Social Work Month Alumni Spotlight: Karen

Name: Karen Chapman
Degrees & Graduation Year: Master of Social Work (MSW), with a concentration of healthcare and aging, class of 1999.

Karen Chapman is an Accreditation Specialist with the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE).  Prior to her time at CSWE, she served as a social work faculty member for CSWE accredited institutions. Her direct practice experience includes employment in the medical social work setting in palliative care, hemodialysis, and hospital social work in Dublin, Ireland.  Ms. Chapman holds the Master of Social Work (MSW) and Master of Public Administration (MPA) degrees.  She has studied abroad at l’École de Langues (University of Laval, Quebec, Canada), the British Studies Program (Kings College, London, UK), and the Bristol International Credit Earning Program (University of Bristol, UK). Ms. Chapman served as a Consulting Editor for the National Association of Social Work journal, Health & Social Work and a member of the Inclusion and Access Committee with Trellis Supportive Care (hospice and palliative care provider). Ms. Chapman’s publications include the following:  

 Chapman, K. Y. (2022). The use of therapeutic film making: Agnes Varda and Sophie Calle. Studies in European Cinema, 1–9.

 Chapman, K. Y., & Bass, L. (2000). A comparison of hospice in the UK and the US. American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine®, 17(3), 173–177.

Tell us about your ECU-HHP experience or what ECU means to you.
I always think favorably about my time as a Master of Social Work (MSW) student in the Department of Social Work at East Carolina University (ECU). The social work faculty and staff were highly engaged with students. Receiving the MSW at ECU opened many professional doors throughout my social work career.  I will be forever grateful to the social work faculty and staff at ECU.   

What brought you to ECU?
I was accepted into the MSW program at ECU, which was one of only two MSW programs in the state at the time. 

What is your favorite aspect of Social Work?

I began my Social Work career in direct practice as a medical social worker, which allowed me to practice at the micro and mezzo levels. Now, I work as a macro-level social worker, which has provided me with the opportunity to become an Accreditation Specialist.  I also taught in higher education and worked in fundraising as a macro-level social worker.  

Can you tell us about your favorite Social Work course or professor(s) during your time at ECU?
My favorite professor during my time at ECU was Dr. Lessie Bass. Without Dr. Bass, I would not have published my first article.  She provided me with great professional advice regarding my Social Work career. I also enjoyed classes with Dr. Lena Carawan, Professor David Bull, who was a Visiting Professor from the University of Bristol, UK, and Dr. Mary Jackson. 

Can you tell us about your current job/role/employer?
I work for the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) as an Accreditation Specialist. Founded in 1952, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is the national association representing social work education in the United States. Its members include over 800 accredited baccalaureate and master’s degree social work programs, as well as individual social work educators, practitioners, and agencies dedicated to advancing quality social work education. Through its many initiatives, activities, and centers, CSWE supports quality social work education and provides opportunities for leadership and professional development, so that social workers play a central role in achieving the profession’s goals of social and economic justice. CSWE’s Commission on Accreditation is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation as the sole accrediting agency for social work education in the United States and its territories. 

What is a typical day like for you?
As an Accreditation Specialist, I typically spend most of my time answering accreditation-related questions from the social work programs on my caseload and from the public.  I communicate with the programs via email and phone.  I also have consultations with programs via Zoom.  In addition,  I work as part of a team, so, there are many responsibilities that we have as a team such as providing trainings and educational opportunities to accredited and candidate programs.  I also serve as the Staff Liaison for CSWE’s Council on Field Education (COFE). Accreditation Specialists work with our volunteer commissioners who make up the Council on Accreditation (COA).  COA is the sole and final authority as the arbiter of compliance.  

What has been your favorite experience working in Social Work/your profession thus far?
My favorite experience is my current role as an Accreditation Specialist.  I enjoy collaborating with programs at the national level to help them reach their accreditation goals.  Moreover, I enjoy working with my team.  

Where do you see the field of Social Work headed?
Because the population is living longer, I see a great need for social workers who will work with the aging population.  I also see social workers becoming more involved in the struggle for social, economic, and environmental justice. 

In your eyes, what is the greatest challenge Social Workers face?
Accessibility to health care and assuring social, economic, and environmental justice for all. 

This year’s theme for social work month is breaking barriers. How do you plan to use your education, experience and passion for the field to help break barriers for those you work with and in the community?
I believe that it is my responsibility to give back to the Social Work profession.  I do so by using the Social Work education that I obtained at ECU and my professional experience, which provided me with the knowledge and skills to work with diverse populations and a variety of situations. In addition, I educate and speak up regarding Anti-racism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ADEI).

What words of advice do you have for prospective and/or current social work students?
I would encourage current students to find a faculty mentor in the Department of Social Work.  They will help you tremendously. In addition, take advantage of study abroad opportunities within the department because it can provide opportunities of which you were unaware.  For example, I published my first article from my social work study abroad program via a partnership between the Department of Social Work and the University of Bristol, United Kingdom (UK).  Moreover, take electives that pair well with the MSW.  Because of my international interest, I enrolled in a course that compared social welfare between the UK and the US.  Above all, take your time seriously but have fun, too.  

Anything else you’d like to share about yourself or your passion for Social Work?
I would encourage future social workers to volunteer.  I volunteered with a hospice during my time as a graduate student at ECU.  Volunteerism is extremely important.