experience beyond your Master’s degree, then you can become a licensed independent social worker, LISW. That word independent is very important because you can work without supervision. You can build without supervision. It’s not required in many agencies, agencies, particularly urban areas, require a Master’s degree in Social Work to be able to get promoted to supervising position, director position. In rural areas, it’s not as problematic to be promoted with an LSW because LISW’s are hard to come by in rural areas.”

Students in this department use their last semester at AU and all of their knowledge to work in a 36-hour field placement. Jobs and paid internships can come out of their internships.

“We’ve got great faculty,” Metzger said. “We each do very different kinds of things in terms of our teaching and our research interests, and I think our faculty are outstanding.”

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