Dan Knapp Talks Social Work

dan knapp headshotVisiting professor Dan Knapp, Ph.D., LSW, USF’s Bachelor of Social Work program director, was recently interviewed recently by an online social work resource called “MSW Online.” Read his expert advice about pursuing a BSW (and consider USF for yours!)

What are the most important factors for students deciding on a BSW program?
Many students have a strong passion for what they want to learn in addition to how they want to apply that learning. One of the most important factors for deciding on a BSW program is to follow that passion. For example, many people who enter the helping profession have a strong desire to improve the lives of others or advance some process or policy that influences others. A social work degree effectively prepares students to become these change agents.

What kinds of hands-on or fieldwork experiences are available to your BSW students?
Students are offered very diverse opportunities. These opportunities can include, but are not limited to, experiences in healthcare (i.e., hospitals or nursing home-related), child welfare agencies, county services, schools, advocacy centers, and crisis centers to name a few. Students will have opportunities to work with a wide range of populations throughout the developmental periods (i.e., adolescents through late states of life), veterans, homelessness, people of varying cultural or racial backgrounds, and those with mental illness as examples.

Can students take electives, or customize their BSW experience?
Students are required to enroll in specific foundational courses that effectively prepare them to work with diverse populations. In addition, students have opportunities to register for additional elective courses that can provide added experiences to specific areas of social work practice.

What does it take to be successful as a BSW student?
A strong desire to learn and help others. As a part of any clinical practice, students must have a desire to improve themselves first. This means taking the time to learn and assess their strengths and talents. Then, students can apply the skills and knowledge learned to help others.

What types of jobs are BSW graduates finding?
Students are finding jobs within hospitals, nursing home facilities, advocacy centers, and activity directors for mentorship programs to name a few. Many students elect to enroll in the one-year MSW program to obtain their master’s in social work degree which effectively opens opportunities for jobs such as other areas of healthcare, schools, private practice, etc.

If you had to choose one or two books, articles, documentaries, podcasts, etc. to be included on a required reading list for social work students, what would it be?
This is a great question, and I would always recommend students to invest time into recently published materials found on the scholarly databases. For example, what is currently literature saying about people’s mental health given COVID-19 and how does this compare to prior decades? How are different cultures or racial groups being impacted? Now, if I have to truly provide one resource, I have always enjoyed the video called The Secret Life of the Brain which helps students understand the power of the brain on human functioning.

Saint Spotlight: Tevin Hopkins ’16

Saint Spotlight: Tevin Hopkins ’16

tevin hopkinsPolitical Science alumnus Tevin Hopkins is making a name for himself as an associate attorney in Chicago. Below he answers a few questions about his professional journey and how life at USF prepared him for it. 

What is your current position and employer?
I am currently an associate attorney at Nixon Peabody LLP in Chicago.

What has been your professional journey?  
My professional journey is still rather short! I’m currently a second year associate and I practice general commercial litigation. Being so young still, I’m doing a lot of learning and still have a lot to learn about how to be a good attorney. Thankfully, I’ve had some amazing to people to learn from and I’ve never regretted my choice to go to law school and become an attorney.

What drew you to studying law?
I’ve always been fascinated with solving complex problems. The thought of going to law school first crossed my mind while I was at USF. I was involved in several campus organizations which all required problem solving skills. Solving problems while serving in leadership roles in these organizations was especially satisfying to me and, as an attorney, our primary goal is to solve problems for our clients.

How has the University of St. Francis prepared you for your career?
USF gave me unique opportunities to get involved in clubs, organizations, and sports that gave me several opportunities to think critically, problem solve, and grow my leadership skills. That, along with an effective curriculum helped prepare me for the difficulties of law school and, ultimately, my career.

How have you stayed engaged with USF as an alumnus?
I am in the process of becoming a mentor for students seeking to follow similar career paths as mine. Now that I’m back in the Chicago area, I also plan on attending more alumni events.

What is your advice to USF students hoping to enter law school?
Get involved! USF gives its students several opportunities to get involved in clubs and organizations. I think this is what sets USF apart from other universities. While these clubs provide for great social outlets, you also learn invaluable skills that will one day transfer over to your career and beyond. Being able to communicate and solve problems with groups of people will be skills you develop (whether you know it or not) and will be useful to you for the rest of your life. I would even say that developing these skills is just as important as getting good grades in the classroom. Good luck!

