Professor Valerie Daniel believes that social justice means we should all live up to what our constitution says. That is why she chose social work as a career and why she is starting her first year at Cabrini College as a full time professor in the social work department.
Daniel starts her first year as a full time faculty member having taught as an adjunct at both Cabrini College and Temple University for the past three academic years and with nearly two decades of experience in the social work and therapy fields.
Daniel earned both her undergraduate degree in journalism and her Master’s of social work from Temple University. After graduating with her Bachelor’s of Arts in journalism in 1991 Daniels entered a bleak job market and got her first paying job not as an upstart reporter but as a direct care worker to mentally challenged adults.
Daniels says she was not at all so surprised when she took so quickly and fondly to the job. “I’ve always been a helper,“ she said.
When asked what she believed the essence of social work is and why she switched fields so abruptly she she said, “I’m passionate about making sure we all have equal access and opportunity at all levels.”
Before teaching Daniel also worked as a director of social services for nursing homes in the area and as a consultant for healthcare agencies where she evaluated each patients’ individual needs.
Daniel is also a certified social worker, which is different from only having a degree in social work. Certification allows social workers to also act as therapists.
They can not prescribe or dispense medication and will often refer a patient to a psychiatrist but patients can still make great amounts of progress in therapy with a social worker.
Daniel currently also works in private practice as a therapist where she sees many patients. Most of them are couples and what she describes as “young people struggling with issues of their sexual identity.”
Obviously, Daniel has a soft spot for her alma mater Temple but said she had always been very impressed with Cabrini even before she began teaching here.
“I knew of the school, of the core values and I was especially impressed at such a small college with such a grand idea of its mission,” she said enthusiastically.
The importance of going on to graduate school for social work students was also something Daniel actively encouraged.
Social work is a broad field and graduates work in many sectors including direct care services, youth and protective services, therapy for drug addicts and alcoholics, in therapeutic support services and many other jobs.
However, just as in so many other fields having an advanced degree increases the likelihood of social workers obtaining a better position. Those with their Master’s of social work are seen as having more knowledge and experience and therefore able to pursue careers in higher levels of therapy, academia and even some legal careers.
One thing Daniel is not thrilled with is the low number of students majoring in social work on campus and she has statistics to back her up.
According to the 2010-2011 Cabrini College Catalogue only 4 percent of students graduate with a Bachelor’s of social work as compared to the 18 percent who will graduate with a Bachelor’s of Science in education or the 32 percent who will graduate with a Bachelor’s of Science in subjects like math, computer information science, business administration, biology, chemistry and physics..
Daniels has great hopes for the future of the social work department and many ideas to help improve it.
When discussing the close ties between social work subjects like psychology and sociology Daniel revealed that she and many others in the department are open to a joint degree or other specialized double major programs with those departments.
When she is on campus but not teaching, working or coordinating field placements for social work majors Daniel can be found in her office with the door wide open, inviting students and faculty a like to come right in.