UW-Green Bay MSW Program allows single mom to ‘take a seat at the table’

Education is made beautiful through the unique journey of each individual. Such is the case for the 4.0 GPA, Master of Social Work (MSW) student (Clinical concentration), Caitlin Saylor.

While completing her Bachelor of Sociology degree (UW-La Crosse), Saylor’s plan was to receive an MSW to work with and support Asian adoptees. After becoming a mother at the age of 25, Saylor’s plans were re-routed to focusing on a career and providing for her daughter—but she took it in stride.

Over the past seven years, Saylor discovered her affinity for the criminal justice field while working in Probation and Parole (for the State of Wisconsin). This new passion urged her to search for a social work program that was feasible for a working parent, thus landing her in UW-Green Bay’s first cohort of masters-level social work students studying from UW-Stevens Point’s Wausau Campus.

Caitlyn Saylor, Photo credit: Vee Portraits

As an Asian adoptee herself in rural Wisconsin, Saylor was no stranger to discrimination and having her voice stifled. This frustration continued in her previous role, where her ideas and opinions were often disregarded.

It wasn’t until her advisor, Gail Trimberger, encouraged her to “take a seat at the table,” that things began to change. Saylor explains, “I was still on the fence on what to do with my MSW degree. She challenged me to increase my goals due to my personal and professional experiences, stating, ‘You can influence change in policies and procedures at the macro level.’” Trimberger’s support helped Saylor confidently apply for (and receive) a new role of Criminal Justice Coordinator for Wood County, serving as the department head.

Throughout history, people have said, “with great power comes great responsibility.” There’s no doubt that Saylor’s passion will help break ground and shatter ceilings for women and the BIPOC community.  “The value of minorities’ experiences still lacks value in small communities.” Saylor said, “We have to work to shift mindsets from tradition to growth.”

Why was this position a career goal for you?

As department head, I’m no longer limited in my ability to make a difference. I am able to take research and data to implement new policies and programs within my County. I will also be able to bring different perspectives to the ethnic population through our communication and improve relations with our criminal justice system.

Why did you choose the MSW program through UW-Green Bay?

I needed a program that worked for my busy lifestyle. I am a single mom, working full-time, and just purchased our first home. I am able to study part-time with this hybrid program (in-person and online), saving both time and money. 

How are you liking this program?

In my undergrad, I wasn’t really connected to my major or classmates. Having classes and collaborating with my peers who have similar career goals, values, and ethics is really refreshing and invigorating.

Could you explain why you think this field lacks a diverse workforce?

A lot of people of color and diverse populations have been involved with social workers but have not had a good experience with them. There is a burden on social work students and faculty to reach these communities in order to restore relations. We’re still working to figure out how to bring multiple perspectives to this field.

What advice would you give to someone considering pursuing an MSW?

You have to be ready to do the program and have some life experience first. Textbooks/papers are different from life experience. Social work has a lot of burnout. With that experience, you are better prepared for the work. You have more direction and have a better idea of what you’re getting into.

What would you say to someone considering going back to school?

It’s not too late to go back. There is a fear that it’s been too long or I’d be out of place, but UW-Green Bay is very supportive of people’s schedules and working with you. Follow your dreams and your goals, even if you’ve been out of school for 10 years like I was.

Feature by Kaitlyn O’Clare, Campus Executive Officer Assistant, UW-Green Bay, Marinette Campus. Photos submitted.

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