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Saint Spotlight: Kathleen Cheshareck, Ed.D. ’15

Saint Spotlight: Kathleen Cheshareck, Ed.D. ’15

woman smilingIn July 2021, Kathleen Cheshareck, Ed.D. ’15, current principal of Walnut Trails Elementary School in Shorewood, Illinois, will transition into retirement and pass the baton to Sarah Monroe ’12, ’16 to take over as principal. Kathleen shares her journey in education and advice for alumni and students wishing to pursue a career in education, specifically as a principal.

How long have you worked in education and what was your professional journey to becoming a principal?

I have worked in Education for 42 years!  I graduated from Illinois State University with a B.S. in Education and a minor in Reading. My first job was teaching junior high ELA at Saratoga Elementary School in Morris. After four years, I was hired at Minooka CCSD #201, where I taught fourth grade for seven years. Upon receiving my M.S. in Reading from ISU, I became a Reading Specialist for the district for 12 years. During that time, I completed courses at ISU for my Type 75 General Administrative certification. I was named the Coordinator for the Grundy County Preschool Program and wrote the first Early Childhood Block Grant. I coordinated the program for 14 years while teaching Reading to K-5 students. My first principalship was at Minooka Intermediate School, which housed 4th and 5th grades. After two years, I was named Principal at Walnut Trails Elementary School (PreK- 5th) and opened the building in 2004. I began the doctoral program in Educational Leadership at USF in 2011 and completed my Ed.D. in May of 2015.  I am finishing my 17th year as principal of Walnut Trails and 38th year in Minooka #201.

How long have you worked at Walnut Trails and what is your favorite part about the school?

I have been principal of Walnut Trails Elementary School since it opened in August of 2004.  We opened with an enrollment of about 500 students and grew to over 900 students in 2008-2009, when the Minooka District experienced explosive growth. We utilized trailers for a year until Jones Elementary School (JES) opened and half of our students went to JES. The enrollment since then has averaged about 550 students.

My absolute favorite part of Walnut Trails is the people! We could not ask for better students, families, teachers, and staff! The students are amazing! I’m proud of their academic success over the years as well as their genuine kindness and caring for others. Our WT families are actively involved, supportive, and frequently volunteer their time.  We are fortunate to have a fantastic PTO that sponsors many student/family activities, provides resources for students and teachers, and promotes community partnerships. Our teachers and staff are second to none! Their talent and dedication to their students is clear.  Together, Walnut Trails is a wonderful place to be!

What are your plans after this school year and post-retirement?

I am still in the planning process!

image of sarah monroe and kathleen cheshareckWhat do you think makes Mrs. Sarah Monroe ’12, ’16, a good candidate to take over as principal at Walnut Trails?

Sarah Monroe has been my assistant principal for five years. We have worked side by side together during that time. She has experienced all aspects of the job and has met each challenge. Sarah has developed strong relationships with students, parents, teachers, and staff at Walnut Trails. Sarah’s exceptional work ethic, organizational skills, and demonstrated leadership abilities all indicate she is clearly ready to assume the principalship. I have every confidence in her success in this role! She will be awesome!

What has been your favorite thing about working in education?

I knew I wanted to be a teacher from a young age and couldn’t wait to have my own classroom! I really enjoyed working with and watching students grow over the course of a school year. Being part of a team and staff has always been rewarding and I have developed many close friendships. Becoming an administrator allowed me to serve more students and families and hopefully make a difference.

How has the University of St. Francis prepared you for your career?

The doctoral program at USF helped improve my administrative skills and foundation. The courses, research, and professional discussions all refined my practice and broadened my knowledge. I was inspired by the program’s focus on the Servant Leadership model and principles. My cohort connections and professors have continued to be helpful resources. The USF experience was outstanding!

How have you stayed engaged with USF as an alumna?

I have taught a course, MSED693, in the College of Education at USF since 2016. It has been wonderful to continue a connection with the university. I would like to become more involved in alumni activities in the future.

What is your advice to USF students and alumni hoping to step into a principal role?

The USF programs are exceptional in preparing future administrators! Along with your program of study, get involved in professional organizations. Seek opportunities for leadership options in your district, like mentoring new teachers or leading a new initiative. Volunteer to chair a committee or event at your school. Make connections with your USF peers and professors. These experiences will be helpful when you become an administrator!

