It wasn’t the Peace Corps that got Nik Schuetz thinking about a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree. It was a job before and after his two-year assignment in Kenya that gave him a taste of what the field had to offer. Or, more accurately, how it would best enable Schuetz to help the most people in need.
After earning a psychology degree from Beloit College in 2008, the Kansas City native and Rockhurst High School graduate landed a job at Gillis, a revered south Kansas City nonprofit that serves at-risk children and families.
“I never considered social work before,” Schuetz says. “At Gillis, I got a sense of the full scope of it, everything that goes into helping people on a large scale, yet one individual or family at a time. I realized I wouldn’t be able to make the biggest impact without an advanced degree.”
This fall, Schuetz left his fourth position at Gillis to begin his final year in the MSW program at the Edwards Campus, which includes a practicum at Midwest Cancer Alliance.
Degree Is Key
The need for passionate, trained and experienced leaders is just as great in the social service world as in business or technology, if not more so. Schuetz strives to be one of them. He says the reputation and academic rigor of KU’s MSW program made his an easy choice.
“This seemed like a more professional program with a stronger curriculum,” he says. “I was definitely attracted by the practicum and international study, but also the amazing research opportunities.”
Last year Stuetz earned a $2,000 research scholarship and the opportunity to assist Professor Terri Friedline in a study of the impact of Child Savings Accounts on families in poverty. This year he was awarded a full graduate research assistant position working alongside Professor Jody Brooks. It covers his tuition in full, plus a stipend, but he values the experience even more.
“I got my foot in the door last year, and the more research I do, the more I get excited about it,” he says. “It’s definitely a path I’d like to follow.”
Schuetz, who won the MARGO award for outstanding achievement in MSW foundation level practicum last year, says he wouldn’t mind being a student forever. He’s strongly considering pursuing a doctoral degree in social work, but his ambitions lie beyond the classroom.
“I can see myself working at a think tank, doing some research, getting published, and informing policy makers on what really works, how we can make people’s lives better,” he says. “Seems like a great way to enact change without having to be a politician myself.”
While politics may not be in his future, Nik Schuetz is on a personal campaign to do the most good for the most people. And, thanks to his education, he’s learning the possibilities are limitless.
“This field is applicable to every part of life. If you think life can be better for anybody – children, the homeless, veterans, the elderly – then an MSW is the right degree for you. KU has a great program that can cater to anyone who wants to make a difference.”