School of Social Work

No. 28 M.S.W. Program in the U.S.

johnson-stevara-140709_011_aj_arThe Virginia Commonwealth University School of Social Work is composed of many individuals that keep our students motivated. Not only do we have exceptional faculty that teach our students about the social work profession, but the members of our staff help guide the our talented student body. Stevara Clark Johnson is a B.S.W. Student Success Adviser and one of the outstanding members of our student success team.

You’re an alumna of the school, correct?

Double alumni. I received my B.S.W. and M.S.W. degree from VCU School of Social work. I graduated from the B.S.W. program in 2009 and completed the Advanced Standing M.S.W. program with a concentration in social work administration, planning and policy practice, SWAPPP,  in 2010.


After you graduated from the M.S.W. program, where did you begin practicing?

When I was in the M.S.W. program, I interned at United Methodist Family Services and two weeks prior to graduating UMFS offered me a job. I worked there for 2 and a half years. Greg Peters, the CEO of UMFS, did a lot of my supervision over the summer, which then turned into him doing more of my supervision during the year.


What was your role at United Methodist Family Services?

At UMFS, I held two positions, the first being the Training Support Specialist and the second being a Teacher Counselor. In the Training Support Specialist position, I was responsible for supporting and developing curriculum, providing technical assistance with the designing of educational products and evaluating curriculum and training programs for effectiveness. I also developed a youth speaking program with Project LIFE (Living Independently, Focusing on Empowerment). I trained the youth and local Department of Social Services workers on youth advocacy and social networking etiquette. As a Teacher Counselor, I was responsible for developing and delivering curriculum focused on social and independent living skills for a classroom of students with intellectual disabilities.


When I sat down with Greg, he mentioned that you were heavily interested in policy and he wanted you to have more of a feel for clinical work. Now that you are an adviser and see students coming in and only focusing on one concentration, what are some ways that you combat that?

I feel sometimes students put too much focus is put on micro versus macro practice. With any job that you are going to do you have to be able to do both. Even in my first position at UMFS, I still had to build relationships and work directly with social workers. In my current position, I do a lot of orientation with students, recruitment and my day to day work with students is direct practice. My degree may be in “Macro” social work but I still have the skillset and knowledge base to be able to do direct practice with my students. Its something that is constantly evolving for me everyday.


What is the best part of being an adviser? What gets you excited about your job?

I genuinely enjoy getting to know my students. It helps me grow and improve my self-awareness. For example, when I see students that come to me in despair or have concerns and I am able to work through the process with them and see them grow from nonprofessional students to actually being in the profession… it’s awesome.


What prompted you to come back to VCU as an adviser?

I like to say there are two main reasons. One, I feel like I never really left VCU. I am a season ticket holder for the Men’s Basketball games. Even when I was here as a student, I worked in the athletic department, so I never really left. The main reason I wanted to come back is that when I was here in undergrad Ananda Newmark was my advisor and when I left grad school and began working at UMFS I had a really great supervisor there and she always kept me on my toes as to “what was next”. She always reminded me that my role in UMFS could not be the end all. So when I was on Facebook one day I saw the job posting and I thought to myself, what better way to give back than to give to a school that gave so much to me. I figured that this would be a great way to help more social workers by helping the students that would potentially become social workers. I had a really great experience with the school and the faculty. It was one of those jobs that I knew I would have hated myself if I didn’t even apply.


What’s it like working with Ananda being that he was your advisor?

It’s fun! He knew me as a student and now that he sees me as a professional he knows how to make me dig deep. He makes me think creatively in regards to programming for our students. It’s been a fun ride.

What is something that you are currently doing that has you excited?

Right now I’m doing many DIY projects. I like to make things for my daughter and currently I’m making her a tutu dress and matching headband. I’m also really excited about this photography class that I’m registered for. My husband got me an awesome digital SLR camera for Christmas and I want to learn how to use it on manual mode and truly enjoy the power of the camera.


What is something that most people do not know about you?

I enjoy learning about different lifestyles and different peoples’ life experiences.


What is one piece of advice you give to all of your students?

I tell all of my students that they should enjoy their time here. With the exception of my first two weeks of undergrad,  I didn’t get what people would call the “typical college experience.” I want my students to know that its not all academics, coming to VCU we want you to have fun and enjoy yourselves.  I also tell them to take the time to enjoy your peers and faculty; truly get to know them outside of the classroom. One day they may be your colleague, supervisor or mentor.

Categories Faculty and staff