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Saint Spotlight: Megan Kelly ’03

Saint Spotlight: Megan Kelly ’03

woman smilingWe’re pointing a Saint Spotlight on Megan Kelly ’03, an accomplished and passionate nurse who selflessly helps those in need through her position in Edward Hospital’s Emergency Department.

What is your current position and employer? 

I am the trauma coordinator for the emergency department (ED) at Edward Hospital.  I cover both the ED at Edward Hospital in Naperville as well as the Edward-Elmhurst Health free-standing emergency center in Plainfield. In this position, I am a resource to the nursing staff when it comes to caring for injured patients in the ED.

How long have you worked as a nurse and what was included in your journey to become one?

I was inspired to become a nurse by my aunt who is a pediatric nurse. In high school I had the opportunity to work in the pediatric office where she worked. As an administrative assistant there, I was exposed to patient care and saw that rather than being the physician, I wanted to be on the nursing side of things, spending more time with each patient. Health care was always very interesting to me and truth be told, I was drawn to the old TV show, “ER.” Something about that show made me feel like I belonged in a world of helping sick and injured people with the occasional adrenaline rush.

Since graduating in May 2003 from USF with my BSN, I have worked as a registered professional nurse in a hospital setting. I started on a medical-oncology unit at OSF St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington, IL (where I grew up) while also working as needed as a nurse in the same pediatric office where I once filed charts and answered phones. I then moved back north in 2004 to marry my spouse, also a 2003 USF graduate (Shaun Kelly), and took a position on the cardiac telemetry unit at Edward Hospital. In 2006, I learned of a wonderful opportunity called a transition program where the hospital offers a prolonged orientation in preparing acute care nurses with floor experience to work in a critical care area. I was so glad that I was able to obtain inpatient floor experience as a new nurse, but I had found my niche in the ED. Over the years since then, I remained an ED staff nurse at either the Naperville or Plainfield ED.

About 5 years ago, I took on a part-time role as Emergency Medical Services (pre-hospital/paramedic) Coordinator with Edward Hospital while also remaining a part-time staff nurse in the ED. That later evolved into becoming the full-time trauma coordinator in the fall of 2018. Edward Hospital is a level II trauma center and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) requires that all trauma centers have a full-time trauma coordinator/manager dedicated solely to the trauma program.

How has your position changed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic?

My position has not changed a whole lot since the pandemic. It is more the day-to-day that has changed for all ED staff.  The use of personal protective equipment (PPE) has increased. We wear masks all day when on hospital campus. I can no longer respond to a trauma in the ED without also putting on goggles. Gloves and gowns were already often part of the PPE donned for trauma patients.

We certainly saw far fewer injured/trauma patients during the “shelter in place” period of the pandemic. The communities that Edward Hospital served certainly seemed to heed the warnings put out by IDPH and were staying home for the most part. While we were busy in the ED determining how we would care for patients with COVID, I had the unique opportunity to review trauma care with the staff during low census times. We practiced “mock traumas” in order to stay fresh on our skills and not get tunnel-vision on only respiratory illness, being that that is what COVID involved. But less injuries occur if you are staying home – not as many motor vehicle crashes, etc. Trauma numbers definitely tend to trend upward in the summer months when it is warmer and people are spending more time outdoors. During high census times, I mask and goggle up and get to work triaging patients and helping where there is a need. The ED is unpredictable – you never know what you’re going to get. It I difficult to predict what will walk through the door next and how many people will require attention at any given time. That is what makes it interesting.

Another part of my position is injury prevention.  We try to teach the communities we serve about safety and how to prevent getting hurt.  That is something that has changed since the pandemic as large gatherings were put on pause.  Safety fairs and fire station open houses were all put on pause, which prevented me from talking to kids about wearing their helmet when they ride bikes or teach “Stop the Bleed” classes to adults if they’re ever faced with an injury that causes hemorrhage. Same as many other careers, we have had to adapt to try to get safety and injury prevention messaging out to the community virtually.

What has been your favorite thing about working as a nurse? 

Absolutely, hands down, the best thing is when a patient is appreciative of how you helped support them in their time of need.  Whether a patient is sick or injured, it could very well be one of the worst days of his or her life when I encounter him or her, and so if I can help relieve any of the hurt or stress of what he or she is going through, then I have done my job.  Another part that I adore about my career is the opportunity to teach other health care providers.  Soon after I was hired at Edward to the cardiac floor, I became an American Heart Association Basic Life Support (CPR) and Advanced Cardiac Life Support instructor.  As the trauma coordinator, I teach a course for the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) called Trauma Nursing Core Course (TNCC).  I adore supporting and empowering other nurses to provide exceptional trauma care.

