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The College of St. Scholastica

Offering a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work (BSW) and a Master of Social Work (MSW), The College of St. Scholastica is well equipped to produce dedicated social workers who go on to make differences in the lives of varied clients and communities throughout northern Minnesota and beyond. A vital component of both programs is the field placement experience.

Similar to an internship, these real-world experiences place students in the field under the guidance of a licensed supervisor at a local agency. The field placements also count towards the required hours of social work licensure. The field placement component of the social work programs underscores the transformative power of education, mentorship and hands-on experience in shaping the next generation of social workers, including St. Scholastica students Theresa Larson ’24, Layne Weets (MSW ’24) and Judy Breuer (MSW ’24).

Larson, Weets and Breuer recently completed such field placements. Their stories remind us of the profound impact one individual can have, not only on their clients but on the broader landscape of mental health and social work. Their journeys in the social work profession are clearly just beginning.

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Theresa Larson ’24

Intertwined personal and professional journeys

Photo of Theresa LarsonWitnessing the pervasive trauma within the Indigenous community propelled Theresa Larson toward a steadfast goal of contributing to the well-being and mental health of other Indigenous people. Her decision to enroll in St. Scholastica’s online social work program would bring her one step closer to this goal.

“My journey into social work started purely as a strategic decision to maintain my family’s livelihood,” Larson said. “It’s what I needed to do in order to provide an income for my family.” Juggling the roles of a mother, a wife and a provider, Larson was eager for a program and profession that would get her on the same schedule as her two young children while utilizing her decade of childcare experience. St. Scholastica’s online program provided a perfect outlet for this working mom and her field placement at Northern Pines Mental Health Center opened her eyes to a career in social work.

Larson’s previous studies in sociology at Central Lakes College in Brainerd, MN, laid the groundwork for her eventual transfer to St. Scholastica. “I was initially nervous about the transfer process and if the program would be worth the investment,” she said. “Everyone I interacted with at St. Scholastica made the decision that much easier for me.”

A catalyst for impact

What was initially just a financial decision now serves as the catalyst for Larson’s impact on the lives of students in Brainerd, MN. Larson spent the last two years of the social work program as an intern at Northern Pines, providing in-school services in an alternative school setting for middle and high school students who have experienced trauma. Working in a part-time capacity, she interacted with a caseload of a dozen students weekly. “My goal is to have a minimum of five encounters a day with my students,” she said. “We check in and work on important life skills together.”

Near the end of her first year with Northern Pines, Larson continued this field placement into the following year: “I wrapped up my junior year field placement and realized there was so much more to be done.” Her fieldwork experiences would become the cornerstone of her development as a social worker, blending professional guidance from supervisors with her personal insights. “Northern Pines has been a great learning experience, especially as I begin my social work career.”

Since completing the required hours for her field placement in January, Larson continued her work as a mental health practitioner at the agency. Her time working in an alternative school setting has been instrumental to her approach to social work, emphasizing empathy and the ability to heal from generational trauma. “I have learned so much from my field placement,” Larson noted. “My students have taught me that it is possible to heal from the trauma you have experienced.”

Paving the way

Larson’s academic and professional journey is paving the way for her next chapter at Arkansas State University, where she will continue her education in an online MSW program. “There are definitely misconceptions about an online social work program,” noted Larson. “In an online program, faculty are flexible and willing to use technology to make the experience the best it can be. I’m excited to continue my education in an online environment similar to St. Scholastica.”

This next step brings Larson closer to her goal of advocating for mental health awareness and support within Indigenous communities, drawing from her experiences and the knowledge she has gained at St. Scholastica.

Layne Weets (MSW ’24)

The journey back to social work

Photo of Layne WeetsLayne Weets’ path to social work hasn’t always been a straight line. After graduating high school, Weets earned a bachelor’s degree in Social Work from the College of Saint Benedict. This solid foundation would lead her into the world of human resources. For over a decade, she navigated the complexities of HR, from recruitment to employer and labor relations. Despite her success, the call to become a therapist never faded. “My faith has always called me to make a difference in the lives of others in any way possible.”

Choosing St. Scholastica

The decision to shift gears came at a pivotal moment: her 40th birthday. This reflective milestone sparked a profound realization. “I remember thinking to myself, ‘If I’m ever going to do this, now is the time’,” Weets recalls. Supported by her two elementary-aged children and husband of 12 years, whose job allowed her the freedom to pursue her studies full-time, Weets embarked on a new chapter at St. Scholastica in May 2023.

Choosing the Master of Social Work program at St. Scholastica was influenced by several factors: its convenient location, the option of a hybrid learning format and the allure of an advanced standing program, given her undergraduate degree from an accredited college. “I was specifically looking for a program that would give me the flexibility to complete online courses yet still engage with my classmates and professors in person,” Weets said. “The support I have felt throughout the program has helped me grow my network personally and professionally.”

Even more, Weets discovered a deep connection between her personal religious beliefs, the principles of social work and the Benedictine values of St. Scholastica. “For me, there’s an absolute connection,” she expressed. “The values of hospitality and love of learning align deeply with the work I aim to do as a social worker.”

