After preparing for a career in law enforcement, Christie-Lee Griffin planned to become a police officer until she ran into a big problem.
"After I graduated from college, I couldn't find a job in criminal justice that paid enough," she said. "Scheduling was an issue, too. Instead, I chose working in social services for a big behavioral health organization."
Eight years later, Griffin is a care manager serving the HIV/AIDS community at Caracole, Inc. in the Cincinnati area. She is also on track to graduate from the online Master of Social Work program at Northern Kentucky University (NKU) in December 2022.
"Once I got into this role and continued working in social services, it became relevant to me," she said. "I thought that I needed to get a degree in social work so I could do more. Social services is a broad department where I could work anywhere. I didn't think of that when I first went to school."
Griffin's career has also somewhat come full circle. She is completing an internship as a victim's assistant liaison for the Cincinnati Police Department. She and her husband, Jackson, have four children — Eric (23), Amari (20), Kennedy (13) and Jace (3). However, with so much on her plate, the flexibility of NKU's online program format was the only way that she could return to school.
"The online format is pretty manageable," she said. "I have figured out that I look at the assignments on Monday and plan which days to do homework. I try to finish by Thursday so I can spare my weekends.
"If something comes up, there is flexibility. I had a death in the family. My professor said I could take extra time on an assignment, but I turned it in on time. I appreciated that understanding."
Griffin was born and raised in Cincinnati. She graduated with a bachelor's degree (2012) and a master's degree (2015) from Tiffin University. She started her social work career as a care manager at Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health Services.
"I loved working with the homeless population and those who are mentally ill," she said. "They are the ones people don't want to work with because they are hard to engage. I got pulled into where I am now working with HIV patients."
Once Griffin was ready to return to college for a second master's degree, she found what she needed in NKU's online Master of Social Work program.
"My best friend, Angela Knighten, graduated from NKU," she said. "She had one of the best experiences. When I compared the cost and flexibility, I decided to choose NKU and give it a shot. I have had success since I started."
Griffin especially enjoys the personal connections with faculty, staff and her fellow online students in the master's degree program.
"My adviser, Heidi Waters, recently wrote me a letter of recommendation to get a scholarship through my sorority organization," she said.
"Since the start, she's been instrumental in engaging with me. She checks in. Whenever I call her, she is always on top of communication. She helped me feel like I made the right decision."
So far, Griffin has especially enjoyed the program's trauma-focused courses because they are relevant to her internship. However, Social Work Research, taught by James Taylor, is her favorite course in the curriculum.
"He made me understand the class," she said. "There was a lot of reading … Any time I submitted a post, he always gave me good feedback. He helps you process the qualitative and quantitative research."
Into the Unknown
Griffin has also received a lot of encouragement from her family and friends throughout her time in the program. Her husband and mother, Deborah Christie, are excited to see Griffin enjoying the program and gaining confidence.
"They see that I am putting in the effort to be an overachiever," she said. "They know I will be a good therapist, or whatever I choose to do one day. I hope to utilize some of the aspects of my social work degree in law enforcement."
Once she completes the online Master of Social Work program, Griffin plans to attend the commencement ceremony at NKU.
"I am looking forward to that," she said. "That's the best part to me — to show people my accomplishments, physically, on a stage."
With so many opportunities at her disposal with a pair of master's degrees, Griffin is keeping her options open for the future.
"I have more work to do, but no matter what, there's always going to be a need for a licensed social worker," she said.
Griffin, who enjoys singing Mary J. Blige songs at karaoke in her free time, believes that the key to success as an online student is having the support of others.
"You need to have balance and know what that looks like," she said. "You may want to get this degree to get you to a new adventure in life, but if you don't know how to balance your home life and work life and incorporate some self-care, it's going to be difficult. To avoid that, have a good support system and good balance."
Learn more about NKU's online Master of Social Work program.
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