Catherine Paul '09

Master of Social Work Candidate (2018), Virginia Commonwealth University
Former Fulbright Scholar

Tell us a little about your career journey.

Through my final year at Fordham University, I was unsure whether I wished to pursue clinical psychology or social work. As graduation approached, one of my college mentors recommended that I look into Fordham’s social work program. I was hooked! I decided to apply for the Jesuit Volunteer Corps so I could gain some practical experience in the social services field. I was placed at Thunder Road Adolescent Treatment Center in Oakland, California, and my close work with social workers catalyzed my decision to apply for social work school. However, I was lucky enough to be awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Malaysia. I taught English at a secondary school in Jengka, Pahang, then spent several months interning at Women’s Aid Organisation outside of Kuala Lumpur. I returned to the United States about six weeks before my Master of Social Work orientation at Virginia Commonwealth University.

What are you learning about and experiencing in your grad school program?

I am clinical track, so I look forward to a career as a direct practice clinician. My internship this past year was with District 19 Community Services Board, where I was the Emergency Services Therapist Intern. I learned to assess for homicidality or suicidality to determine whether a temporary detention order needed to be issued, thus committing a patient to a psychiatric facility. Next year I will be working at the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center.

What do you enjoy about this work?

The heart of social work is social justice, and as a part of the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics, social workers are called to uphold the dignity and worth of every human being. My studies and my work inspire me every day to work harder and be the best version of myself so that I may serve others to the best of my ability. Despite the injustice and trauma that are witnessed daily in this field, social work is very strengths-based and resiliency-focused. It gives me great hope and energy.

What impact has the all-girls educational environment had on your life?

Like many other 14-year-olds, I was skeptical about single-sex education. How was I supposed to meet boys?! However, I soon realized how beneficial the all-girls environment was to my personal growth, self-esteem, and self-worth. I started college with a strong appreciation for sisterhood, and I think this helped me find an amazingly inspiring group of young women at Fordham who are my best friends today.

How did Visitation prepare you for college and your career?

Even now, a year into my M.S.W., Visitation was my most challenging yet rewarding academic experience. When I think of formative assignments, teachers, and learning moments, I often think back to my years at Georgetown Visitation. I am extraordinarily grateful to my instructors and community at Visitation who pushed me to write well, study hard, and develop critical thinking skills. Moreover, my passion for community service developed at Visitation. I participated in many of the school’s service trips and local community service opportunities. I believe that my time at Visitation is the foundation for the person I am today.

What did you love most about your Fulbright experience?

The love. The food. The adventure. The students. How things that felt so peculiar and challenging at first became normal parts of day-to-day life. To be immersed in a new culture, community, and language can be incredibly disorienting, but to lean into that discomfort and “leave your dignity at the door” makes every day an opportunity to learn, laugh, and love. (Read about Catherine's Fulbright experience in her own words in a "Visitation" magazine article.)

What do you plan to do with your social work degree?

I plan on becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. I typically fall in love with everything I do, so I am open to seeing where my career takes me, but I also envision having my own or being a part of a therapy practice.

Catherine holds a B.S. in Psychology with a minor in International Humanitarian Affairs from Fordham University. When she is not working or studying to complete her M.S.W., she travels as much as her time and budget allow.