Daniel Cavanaugh in Swiss Alps
Daniel Cavanaugh, PhD - 2019(expected)

"Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans" - Allen Saunders (and later popularized by John Lennon)

What is your dream job upon graduation with a degree in Social Work?
If you would've asked me this question when I was working on my MSW, I would have quickly responded, “an adventure therapist, using experiential interventions and natural spaces to treat youth.” However, this goal has evolved since I began my PhD studies. I still absolutely love the concept of wilderness and adventure therapy. However, after working as a therapist using these techniques and others, I soon discovered that the helping professions still have a great deal to learn about how to safely, ethically, and effectively implement these techniques.

So now my answer to the same question is, that I would love to be a professor teaching clinical social workers how to use adventure and natural spaces as an innovative alternative to traditional talk therapy to help clients with a variety of treatment needs. Additionally, this dream job would include opportunities to further research these interventions, both in urban settings and in rugged wilderness environments, to improve their ability to provide a positive catalyst for change in mental health treatment.

Do you have any advice for others considering social work?
I have two pieces of advice:
  1. Plan ahead! Get a BSW at an accredited school and earn your advanced standing MSW in a year! I wish I would've known to do this, as I would've saved a year of school (and a year of student loans)!
  2. I hear many people say, “I would consider social work but I would get burnt out!” However, many of these folks do not know how diverse the opportunities provided by a social work education are. As a social worker (with either a macro or a clinical degree) people provide therapy, case management, grant writing, management, political advocacy, lobbying, teaching, training, hold public office, policy writing, and more. Sure, you probably won't become a millionaire with a social work degree, but the number of ways that you can make a difference in the lives of others are endless. I think that it's really pretty cool that you can get a degree that allows you to entirely switch your job mid-career if you decide you want to! This will also allow social workers to enter the field knowing that if they get burnt out where they are, that there are opportunities they can switch to.
Has anyone in Social Work outside of MSU had a particularly strong impact on you?
My first administrative supervisor at Morrison Child and Family Services in Portland, Oregon, Eddie May. I was extremely fortunate to work for Eddie. He is the type of person that leaves a trail of positivity and compassion where ever he goes. Eddie has definitely become a role model and a person that I will always turn to for advice when I need a perspective of compassion and wisdom.
Daniel Cavanaugh in Swiss Alps

Eddie was one of Morrison's founding members of its Queer Service Provider resource group (QSP). He used the QSP to increase our organization's capacity to be inclusive and supportive of LGBTQ identified clients, employees, and community partners. His work on this group was not mandated by his job however, Eddie saw a need in the organization and community and answered the call. This is but just one example of the type of work that this inspiring individual does throughout his work. I have watched Eddie take on extracurricular projects to advocate for the needs of folks diagnosed with developmental disabilities, those struggling with suicidal thoughts, sexually exploited youth, LGBTQ youth and families, AIDS patients, and more. I am always impressed to watch how Eddie uses his professionalism, intellect, and compassion to advocate for the needs of marginalized populations. He is a perfect example of the type of person new social workers should model their careers after.

What has been the most challenging aspect of your academic career at MSU
Honestly, I think it has been trying to not be involved in too many things! Professors and students at the School of Social Work at MSU have a ton of really exciting opportunities and projects to become involved in. This school has an amazing study abroad program with many excellent teachers and opportunities to experience social work around the world. We also have exciting political advocacy and activism projects as well as cutting edge research projects. I have personally been able to study social welfare policy abroad in Finland, I have stood with faculty and protested against the Westboro Baptist Church, I have worked on projects teaching teens about their parent's mental illness, I have assisted on a multimillion-dollar project to improve stroke aftercare for adults, and I recently returned from Switzerland with Dr. Riebschleger and an undergraduate student where we presented at a conference about transgenerational mental health treatment. Students and faculty at the School of Social Work are always up to something exciting and cutting edge. You have to be cautious or else you will find yourself 100% enveloped in social work projects!
What has been your favorite class? Why?
Statistics!!!!

Just kidding, the study abroad program in Finland was the highlight of my MSW experience. This program provided an amazing opportunity to experience how social welfare policy and clinical social work practice function in a nation with progressive social welfare laws. This experiential course was inspirational and invigorating. Plus, the little field trip to Tallinn, Estonia wasn't bad either! I would highly recommend any MSW student that reads this to seriously consider the wonderful study abroad programs that are available through the Michigan State School of Social Work!