Mindi Doolin found a common thread running through social work, education and entrepreneurship.
"People, in general, have always intrigued me," she said. "I like learning about their lives. People are open to sharing with me, so it felt natural to go down a road that was familiar."
Doolin graduated from the Master of Social Work (MSW) hybrid program at Northern Kentucky University in May 2019. The Kentucky native is also an adjunct professor and a former graduate research assistant at NKU.
"I have always liked the idea of sharing my experiences," she said. "I waited so long to get my master's degree, but I worked in the field and gained experience to share with other people, which is important in a program. You can hire people to teach the content, but it's also helpful to have someone with experience in the field who has stories to tell."
As a full-time employee of NKU, Doolin is coordinating a grant through the Health Innovation Center which provides scholarships and stipend money to students interested in working with adolescents and families impacted by substance use disorder. In addition, she is a professional seamstress and owns a business called Across TImE Doolin that specializes in ties and bow ties. She has two children, Audri (8) and Finn (4).
"I formed a good relationship with the director of the NKU School of Social Work and kept in contact with her," Doolin said. "We talked about some ideas on how to improve the program and make it more competitive. She reached out to me and asked if I'd like to teach a couple of courses."
Stitch in Time
Doolin grew up in a small town in Owen County, Kentucky. She planned to follow in the footsteps of her mother, Cathy Gamm, and father, Wes Herald, by becoming a service worker within the Northern Kentucky region.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Social Work from NKU in 2011, she became a family court case specialist within the Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts and worked directly for a local judge for five years.
"NKU offers a program where you can complete an 11-month, advanced-standing MSW program," she said. "You have to pursue the master's degree within seven years of graduating with the bachelor's degree in social work.
"I was coming up on my seventh year, and I have always loved school and education. It felt like the best time to do it. I was also already familiar with NKU and the social work program."
Behavioral Health Disorders and Diagnosis was Doolin's favorite course in the MSW curriculum. It was also the most applicable course to her career.
"While earning my master's degree, I was working for a judge as a staff social worker," she said. "A lot of my role was educating him and talking to him about changes.
"In a court setting, attorneys and judges create court orders and expect that they are followed. They are not clinical workers — they are attorneys. So, it was a constant give-and-take where I would tell them that we need a clinical opinion and inform them about changes in DSM-5 [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders]."
Taking some of the courses in the MSW program online helped Doolin maintain a strong work-life balance that included quality time to spend with her family and to sew.
"I was nervous going into an advanced setting as a mother of two while working full time," she said. "But the online courses gave me the flexibility to plan my schedule. On Wednesday nights and Saturday morning, I could knock out a bunch of work."
Black and Gold Lining
Doolin walked the graduation stage in both commencement ceremonies at NKU. She is the third person in her immediate family to complete a graduate-level education.
"My family and friends were excited for me to earn my master's degree," she said. "Not a lot of people in my family have gone back to school. It was a pretty big deal."
Even before Doolin enrolled in the master's degree program, she was adept at multitasking. She taught children the basics of sewing at Holly Hill Child & Family Solutions, where she also worked as a case manager for nine months. The students completed a quilt and auctioned it for $6,000 at a fundraiser for the agency's residency program.
"I have my own sewing room downstairs in my house," she said. "I make my own clothing and my children's clothing, along with small jobs I do for other people."
Doolin obtained her licensure as a Certified Social Worker in September 2020 and hopes to seek supervision to become a LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker). She started her current role at Northern Kentucky University in October of 2020. With a master's degree, she has the option of becoming a licensed therapist if she completes licensure requirements.
"There is much flexibility within the field of social work, especially once you obtain your master's degree and board-approved licensure," she said.
However, she is also enamored of passing on her knowledge as an educator and proud alumna of NKU. No matter where her journey leads her, she remains passionate about the tie that binds her jobs together — people.
"My time teaching at NKU has been rewarding," Doolin said. "I have helped the faculty with a general education practice course and a forensic social work course, which are both online. I have also taught two sections of policy. Both opportunities led me to my current position of coordinating a grant within the university. The MSW has opened a lot of opportunities for me. I want to continue to teach and work for the university. It's been a great journey, so far."
Learn more about the NKU online Master of Social Work program.
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