Spotlight: Darryl Vincent, MSW '14

Darryl Vincent, MSW '14We previously interviewed Darryl Vincent, MSW ’14, about the power of integration in his social work practice – here’s an update on what he’s up to, how he is using his MSW in his work, and how his MSW has helped him with career advancement.

Could you give us an overview of what you’ve been up to since graduation?

Initially, I decided to attend UNE Online to get my MSW, because I was supervising a team of clinical social workers who all had a higher degree of education than I did. I was Vice President of Programs at U.S.VETS, the largest non-profit homeless service provider in the nation, in charge of all the programming and all the locations that we have across the nation.

Although I had several years of social work experience, and I was well-qualified to lead that team, I wanted to be on the same academic level that they were – in order to lead by example.

I was living in California at that time, and I chose UNE Online for flexibility. I needed a program that was credentialed and reputable, where I could work full-time and also go to school full time.

Right as I graduated with my MSW, I was promoted to Chief Operating Officer. Being COO allowed me to not only have oversight of the clinical social work department and the hiring of intelligent staff to do all the clinical work, but I also assumed direct oversight of the executive directors. This allowed me to attain a macro view of how we involve our organization in community advocacy, so I could make sure that all of the programs were operating correctly.

When you graduated, what did you envision for your life? Did it come true?

When I started the MSW program, I wanted to advance my education in order to lead my team by example. Earning my MSW has allowed me to fulfill that goal, but what I got out of the program was far more.

I have many years of experience in clinical social work, so I was surprised how much my knowledge base expanded through the program. I went into the MSW program very confident in my own knowledge and skills, and I was certain that the program was going to simply validate what I already knew.

Happily – I came out of the program having learned far more than I ever thought I was going to learn. Completing the program went further than professional validation, and became equally a matter of personal fulfillment.

I gained confidence in what I was doing professionally, and I also found that one of the most important changes that happened to me was not necessarily from the outside looking in. It was from the inside looking out.

How has earning your MSW expanded your career options?

Having your MSW definitely makes you more marketable in this field. When I see “MSW” after someone’s name on a resume, I know that they have a master’s in an area that’s broad enough to be flexible – and even if they have a clinical or macro focus, I know that they are going to understand both worlds.

Other master’s degrees can sometimes be more finite, which narrows down career options. For example, a master’s in marriage and family counseling – that’s what you do. It’s literally in the title. I believe everyone should do that if that’s their pursuit and that’s their dream, but for me, I value having career options that allow me to be more flexible and more marketable if I choose to want to do other things.

Having my MSW has also given me a certain level of comradery when it comes to working with the Department of Veteran Affairs. They’re our number one funder and our number one partner, so we want to make sure that we’re at the table with them as people who are equally educated and doing what we need to do in order to provide great services to the veterans.

How has earning your MSW enriched your life?

From a professional point of view, having my MSW has expanded my horizons of meeting other social workers. I’m a social worker not only by experience, but by professional training. For me, it’s about knowing that I have the same knowledge base that other people have – so in that way, having my MSW has allowed me to fulfill a dream.

I learned so much in the UNE MSW program, it was very thought-provoking and it changed the way I did business. It changed the way I looked at life and it changed the way I looked at how I treat employees and clients. I can’t say enough.

I cannot undersell how much my MSW experience at UNE has been important, even my personal life.

What doors have opened for you since earning your MSW?

Right away, earning my MSW opened the door for me to become the COO of U.S.VETS. Having my MSW was not a prerequisite for the job, but our CEO has his MSW, and I believe that when the leadership of the organization saw that I was taking the initiative to go back to school to earn my MSW, they held it in high regard.

I was already supervising people, but it wasn’t in the same capacity of supervising executives, supervising executive directors, overseeing certain operational aspects, and being able to do federal, state, and local advocacy. I feel had it not been for the MSW, I would not have had that stepping stone for advancement.

When you look back on the time you spent earning your MSW, what comes to mind?

I am extremely grateful for the experiences I had with my teachers, and with the program faculty. I appreciated the extra care that the program put into making the social work program a valuable experience. They cared about us as individuals and not just us as a part of the system.

So when I reflect back on it, the most meaningful things I’ve taken from my time at UNE has been the relationships that I built. With the faculty – to this day I look at them as mentors. And the student relationships we developed in class – we helped each other as we went through the program together.

I wouldn’t be where I’m at without the educational uplifting of UNE.

Do you feel like the time you invested in earning your degree was worth the long-term career benefits you have experienced since graduation?

Most definitely. It was the career benefits, the personal benefits, the internal feeling, the great feeling you get from starting and finishing something.

Someone told me a long time ago that an undergraduate degree shows that you have the ability to start something and see it through, and the master’s degree says you have a strong enough commitment to specialize in something. That stuck with me.

Getting my MSW has allowed me to expand my knowledge base and get way more insight into things that I thought I already knew. I found out that I knew how to do it my way, from my experiences, but I didn’t necessarily know how to do everything from an evidence-based practice perspective.

So now I have a bigger toolbox of skills I can use. That doesn’t mean I don’t ever revert back to my original ways of doing things. I have some things that I still do that work for me that I’ve done for the whole time I’ve been working in this field. But now I have a vast array of tools to pick from.

That’s why I always encourage people that have hands-on experience to also go for the degree.

Can you provide some examples of how you’ve applied the knowledge and skills you learned during your online education at UNE?

While I was in school to get my MSW, we discussed theories of practice, and what that looked like in our agencies. We examined how we practiced, and what our theories of practice were. And we looked at what practices were actually being used to implement the things we needed to do.

That assignment resonated so strongly with me that I literally took it to the clinical directors at our agency. U.S.VETS is the largest nonprofit agency to serve homeless veterans in the nation. We have over 5,000 veterans in our care and over 500 employees across the nation. And as a direct result of that assignment, every one of our sites has our theory of practice on their wall, and it’s something that we review every two years to make sure that our practice is still aligned with our theories.

At each site around the country, the clinical directors or directors of behavioral health have to actually sit in different sessions and do spot checks to make sure that clinicians are actually using these types of tools. They evaluate whether their site is still using a strength-based approach, whether they still believe in the theory, are they applying the theory, and they make sure that there is evidence that the clinicians are applying the theories.

So we’re not only seeing that theory of practice on paper and posted on our walls, but we really believe in it.

And when I brought this to the clinical directors, they all said, yes, they learned that, and were excited to start implementing it in their daily work. I took something that was going on in my classroom and applied it right there in the timeframe I was learning it and gave it to my clinical directors.

It’s a true blessing to be in a position of authority, and have the ability to do these types of things while you’re going to school.

Anything to add?

Just – thank you to UNE. Thank you for what you’ve provided for me.

I believe that I received a quality education. I stand by it. Getting my MSW advanced my knowledge and it’s not only changed me professionally – it changed me personally. It was well worth it.

Learn more about UNE’s online Master of Social Work

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