I am currently a senior at Plymouth State University in the process of switching my major from Nursing to Interdisciplinary Studies. This switch is allowing me to build my own major and become more in charge of my education by combining different disciplines that are available on campus; I am calling it “Patient Advocacy” and mixing Social Work, Psychology, and Health. Before making this switch I had to do some research of my own to really figure out what it meant to have an Interdisciplinary degree, and now that I am going through with it, I think it is important that I communicate with individuals outside of the Interdisciplinary department and get their thoughts on this type of degree. After all, I feel like it is a concept that many people are not quite familiar with and it is important to know how the outside world is going to view my degree. Looking for answers, I decided to interview Dr. Kristina Lind from the Social Work department here at Plymouth State, not only would she be able to give me her perspective but I would also be able to get information regarding the new career path that I am exploring: Social Work.
I started the interview with Dr. Lind by asking her about her education, she received her undergraduate degree in Chicago as a sociology major, and then went straight to graduate school for social work. Majority of her life she was actually located in Chicago where she practiced social work for more than thirty years! It was actually refreshing to hear that she didn’t major in social work during her undergraduate years because I am following a similar path, despite my major consisting of some social work courses it is not strictly a social work major and I will be required to take all of the introduction courses in graduate school. Next, I wanted to know what lead her to building a career in social work. Dr. Lind stated that she always wanted to be a social worker and never thought any differently, she had an early start and volunteered with different programs in high school, in her community, and in college. In addition to her early start, her freshman year in college, when she was only eighteen, she had an eye opening experience that would set her career path in stone. There was an incident at the time, which actually started the deinstitutionalization movement in the country, where a journalist snuck into a state facility on Staten Island called Willowbrook State School that housed intellectually disabled individuals and filmed the conditions that the residents and facility were in. The journalist uncovered deplorable conditions with questionable medical practices and experiments, it was broadcasted on TV at the time and Dr. Lind was absolutely heartbroken – “I couldn’t believe that human beings could be treated worse than animals, and that’s what I saw, it was terrible, I was so angry that human beings would be treated by other human beings like this, that was it and that decided my future.”
We moved on to discussing her current work and her roles at Plymouth State. She is the chair of the social work department so she is involved with making a lot of the decisions regarding running the program, she teaches many of the upper level practice classes in relation to child welfare, and she has a child welfare grant so she runs the child welfare scholarship program on campus. Dr. Lind is currently not involved in any research but she does oversee a lot of her students doing research because she encourages them to present at professional conferences. In the past, she has done research on youth transitioning out of the child welfare system, she has looked at parents who had children on the autism spectrum and how schools treat them as parents of these children, and now she is more interested in pedagogical issues around how to teach and what seems to work best for the current student population. In addition to her current work she is also involved with a substantial amount of organizations and is in the process of starting a New Hampshire Chapter of the International Association of Social Work with Groups but it has proven to be a challenging process because of how rural the area is. At this point in the interview we started discussing the world of interdisciplinary studies and how beneficial it truly is. Dr. Lind loves the idea of interdisciplinary education and stressed the importance of connecting with other individuals within your profession as well as outside of it, joining organizations and building a network will help me to get fresh ideas and allow me to brainstorm with others. Dr. Lind is a collaborator herself and always wants to work with others, whether it’s a student, another professor, or an individual inside or outside of her field – she stated that working with other people is encouraging and energizing.
It was definitely great to hear how much Dr. Lind supported interdisciplinary studies and the major that I am creating, she believes that it is great to combine different disciplines and create something truly special. In addition, social work itself is a very integrated major, she stated that “the nice thing about social work is that it fits in with every other discipline, doesn’t matter what it is, it fits, we are interdisciplinary by nature, we are collaborative by nature, and we function very well in groups. That’s partly why I like it because we can work with everything and everybody.” Hearing how flexible the social work department already is was amazing, those majoring in social work are actually required to take many courses outside of the department because Dr. Lind believes that nearly every field has something to offer. After conducting this interview I feel very positive about my future and how the social work world will view my Interdisciplinary degree. I look forward to continuing to work with Dr. Kristina Lind on building my major and get more insight on my future career.