Part-Time MSW Program Student Spotlight: Mahalia Sobhani

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 Mahalia Sobhani who is wearing glasses, earrings, and a green shirt.Job title and organization:
Service Navigator at the United for Waukesha Resiliency Center, a program of NAMI Southeast WI, serving the community affected by the 2021 Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy. I provide case management, referral to mental health services, psychoeducation groups for children, community outreach and education, and general emotional support.

Year in the program: 4th year

Focus area (if decided): Children, Youth & Families with a subfocus in School Social Work. I am also a scholar in the LEADSS program.

Future job interest (if decided): School social work and policy

Why did you choose the Part-Time Program?
Choosing the Part-Time Program allowed me to attend UW-Madison while living in the Milwaukee area near my family, which is important to me. It also allowed me the flexibility to keep working and building experience in the field while earning my MSW. Additionally, it is more financially manageable for me to be taking classes at a slower pace.

How would you describe your experience in the Part-Time MSW Program?
The cohort model means that you get the chance to form meaningful bonds with your peers over these four years. They provide such a vital support system, especially during field placement years. It also feels super valuable to be in spaces where everyone believes in the mission of social work. Classmates often share information and resources they find in their jobs and it truly feels like a vibrant learning community.

What has been your favorite course so far in the program and why?
SW825 on Grief, Life, Death and Dying with Carissa Hodgson is an elective I was looking forward to taking for years, and it was well worth it! Grief work is a strong personal interest of mine, and I continue to be fascinated by the way this universal experience is so unsupported and stigmatized in American culture. This class was comprehensive, including various theories on grief as well as information on working with people of all ages and stages on different kinds of loss. It also provided opportunities to be creative and reflect on personal experience with loss.

How do you think the Part-Time MSW Program has prepared you for entering the field of social work?
I have learned equally as much from my peers as I have from the coursework. Many PTP students already have experience in the field and have lots of wisdom and real-life perspective to share. Because of this, I feel like I’m leaving with both a solid academic base and a realistic outlook on the field, with the resilience to stay in this challenging and rewarding work.

What would you say to someone who is considering the program?
Know that the field placement hours are incredibly valuable and necessary experience, and they also can be very challenging to balance with work and life. Be prepared to be disciplined about your time and don’t be afraid to ask for grace from the people in your life when you need it.

What UW support services have you used during your time in the program (i.e.: Writing Center, Social Work Library, etc.) and how did they help you?
The advisor’s office has been helpful to ensure that I am on track for graduation, getting all my requirements and electives complete, and appropriately pacing my credits.