What has been the biggest challenge as a nurse?

One of the most challenging thing as a nurse is making sure that each patient trusts me to give them my best and feels as important as the next. In the ED, we can be juggling all sorts of patient types at once, such as someone with a cardiac arrhythmia, someone having a heart attack or stroke, someone having severe pain from kidney stones or a gallbladder attack, someone experiencing a miscarriage, someone seeking help as they’re contemplating thoughts of ending their life, someone who cannot help but abuse alcohol or illicit substances due to their addiction, someone who succumbs to their life-threatening injuries. It can be a challenge to put on a happy face and enter the next room of the next patient in need of the best care you can give.

How has the University of St. Francis prepared you for your career?

USF prepared me for a career in nursing in so many ways.  Of course the nursing program was wonderful – the course work and clinical time was priceless.  I would love to recognize Annette Mattea as a professor that really inspired me.  She taught the critical care portion, and I will never forget my clinical time spent in the ICU and ED at St. Joe’s Joliet with her on the units providing us with guidance and feedback.  She is someone that to this day, while she was tough, I know helped me forge my professional path.  Another way that USF prepared me for nursing though is through the volunteer opportunities.  Before the nursing school moved locations, the Guardian Angel Home was a place I would go and volunteer my time helping to care the children of mothers seeking refuge there after suffering domestic violence.  My heart has always gone out to those that are injured, especially in a violent way. Thus, landing me where I am today, in emergency and trauma nursing.

How have you stayed engaged with USF as an alumna?

I have participated in the Student Alumni Mentor program a few times and always enjoy engaging with nursing students on their journey through nursing school. I also love to come back for homecoming festivities. My husband and friends from USF each have a brick on campus that we will go back and look at on occasion and admire the ever-improving changes to campus since we attended in the early 2000s.

What is your advice to USF students studying nursing?

Never stop asking questions. As we learned this past year, health care is very dynamic and ever-changing. Please don’t ever be too intimidated to ask your professor, a preceptor, a co-worker, your charge nurse, a physician a question!  It helps you to grow in your profession. Nursing school might seem overwhelming with all of the studying and book content, but where you will really learn the most is your clinical time, applying that knowledge. ASK QUESTIONS!

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Saint Spotlight: Sarah Monroe ’12, ’16

Saint Spotlight: Sarah Monroe ’12, ’16

image of sarah monroeIn July 2021, Sarah Monroe ’12, ’16 is taking over as principal of Walnut Trails Elementary School in Shorewood, Illinois as current principal Kathleen Cheshareck, Ed.D. ’15 transitions into retirement. Sarah shares her journey in education and advice for alumni and students wishing to pursue a career in education, specifically as a principal.

How long have you worked in education and what was your professional journey to becoming an assistant principal?

I have been in the field of education for 12.5 years. I began my career in January 2009 as a special education teacher in Joliet School District 86. In August of 2009, I was hired at Jones Elementary School in Minooka School District 201 as a second grade teacher. I remained a second grade teacher at Jones for seven wonderful years. During the course of those years, I had many opportunities to take on leadership roles within the building and district, such as mentoring a first year teacher, acting as a cooperating teacher to a student teacher, assisting with creating curriculum maps and teaching resources, piloting new Mathematics and ELA curricular programs, participating on building and district-based committees, etc. Those experiences and the mentorship of Principal Rodney Hiser led me in the direction of administration. I also had a desire to reach more students and families. I truly cherished my time as a second grade teacher and all of the close knit bonds I had created, but felt that I could do more and wanted to do more on a global level. In 2016, I was named Assistant Principal of Jones Elementary School and Walnut Trails Elementary School. I have been in that role for the last five years and have loved every second of it!

How long have you worked at Walnut Trails, and what is your favorite part about the school? When will you be stepping into your role as principal?

I began working at Walnut Trails in 2016. Upon completion of the 2020-21 school year, I will have been in the assistant principal role for five wonderful years. Beginning in July, I will step into my new role as principal, which I couldn’t be more excited about. Walnut Trails is an incredible school! Asking me to name just one favorite part about our school is impossible. The kiddos, families, and staff are second-to-none. It is a beyond welcoming environment where everyone feels like family and considers one another extensions of their family. We have high expectations but support one another to reach our goals. Every day I am grateful, I am honored, and I am blessed to be a part of Walnut Trails Elementary School!

image of sarah monroe and kathleen cheshareckWhat has been the best part about working with Dr. Cheshareck?

