Part-Time MSW Program Student Spotlight: Bethany L Matson

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.

Headshot of Bethany
Bethany Matson

Job title and organization:
Social Work Supervisor, Dane County Department of Human Services

Year in the program:
4th year

Focus area:
Mental Health

Future job interest:
Macro level work-racial justice and anti-poverty policy work, politics, teaching at a college/university level, training, and consultation work.

Why did you choose to the Part-Time Program? 
I applied on a whim. I was already working in the field, but without a social work degree, and I was really struggling in my position at the time. I was strongly considering going back to the area that I had a degree in already, secondary education, just out of frustration, but I was not settled at being in a middle or high school classroom at the time. I applied not actually thinking I would be accepted or that I would return to school if I were accepted, and next thing I knew I was sitting in orientation! Life is very weird.

How would you describe your experience in the Part-Time MSW Program?
Yikes, it has been interesting, and I seriously had no clue what I signed up for, but I am seriously counting down the days to graduation now! The program has been good in that I have gotten to explore and use all my strengths in so many ways. I have learned the value in advocating for myself, showing up as my full authentic self in all settings, and the overall value of my presence in every space. On the other hand, it feels like I have been in this program for about half my life at this point. I entered this program cute and fresh faced, and now…I am still cute, but the freshness has faded a bit! While you only have class one day a week, this is not a one day a week commitment, especially when it is time for placement/internship, and it has been an exhausting journey. I have struggled with the lack of diversity and that the classrooms have not been as representative of the community as they could be. I have lived in Wisconsin my whole life, so it is not surprising, but it is always disappointing to be the only Black person, or one of too few in spaces AND one of few people of color just in general.

What has been your favorite course so far in the program and why?
I am in Advanced Macro Practice with Laura Dresser right now and I love it, there is such an underappreciation for Macro practice in Social Work and it is so vital and interesting! However, I am not finished yet, and that opinion might change depending on the grade I get! So, by far my favorite completed course has been Grief, Death, Loss and Life that I took with Carrissa Hodgson. I am so confused on why this course is just an elective and not a required course. I learned so much. We often talk about all the things we work through with clients and the community, but rarely is the conversation around grief, not just in death but in grieving change and loss. I just think “how can we be “change agents” without a full understanding of grief as a normative aspect of change? That grief is just a normative and universal aspect of life?”  I was in this class when the Covid-19 pandemic started and it deeply impacted how I was able to process the things that were happening in the world with living in the unknown, experiencing the isolation of quarantining, and just living with this constant fear of uncontrolled circumstances. Besides just being a course that I needed at that time, it is one that I took so much away from and still utilize and think about every day since I completed it.

How do you think the Part-Time MSW Program has prepared you for entering the field of social work?
As I said I was already in the field and had been for a while. The program pushed me to think outside of the box. I had resigned myself to coming here, getting an MSW, an LCSW, and doing therapy. Anecdotally I knew that SW was more than direct practice, but I did not see it, or how I might have impact in anything that was not direct practice. The program really opened my eyes to so many possibilities. I took full advantage of multiple opportunities to meet new people and do new things, understanding that social work itself is not just one thing.  I do not have to just do therapy, or child welfare, I can do whatever I have a passion for and use these skills to make an impact.

What would you say to someone who is considering the program?
Ha! Do not do stuff on a whim! Be thoughtful, be prepared. Really understand the time commitment and if it is feasible for you. Do your research and figure out if this is the right program for where you are in life. Make sure to ask about the things you need, financial support, childcare, etc. And advocate for what you need.

What UW support services have you used during your time in the program (i.e.: Writing Center, etc) and how did they help you?
I have really tried to learn about opportunities on campus, I have attended events through the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, reached out to the School of Social Work Academic Advisor (thanks Latoya!) when needed. I have been on committees for Students of Color and the Annual Social Workers Confronting Racial Injustice conference. I have had opportunities to attend various conferences paid for by the School of Social Work as well.  I have not used the writing center (although I should have), but I have utilized the Social Work Library for a variety of things in my time in the program and recently have learned about the Design Lab, using some of the info to create presentations for my internship and my full-time job as well.

Bethany has been a leader on the Social Workers Confronting Racial Injustice Committee for several years and in 2021 received the Award for Exceptional Service to the school. As Interim Director, Kristi Slack said at the time, this unique  award was given to Bethany to “honor [her] many contributions to improving our school, pushing us to be better, and influencing in so many positive ways the experiences of students in our various programs.