Reunited with her true calling

Weets’ journey was also shaped by conversations with friends and professionals, leading her to Insight Counseling for her field placement. At Insight Counseling, Weets has reunited with her true calling. Working with a diverse clientele ranging from young adults to seniors and tackling complex topics like attachment trauma, Weets sees her days as filled with meaningful interactions. Whether it’s in-person sessions with locals from Duluth and the Iron Range or telehealth meetings with individuals in the Twin Cities, she manages a dynamic caseload of adults and couples.

The work, while challenging, is profoundly rewarding. Weets speaks passionately about the honor of creating safe spaces for her clients to express their grief, anger and sadness. “It is truly a collaborative effort between myself and my clients,” she noted. “I help guide conversations and provide tools and resources, and my clients put in the work to achieve the results they are looking for.” This effort is measured by the positive changes in her clients’ lives. “I am deeply humbled by my work. It’s a real privilege and honor to be able to hold space for people and for that to yield positive results.”

Throughout her field placement, Weets completed over 450 hours of clinical work. “My field placement is where my learning has really come to life. I can learn in the classroom and apply those same lessons with my clients,” she said. “It feels like a real-life laboratory.” As she looks forward to life post-graduation, Weets, too, looks forward to her continued work with Insight Counseling as a St. Scholastica alumna.

Judy Breuer (MSW ’24)

A journey as unique as the clients served

Photo of Judy BreuerJudy Breuer’s journey into social work is as unique as the clients she serves. As a graduate student at St. Scholastica, Breuer looked to pivot her career toward being a clinical social worker. This goal has been brewing following her work with perpetrators of domestic abuse.

Planting the seed

Breuer’s academic and professional journey has been anything but traditional. She moved to Duluth, MN, in 2007 to pursue an undergraduate Public Health Education and Promotion degree at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. From there, her professional experience, including work as a community health specialist and as a co-facilitator for Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs, has exposed her to the profound impact of educational and therapeutic intervention.

As a co-facilitator of the Men’s Nonviolence Classes, Breuer is quick to point out that education-based groups differ from therapy. “I am there to help the men stay focused on their goal of learning how to communicate and problem-solve without being controlling or using violence,” she said. “In fact, many of the participants struggle to find therapists for themselves, so this is a coordinated compromise of sorts.”

This experience planted the seed for Breuer’s aspiration as a clinical therapist. “Going back to school was a bit daunting at first,” she admitted. “I knew it was the only way that I would be able to do more.” Despite any initial overwhelm, Breuer’s commitment to her goals brought her to the Master of Social Work program at St. Scholastica. She opted for an in-person format for most of the program, appreciating the opportunity to engage directly with classmates and professors. “Social is right in the social work title,” she quipped.

Aspiration into action

Breuer’s eventual field placement at Insight Counseling in Duluth, MN, marked a pivotal moment in her journey, turning aspiration into action. As a graduate clinical intern, Breuer embraced the diversity of her client base, working with individuals and traditional and non-traditional couples across socioeconomic backgrounds and therapy experience. “I work with a little bit of everybody,” she said. “Everybody is different. It’s all about meeting people where they are at, especially when they hit some sort of crossroads in their life.” This eclectic mix of clients has challenged Breuer to leverage her formal training and life experience, navigating the complexities of her clients’ lives.

The dynamic and sometimes unpredictable nature of therapy has taught her valuable lessons in trust, both in herself and in the process. “My life allows me to see around some of the corners that my clients are not able to,” she said. “I combine social work practices and my life experiences to create a toolbox to service my clients.”

Her field placement has facilitated a therapeutic setting where she can work through complex client cases in individual and group settings. “If you were to come into one of our meetings, you would not be able to tell who is an intern and who is a seasoned therapist,” Breuer noted. “Everyone comes in with questions and continues to learn from one another. My fellow therapists have taught me that thinking you have it all figured out is a mistake.” With the support of her supervisors and peers, Breuer has transitioned from an intern to an employee of the agency.

Continued growth and learning

Breuer eagerly anticipates a period of decompression post-graduation, which will allow her to dive deeper into her ongoing education and training. “For most of my professional career, I’ve managed three jobs and five emails.” she shared. “All of this makes the world feel chaotic; it’s not that I can’t handle it.” Breuer’s aspirations extend to becoming a licensed sex therapist, a specialization that reflects her commitment to addressing complex and often stigmatized aspects of human relationships. “I find myself wanting to learn more about everything,” she said.

Breuer will continue her work with the men’s groups as co-facilitator. “While I am not solving that problem, I have found that my background in social services informs the questions that I ask and how I manage group dynamics.” Looking ahead, Breuer is excited about the possibilities that lie before her at Insight Counseling and in social work.

A social worker assisting a child with a hand-held device.

The field placement experience

Social work students can make an impact as early as their undergraduate junior year when they complete a minimum of 120 hours in an entry-level opportunity with a social service agency, institution or organization as a social work intern. Undergraduate students go on to complete a 450-hour internship during their senior year. St. Scholastica’s 570 hours of required field practice are above the national average for BSW programs, preparing students to practice once they graduate.

This preparation continues into the graduate program. For those who complete a Master of Social Work degree, there is a minimum of 900 hours of supervised field practicum instruction for those on the Regular Standing Track. Those with a bachelor’s degree in social work are eligible to complete a minimum of just 450 hours.