Amanda Gilliam, a social work major, approached her senior year like she has approached her entire time at Anderson University – by taking advantage of as many opportunities as possible. Gilliam is completing her senior practicum with Aspire Indiana’s Act team, and gaining valuable skills to use the rest of her life.
Aspire Indiana is a mental health agency that was formed by a merger between the Center for Mental Health in Anderson and the Behavior Corporation in 2009. Based in Noblesville, Ind., the corporation provides a wide range of services to people throughout the state of Indiana.
The Act Team works with 50 local clients to help them learn to live on their own and be fully self-sufficient. The team often travels to the homes of their clients, due to transportation issues. Gilliam is working full-time with the agency during her last semester at AU.
Gilliam learned about the internship through Lisa Pay, assistant professor of social work, with whom Gilliam has had many classes. “I am the field coordinator for the social work program, which means I arrange all the practicums for the senior social work majors,” said Pay. “This process begins in September and they have a placement secured by November. Then they begin in January with second semester. Aspire Indiana is an agency that has been in Anderson for a long time and has provided practicum training for many of our students.”
Pay thought Gilliam was a good candidate for this position because she is patient and empathetic with the clients. “Persons who struggle with serious mental illness are most benefited by a compassionate professional,” said Pay.
Gilliam has always been interested in mental health and wanted an internship that would be challenging. This internship has turned out to be exactly what she wanted and more. She works with clients who have schizophrenia or other severe mental health issues.
“I was both nervous and excited when I first started because senior practicum is a big deal,” said Gilliam. “I was nervous because I wanted to give a good impression to both staff and clients, but I was excited to put into action what I had learned over the past three years.”
“I believe the social work program at AU prepared Gilliam well, not only from the knowledge and values she learned in the classroom, but also from the numerous smaller internships that helped her build on her natural skill level with clients,” said Pay. “She establishes rapport well, and our program recognizes that the relationship between a social worker and the clients they serve is crucial to healing and growth.”
Gilliam said that AU taught her how to interact with people who are different from her through role playing, assignments, and presentations in the classroom.
“I’ve learned that it's important to be flexible because sometimes a crisis happens. A patient will be suicidal or arrested for public intoxication and you have to adapt your plans to those changes in a timely manner,” said Gilliam.
Gilliam hopes to continue her work at Aspire or at a similar organization after graduation.
— Kristyn Rhynard is a senior from Ithaca, Mich., majoring in communication arts. Rhynard is an associate with Fifth Street Communications™, writing on behalf of the Anderson University Office of University Communications.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2010, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the seventh consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.