Advancing Justice Through Social Work

Nadir Carlson’16 advocated for important causes when he was a student, whether it was student government policy or local government issues. Now, as a graduate student at Marquette University’s Master of Social Work program, he’s able to work with clients and policy to effect change in his community.

Soon after graduating, Nadir Carlson’16 realized he wanted to pursue a master’s degree, but was unsure of the focus. After spending a few years working in different cities and exploring graduate programs and career paths, he’d settled on social work.

Nadir comments: “I’ve been interested in social justice for a long time, and I think social work will give me the broadest opportunities. Once I complete my program and am a licensed social worker, I plan to gain experience with clients, after which I’d like to become a program director in order to work on policy. I want to help people in a place where I have personal connections and can build my own network but still be close to family. Milwaukee fits that bill for me.”

Nadir’s interest in social work is shaped in part by his sociology studies at Beloit College. Originally determined to focus exclusively on political science, Nadir unexpectedly found himself adding a second major in sociology in his junior year.

Associate professor Carla Davis, from whom he’d taken a sociology class in his first year, had encouraged him to continue to study sociology when she saw the connections he was trying to make.

Two years later, inspired by other students’ enjoyment of sociology classes, he took up the discipline again and never looked back. It didn’t hurt that “when Carla told you she was proud of a paper you had written, you knew you were on the right track.”

Beyond studies, Nadir developed career readiness skills during a practicum and as a campus leader. “Knocking on doors for a cause during my practicum and looking at campaigns from a critical perspective helped me understand the importance of working directly on issues you believe in. The best education is a mix of understanding theory and then putting it into direct practice.”

Nadir’s involvement in campus leadership, including as student government president during a time when the campus was roiled by racist incidents, helped him become a more confident leader.

“When you work with others and understand that a true leader helps others shine, anything is possible. I doubt that without those experiences and many mentors in college, I would see myself as a future program director.”

Nadir found many sources of support at Beloit. “The Student Excellence & Leadership program and its peer mentorship program helped me get through college. They also exposed me to an MSW program during a spring break trip. Up until that point, I thought completing undergrad would be enough to reach my goals.”

“I also had many professors that helped mentor and shape me into who I am today. They challenged me to find my values and live them out every day. The career center staff helped me sell myself and my soft skills into my first job and future jobs. They helped me understand that you can learn from every experience. The best candidates are those who connect their previous experiences with an organization’s needs.”

As for Nadir’s current studies and career goal, political scientist Ron Watson and then dean of students Christina Klawitter were of particular importance. “Professor Watson required us to read social science studies, and now I am doing that regularly. In fact, Beloit expected the same level of critical thinking as my graduate program. I’m not only keeping up but am succeeding, whereas some of my peers without that training are struggling.”

His experiences at Beloit have also given him the drive to work on policy in the future. “When I was student body president during a time of upheaval on the campus Christina Klawitter, who was the dean of students, taught me a lot about crafting policies that could both meet the approval of the college’s trustees and be practical in terms of implementation.”

In fall 2021, Nadir will begin an internship in homeless prevention for his MSW. The internship will require creating a professional relationship with clients in the most challenging moments, and matching the client with the right program to ensure that they see a path forward.

“To be successful in the internship, I’ll need all the skills I gained at Beloit, such as learning a lot quickly and managing professional relationships. I am confident that my Beloit experience has prepared me for any challenges I take on now or in the future.”

By: Elizabeth Brewer
August 25, 2021

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