This question could take me years to write a response to. Dr. Cheshareck is not only my boss and colleague, but she has also been an incredible mentor and friend whom I now consider my family. Dr. Cheshareck, or KC as I have lovingly nicknamed her, is one of the hardest working people I know. Her dedication to this profession, passion for everything she does for the school and community, leadership, professionalism, and genuine love and caring for every aspect of her job is unmatched! I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for her and I am eternally grateful to her for that. Over the last five years we have been through a lot together. During all of the ups and downs and twists and turns that can happen in the life of an administrator, Dr. Cheshareck has always led with a positive and professional attitude and demeanor that is contagious, has taught me the art of patience and resiliency, has shown a devotion to her career through her incredible work ethic and presence at every single school event and around our great building, and truly is a legend in the field of education and our district. The shoes she leaves behind are incredibly large ones to fill and I will miss her more than words can say. I have sincerely cherished every day that I have been able to learn and grow under Dr. Cheshareck and hope to make her proud, continue her legacy, and build upon the road that she has so beautifully paved.

What has been your favorite thing about working in education?

While this may sound cliché, I cannot remember a time, even growing up, where I disliked school or wouldn’t beg my brother to play school with me during our evenings or weekends off. I have always wanted to be in education in some capacity and I truly feel it has just been a part of me and who I inherently am. I love everything about education. Families entrust their kiddos to us. That comes with a huge responsibility I have never taken lightly. There is nothing better than a child succeeding and having those “aha moments,” a child’s excitement and passion when they love school and their teachers, and the connections and relationships that are built over the course of a year but extend well beyond that. Those same pieces that I loved as a teacher I continue to cherish as an administrator.

How has the University of St. Francis prepared you for your career?

Having incredible professors like Trevor Harris and Ardeen Hoke made a huge impact on my preparedness and desire to move into an administrative role. They not only taught the curriculum necessary to prepare us in terms of “book smarts,” but also provided real life examples, situations, and day to day insight that was necessary for us to ensure we were moving into the right career path and could be successful. Their passion for the field of education was contagious and I am beyond appreciative for their support and leadership. To this day, I know that I could reach out and would be greeted with a helpful hand and a listening ear. That level of commitment and ongoing development even after graduation is something special.

How have you stayed engaged with USF as an alumna?

I do my best to stay up-to-date by reading the USF newsletters and staying in contact with fellow alums from both of my master’s programs I completed at the University of St. Francis. The small size of the cohorts and years you spend together advancing and bettering yourself allows you to walk away with not only friends, but also professional allies that you can call upon for advice, different perspectives, and support from others that know what you are going through. The collegiality built at USF has been a blessing and something I have greatly appreciated.

What is your advice to USF students and alumni hoping to step into a principal role?

There is not a single day that I don’t wake up and love what I do! So, my advice is simple: Go into administration because you truly have a passion for education and intend to live and love it every day regardless of the situation or what lands on your desk. It won’t always be exciting, and there will be hard days and situations you never in your wildest dreams thought would happen, but that is also the beauty of being an administrator. You will continue to grow and evolve in ways you never expected and at the end of the day you get to see the hundreds of smiles on the faces of littles which is the greatest feeling in the world. Eat, sleep, breathe, and love what you do and the field will be beyond fulfilling!

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Saint Spotlight: Alicia Diaz ’12

Alumni Spotlight: Alicia Diaz '12

USF Radiologic Sciences

headshot of alicia diazAlicia Diaz graduated from USF’s Radiation Therapy program in 2012. Alicia is also a registered dental assistant and eligible for national certification in Computed Tomography (CT). Her radiation therapy career began at a small cancer clinic on the south side of Chicago. Later, she went on to work at Northwestern Memorial hospital’s Proton Center in Warrenville and gained certification in Proton Therapy. After just one year, she became preceptor for new hires. For the last four years, Alicia has been working at Edward hospital where she is very involved in clinical education for radiation therapy students. She assists in staff training and the implementation of new radiation therapy procedures.

Alicia urges current students to keep in mind that “there’s always something to learn.” She encourages students to consider that in some instances, there could be more efficient ways to treat patients. Alicia says, “treat every patient with love!”

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