Social Work Spotlight: Meet Associate Professor of Teaching Karen Weiner

Karen Weiner smilingAfter spending 39 years as a school social worker with Southfield Public Schools, Associate Professor of Teaching Karen Weiner, LMSW ventured into academics joining the Wayne State University School of Social Work as a part-time faculty member serving as an instructor, faculty advisor and temporary approval coordinator for school social work. Weiner loved growing up in Chicago prior to getting married and moving to Detroit. After earning her bachelor of education from Northern Illinois University, Weiner initially thought of working as a K-8 teacher, but elected to gain a master of social work from the University of Illinois Jane Addams School of Social Work and become a Certified School Social Work Specialist.  

Why did you choose to come to WSU?

I was a school social worker and enjoyed being a field supervisor for Wayne State Social Work students for many years. WSU offered me the opportunity to teach School Social Work and I couldn’t pass that up!

What is your area of expertise/research focus?

As the School’s Lead Teacher for Social Work and Temporary Approval Coordinator for School Social Work, my primary focus is school social work and field work. Additionally, I focus on social work practice, grief, and loss.

Why is school social work important?

School social workers, school counselors, school psychologists and school nurses are frequently the first to see children who are sick, stressed, traumatized & who may act out, or may hurt themselves. Students are 21 times more likely to visit school-based health centers for treatment than anywhere else, so it is imperative that school social workers are present in our Detroit area schools. Schools that employ more school-based mental health providers see improved attendance rates, lower rates of suspension or other disciplinary incidents, expulsion, improved academic achievement, career preparation and graduation rates. Almost half of the total social work workforce works in schools with children and this is projected to continue to grow by 16% by 2026, so programs like what we have at WSU are vital to our community wellbeing.

What is your favorite class to teach and why?

Difficult to answer. I love all my classes. However, if I had to pick one, it would be SW 8860 Grief and Loss Issues in Social Work Practice. It is timely and so relevant to everything a social worker deals with practice.

Any advice for current students?

Be in the moment. Too often students are focused on what they will do after graduation and count the days until they get there. They forget to be present in their classes and what they are learning. Being present in the learning space will help them be ready to do their best when they graduate.

Any advice for graduates?

This is a great time for social work employment - don’t just go for the biggest salary (although money is important.). When applying look for the right fit. Are the people in the agency/clinic/school individuals that you would feel comfortable working with? Does their social work mission jive with what you want to do? Will they provide free supervision for your 4,000 hours?

What is one thing that others may not know about you? 

I love to garden. I am also a big fan of anything related to Star Wars.

View more Social Work Warrior profiles.

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