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Loyola University Chicago

School of Social Work

School reunion helps celebrate 100th student presentation

SSW-simon

Associate professor Shirley Simon poses with Loyola students at a 2008 conference in Cologne, Germany.

Helping students to become professionals never gets old for Shirley Simon.

An associate professor in Loyola’s School of Social Work, Simon has been serving as a mentor for graduate students since 2005 to help them prepare peer-reviewed posters and papers and then present their findings at conferences around the world.

This year marks the 100th student presentation, and the school invited all of the presenters back for a Nov. 5 reunion to celebrate the milestone.

“In the past, we’ve brought back the most recent group of presenters for a small recognition ceremony in the fall,” Simon says. “But now we’re inviting all of them back to celebrate their hard work.”

What started out as a small endeavor with just three students nearly a decade ago has blossomed into a program that now helps almost two dozen students a year. Simon teaches social work students how to prepare an abstract, submit it for consideration, conduct the research—and then compile all of that information and present it to peers and professionals at a symposium.

At the end of the process, Simon says, her students are truly transformed.

“They enter the conference a little anxious and unsure,” she says, “but they walk out feeling professional and competent and motivated to do more. This may be their first presentation, but it’s definitely not their last.”

Earlier this year, 20 Loyola students and recent alums traveled to Boston for an international symposium for social group workers. Nineteen of them made presentations—a number that far exceeded any other institution—and they discussed topics ranging from using dance therapy to help at-risk teens, to combining 12-step programs and group therapy to treat addiction.

For Joyce Webster, being part of the original group of students who went through the program in 2005 was a life-changing experience.

“It really helped me find my passion and helped me figure out exactly what I wanted to do,” Webster says.

Webster, who now teaches as an adjunct professor at the School of Social Work, is returning the favor by guiding the next generation of social workers through the research process.

“I’ve been through it myself, so I can relate to what they’re going through,” she says, “and it’s nice to be able to share my experiences with them.”

As for Simon, she hopes to continue mentoring students and helping them become forces in the field of social work.

“To me, it’s the essence of teaching,” she says. “I get a chance to help these students grow and develop and to watch them succeed. I’m so privileged to be a part of that process.”

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