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Get to know your Faculty!

Every Friday we will be interviewing one of our fabulous Social Work faculty members. This is a great way for students to get to know their professor's even better and to get to know faculty members that they have not had in a class yet.  

This Week's Faculty Member: Stacey Kolomer

 Stacey Kolomer

Yanni Shaw

November 11, 2020

Tell me a little bit about your background, academic and professional career: 


I serve as the current Director of the School of Social Work. I got my undergraduate in Social Sciences at SUNY Stony Brook College and I minored in Africana studies and women's studies. I got my MSW at Columbia University and then my Ph.D. at the University at Albany in New YorkI started my academic career at the University of Georgia and start working in 2001. I worked there for 11 years so got promoted to tenure and I was the BSW director there for three years and then I've been at UNCW since 2012. I have been the MSW coordinator, the Associate Director, and I did a year over at the gerontology program with the School of Health and Applied Human Sciences (SHAHS). Before getting my Ph.D., I worked as a social worker in hospital, a dialysis unitand then I worked in a nursing home.   


Can you talk about your experiences working in the hospital, dialysis unit, and nursing home? 


I worked on a Medical surge unit, and then I transferred over to the dialysis unit. In the Medical surge unit, I would mainly do discharge planning and helped people plan for what was going to happen post-discharge from the hospital. Since it was the Medical surge unit, I had a variety of health issuesI had people who had things as grave as brain tumors and end-stage cancer to someone who had a stroke and was going to need PT. Then in the dialysis unit, this is one of the only jobs for a social worker that's mandated by Medicare and the Social Security act so that every person who is receiving dialysis has to be seen quarterly by a social workerSo, I had a steady stream of patients and unless they passed away or moved to dialysis centers, those are the people I sawAlso, in the dialysis unit, I would meet with people and we would have to talk about the psychosocial issues impacting them along with this devastating disease of kidney failure and how it impacted them. In the nursing home, I helped acclimate people to living in the nursing home and I help with end-of-life issues. I also dealt with roommates’ issues but mostly just helped people come to terms with this stage in their life. 


Do you currently teach any classes? 


I am currently teaching Social Welfare policy to our second years for undergrad and advanced second year Master's students. 


I see that your focus is mainly on gerontology, can you tell me what lead you to focus on this area. 


I thought that when I was doing my Ph.D., that I would be focused on dialysis and kidney failure, and then as it turned out, I was partnered with someone who had this great project on grandparents who are raising their grandchildren, so I jumped right in. I think now looking back at it why I was so willing to jump into something else, was because I knew people who were raised by their grandparents. At the time, my boyfriend's mother was raising her grandson so it was something that I knew was an issue and this was a great grassroots project to be a part of, so it was easier to dive into.  


I see that you have 30 published Journals, can you talk about what they are and what they’re in? 


It was a range of things, depending on what I was interested in doing. There's some interprofessional education and working with different disciplines like how you teach students together so they're not learning in a silo.  There's a lot about caregiving and specifically grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. I don’t think I have any journals about fire service, although I do a lot of work for it, however, my main area has been gerontology focused on older adults. Right now, I'm working on something that focuses on parents who care for their child who's been burn-injured so still in the caregiving around just focused on much younger patients.  


What would you say to students who are struggling with motivation, especially during COVID? 

Be aware that no one is ok. No one has dealt with this before, this is a first for everybody you know in your life. The last worldwide pandemic was over 100 years ago and there was no technology, so we really don't know what that looked like. I think right now, we just need to be kind and patient and offer grace to one another because again, we are all going through this experience and we have no idea how this plays out. 


Do you have any advice to give to students who are planning on going into the field of Social Work? 


Be open to trying different things. Don't go in thinking that you know what you want to do, be open to trying different workings with different populations. The reality is the skills you're learning will apply to any group so not being set and being flexible, that's really the key to Social Work. I think for people who have a hard time and have to be super structured, this might not be the right career path. The reality is you're working with people so you don't really know what will happen. It's not a set formula and not as clean as, for example, mathematics. With people, you don't know which way it could go. So overall, be flexible, be open, make sure you have a strong support network and if you don't have a strong support network, know where you can get help from others. Finding that support network, and just finding interests outside of your career to help fuel you will benefit you in the long run.