Part-Time Program Student Spotlight: Luccas Contreras

The Part-Time MSW Program allows students who are not able to pursue full-time study to work towards a master’s degree on a structured, time-extended basis with classes delivered in a hybrid manner. Some courses are designed as blended courses with a mix of online learning and in-person sessions, while others are taught as online courses. In-person sessions take place every other Saturday on our Madison campus.Name: Luccas Contreras

Male student with UW-Madisono shirt
Luccas Contreras

Job title and organization:
I currently work for Rock County as a Crisis Stabilization Case Manager. We generally have these big Social Work/ Mental Health titles, but no one explains what they mean.  We also love our acronyms! (LCSW, APSW,LPC, CBT, DBT, CPS, CCS, CSP etc. the list is neverending.)

Year in the program:
I am a 2nd-year student (It’s gone by a lot faster than you’d think)

Focus area:
Mental Health. I am passionate about addressing toxic masculinity and the effects of men seeking mental health treatment. There needs to be a societal change on erasing the stigma around men needing therapy with eating disorders, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental illnesses. Men need to do better with creating a societal change within systems of oppression and recognizing their positions of power. Heavily male-dominated fields, including law enforcement, firefighters, and other emergency responders, have had an overall increase in violence towards themselves or others. Toxic masculinity perpetuates the idea that “boys will be boys.” As a dad of 3 boys, I do not want my sons to believe this outdated ideal and know they will be held accountable. To quote Jackson Katz, “Calling gender violence a women’s issue is part of the problem. It gives a lot of men an excuse not to pay attention.” Men must do better.

Future job interests:
I want to work for a government entity making changes in all areas of social work (Macro, Mezzo, and Micro). I enjoy my current position in crisis case management, working with those mainly with low income or limited resources. I also would like to conduct training within First Responders to provide more trauma-informed care.

Why did you choose the Part-Time Program?
When looking at other MSW programs, there was no question that UW was my top and only choice. This program makes so much sense for those who have families and need to work full-time. There are not many programs where you can find a flexible schedule, accommodating professors, and who would not want to represent the best school in Wisconsin. Go Badgers!

How would you describe your experience in the Part-Time MSW Program?
My experience has been great and has gone by a lot faster than I was expecting! I originally was skeptical about starting the program amid the pandemic and having to be online at the program’s start instead of in the classroom. We are back in the school this semester, and it has felt that I have known my cohort in person this whole time. It has been wonderful to have gotten so close to everyone in the program. The classroom and my peers have been an incredible support and encouragement. I want to think we cheer each other on!

What has been your favorite course so far in the program, and why?
That is a tough one! It would be the Diversity, Oppression, and Social Justice course with instructor Alicia Treviño-Murphy. The instructor was engaging, but it inspired me to make more change and advocate for social justice.

How do you think the Part-Time MSW Program has prepared you for entering the field of social work?
I currently work and have worked in mental health/social work for the last 13 years. When you are in the field for a while, you become hardened, disengaged, or discouraged due to the system. The Part-Time MSW program has continually made me come back to why I wanted to help those in need in the first place. This program gives you the ability to look at how you can constantly learn more and apply your practice.

What would you say to someone who is considering the program?
APPLY. There was no doubt in my mind when applying to this program. The program checked off every box that I needed to work with my busy schedule. Who wouldn’t want to be a badger?

What UW support services have you used during your time in the program (i.e.: Writing Center, etc) and how did they help you:
Latoya, the Part-Time program advisor, is fantastic and continuously checking in on students. I always go to her if I am stuck in a jam or feel that I cannot continue. She provides excellent feedback and wants to help you succeed.

What’s one effective (or ineffective) strategy you’ve used while attending classes remotely during Covid?
Having your coffee ready when you start class is a perk! Peers are the best way to help provide suggestions or see when you are not the only one struggling! Reaching out to my cohort and understanding that we were all in this together. Though our first year we spent all remotely, we had such a strong connection that it felt as if we already knew each other when we came back in person.