Part-Time Program Student Spotlight: Rachel Belter

Headshot of Rachel Belter
Rachel Belter

Job title and organization:
Currently working in Covid-19 relief.

Year in the program:
Third year

Focus area:
Health and Aging

Future job interest:
Geriatric Care Manager or Executive Director of a non-profit. I am also interested in pursuing a Law Degree after my MSW.

Why did you choose to the Part-Time Program?
Upon entry into UW-Madison at age 18 I started service learning. I decided to change from majoring in Business to Gender and Women’s Studies. I spent 10 years working for a domestic violence service organization, but I had a hard time rising above entry level positions. My partner was in school to become a journeyman electrician, to pursue robotics and electrical engineering while I raised our child. I had a home childcare, which was good practice for living under the isolation we live in under COVID. After my partner completed their degrees, I decided I wanted to pursue law school or graduate school. In my time at the domestic violence agency I met several students of the part-time MSW program at UW-Madison. I want to lead, and I felt I needed my MSW in order to climb the ranks in the non-profit sector. I am also grateful for the scholarships I have received along the way from: Continuing Education, the McBurney Center, Participatory Learning and Teaching Organization (PLATO) via Scholarships for Nontraditional, Adult, & Single Parent Students.

How would you describe your experience in the Part-Time MSW Program?
Professors who changed my life: Rachel Dunn, JooYoung Kong, Michael Bruce, Patricia Egan, Meg Jenkins Morales, Daniel Kigeya! They changed how I see the world and supported my desire to learn and explore new perspectives. I have found many supportive peers in my pursuit of the degree, we support each other.

What has been your favorite course so far in the program and why?
Life Course Perspective with JooYoung Kong. Her research fascinates me, she has such a great way of presenting the information and she is an incredible lecturer.

How do you think the Part-Time MSW Program has prepared you for entering the field of social work?
I believe Daniel Kigeya’s class on race is something we all need. The class helped me reconceptualize the history of racism. Field years are hard, but I appreciate the support of Theresa Fishler as my field instructor. I continue to see behind the curtain, to see how different entities function in which social workers exist.

What would you say to someone who is considering the program?
Jump through the hoops, it is worth it, prove yourself, get your Master’s Degree. Make a plan for support, be open to all the people you meet. Go for it, the world needs people who are willing to sit in the spaces of tension, “to look into the void, to stay where it is uncomfortable” (Michael Bruce taught me that), that is what social workers do. It is not about rescuing other people, it is about being a navigator, learn the systems, help other navigate, it will feel good. You will learn about yourself along the way, you will meet extraordinary people.

What’s one effective (or ineffective) strategy you’ve used to while attending classes remotely during Covid?
Have snacks, water and caffeine nearby.