On May 18th, Kevin McCarthy graduated from the Boston College School of Social Work with an MSW, making him a proud Double Eagle. Kevin’s journey at BC, which began in the 1970s, has been long and winding, and has taken him from Chestnut Hill to Worcester and beyond.
A well-respected product of BCSSW’s unique Worcester program, McCarthy is a self-professed ambassador for the school’s satellite campus, and its flexible options for people like him who are deeply entrenched in the midst of a busy life, and who need a part-time academic schedule.
In this Q&A with BC Social Work, conducted the week before his graduation, McCarthy talks about how he came to pursue an MSW in the first place, the distinct opportunities afforded to him by the Worcester program, and what it means to graduate from BC with a degree in social work.
Thanks so much for your time today Kevin, I know you are in the midst of finishing up your course work ahead of next week’s graduation. In many ways, the Commencement proceedings on the 18th are a long time coming for you. Talk about your journey toward becoming a Double Eagle.
Kevin McCarthy: The story begins in the late 70s, when, after three years as an undergraduate, I walked away from a 100 percent scholarship to BC. Thirty-four years later, I came back to the Woods College of Advancing Studies to finish what I had started, so that BC’s investment in me could potentially bear fruit. I felt like, for 30-plus years, the school’s investment in me was nothing but a net loss, and the only way I could make things right was to finish my degree.
During my time at the Woods School, under the tutelage of Fr. Woods (the dean of the school), I had taken a master’s level sociology course, which I really enjoyed. The dean told me that I was doing good work, and that I should go upstairs to the School of Social Work, and think about pursuing an MSW. I’ve been saying okay to Fr. Woods for a long time, so I followed his advice and things came together in a sort of a perfect storm.
At the same time that Fr. Woods was telling me to pursue a degree from BC Social Work, a friend of mine was going to the Worcester program part-time. I was working full-time and living in Worcester, and I needed to be able to continue to, so once I decided an MSW was the next step in my life, this was a natural fit. I would never have completed a master’s degree without the program – it has been nothing short of a godsend for me.
Tell us more about why Worcester has been such a great fit.
KM: As I mentioned, the schedule and the location were major selling points when I first started. But as I continued throughout the program, its strengths only multiplied. For one – we are such a tight knit group. My graduating cohort includes 16-17 of us. For two years, we took all of the same classes (many in the program take their first two years part-time in Worcester, then complete a third year full-time in Chestnut Hill). We know each other very well, so we can have deep, close-knit conversations, and we’ve really supported each other in our classwork and career aspirations. We share a unique bond.
I was also able to take advantage of an existing relationship I had in the field, and expand upon it when I started at BC. I had been working at AdCare Hospital when I entered the program, and this became my field education placement while pursuing my MSW. This was an amazing opportunity – as my interests and skills developed in the classroom, so too did my role at work, which began to align more with what I want to do with my life moving forward. I feel confident now providing clinical psychiatric care in various forums, and I’ve become especially passionate about working with patients with a dual diagnosis. In fact, at AdCare I worked closely with Dr. Paula Morisette, who helped me to develop a series of therapy sessions for those living with a dual diagnosis. Tom Montville, LICSW, who is a BC grad and my field education supervisor at Worcester Recovery Center & Hospital, has also become a mentor to me.
The quality of teaching at Worcester has been great, too. I’ve been lucky enough to study with You, Inc. President Moe Boisvert, to name just one influential professor I’ve worked with. Moe is a wealth of information, and he’s taught me what it means to be a working professional and a leader in the field. It’s such a plus to be able to learn from someone who’s molded policy in his role as an executive. His course on macro social work has provided a strong foundation in how policymakers think – valuable perspective to bring with me in my career as I work to effect change on the ground. I believe that, if I can speak their language, I can be a more effective clinician in terms of how I advocate for critical services for my clients.
Now that you’re graduating, expand on what it means to have a degree in social work from BC.
KM: Well first off, a degree from BC means so much in our field. The opportunities for networking are really remarkable – Moe is only one prominent name in the Worcester area who has a Boston College connection. I recently went to an event at Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital, the state’s largest facility providing psychiatric care, and of the seven people on the panel, four had ties to BC.
We truly represent a Who’s Who in the State of Massachusetts in terms of social work leadership.
Most importantly, though, I feel prepared to do my job. I truly believe that the kinds of experiential lessons allowed for in the Worcester program have made a huge difference for me, and that the unique blend of macro, clinical, and global coursework that are built into the BC Social Work program at large provide a unique portrait of the world we will be going out into. I cherish that perspective, and know it will make me a stronger and more compassionate social worker moving forward.
We encourage you to learn more about BCSSW’s off-campus location at Worcester State University on our main website. For more information on the program, contact Marilyn Carey, Site Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org. Applicants interested in this option should also review their curriculum plan with Bill Howard, Director of Admissions, email@example.com. Financial aid is available.