Angela Anderson was eager to take on a new challenge after spending years as a stay-at-home mom.
"I had always wanted to go back to school," she said. "I love to learn. I love to read. It wasn't in the cards with the size of our family for a while, but I felt like there was still that identity in me that wasn't just a mom. I wanted to pursue growing that identity again."
Once Anderson returned to college, she was in no hurry to leave. After earning a bachelor's degree in social work from Northern Kentucky University, she went straight into the Master of Social Work (MSW) program and graduated in May 2020.
"I love social work because you get to walk alongside people and help them see their own strength, their own power and what they can do for themselves," she said. "You get to use your heart and show compassion and empathy.
"Other times, you get to be fierce and use your own strength. It's a perfect combination of kindness, compassion and empathy, but it also takes courage, fierceness and strength. I love that dichotomy."
The same month that Anderson graduated from the MSW program, she landed a position as a clinical therapist at Specialized Alternatives for Families and Youth of America (SAFY) in Wilder, Kentucky.
"My family and friends were super stoked because I went back to school as a more mature student," she said. "Everything has worked out well."
Anderson grew up in Fort Thomas, Kentucky. She and her husband, Aaron, have five children — Ellie (22), Will (15), Mollie (13), Willie (11) and Wyatt (9).
Around the same time that Wyatt enrolled in kindergarten, Anderson's father, James Broomall, asked her what she would do with the kids all enrolled in school. Ellie graduated from the University of Cincinnati in December 2019.
"My father said that his company, AmeriCorps, had scholarship opportunities for employees and family members that he wasn't interested in using," she said. "He offered it to me. That's what started to crack that door open to go back to school."
The biggest concern for Anderson was that earning a degree would take time away from her family, but the transition from stay-at-home mom to full-time student was smooth.
"I liked the flexibility," she said. "The online schedule was nice. Not only was it awesome for my kids to see that everybody who has to go to school has to work hard and do homework, but we had a good time and did homework together."
In fact, Anderson didn't hesitate to extend her higher education journey by one year to add a master's degree to her resume and knowledge base.
"As soon as I decided to pursue social work as my major, I decided to tack on the master's degree program as part of that educational process," she said. "It was pretty much a plan from the very beginning."
Research was Anderson's favorite course in the MSW program curriculum, although she enjoyed learning the intricacies of a career in social work in both degree programs and laying the foundation for her career.
"The master's program was a natural progression from the bachelor's program," she said. "I like being able to take a theory or a question and find the tangible evidence to support it or look for a different solution."
Ready for Takeoff
Now that Anderson has graduated and started her first full-time role in the social work field, she uses what she learned at NKU on a daily basis.
"I appreciate that there was a lot of opportunity to apply the knowledge you have in the master's degree program," she said. "Some programs are heavily based on paper writing or research.
"While NKU has a comprehensive research program that gave me what I needed, it also focused on what we learned and how we can apply it in real life so that we can build careers once we graduate."
Anderson was especially impressed by the interaction between students and faculty members throughout her Norse experience.
"The professors wanted to know who we were," she said. "They wanted to build a genuine relationship with us to make sure that we were doing well academically and as human beings. That has carried over to the master's program 100% — probably even more."
Anderson thought she might go in the research and policy direction of social work until she took a course called Micro Credential for Trauma-Focused Care during her undergrad.
"The whole neuroscience around trauma captured my brain," she said. "It sparked my interest in counseling and trauma-informed care.
"It was through that process and other networking and connections that I have the position at SAFY. The Master of Social Work has absolutely opened up opportunities for me."
Since graduating from NKU, Anderson has accepted the position of vice president on the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Kentucky Chapter Board.
"It allows me the opportunity to work with social workers and legislators to advocate for the people of Kentucky through policy creation and reform," she said.
She has also started teaching at NKU as an adjunct professor and is currently engaged with students in Trauma-Focused Care 1 and 2.
Learn more about NKU's online Master of Social Work program.
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