Our Director of Field Education and Mental Health Training Program Coordinator, Candy Elson joined the School of Social Work faculty in 2007. Candy earned her Bachelors of Arts Degree from the University of Cambridge. Candy went on to earn a Post Graduate certificate in Education from the University of London. Candy taught high school for two years before moving to San Diego. She attended the University of San Diego where she earned her Masters in Theology. Candy was searching for a career where she would be able to address social justice and the individual change process. In 1995, Candy earned her Master of Social Work (MSW) from San Diego State University (SDSU). While earning her MSW Candy was raising a family with three children under the age of 5. The art of wearing multiple hats was something Candy mastered early in her career.
After earning her MSW, her first social work job was at Sharp Grossmont Hospital Behavioral Health Unit as a psychiatric social worker. At this point in her career Candy quickly found a passion and love for mental health. In 2001, Candy became a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. For six years Candy was able to continue working in the mental health field as a Mental Health Clinician and Investigator with the San Diego County Public Conservator’s Office. Candy joined SDSU in 2007, as part of the field faculty team and the Mental Health Training Program coordinator. In 2010, Candy took on the role of Director of Field Education. Even with all of her roles here at SDSU Candy still works directly in the social work field as a Psychiatric Liaison in the Emergency Department for a local healthcare system, “to keep her clinical pulse alive”, she says.
One of Candy’s many hats is a field faculty instructor in the classroom for foundation and concentration year graduate students. This is a time where Candy bonds with the students by taking on roles as a case manager, surrogate parent, coach, cheerleader and mentor. Candy loves hearing students’ stories and experiences in the field. It is a time when Candy is able to watch students grow professionally in confidence and in competence.
When Candy is not taking on the role as a lecturer in the classroom, she is busy over-seeing the matching of approximately graduate and undergraduate 300 students in their field placement/internships with the assistance of her field faculty team members. She also sits on various committees, recruits and approves new agencies, conducts site visits and trouble shoots any problems in field and oversees the training of new field instructors. The field placement process takes the dedicated and hard working field faculty team around nine months to match up students with their internship, including organizing the annual Agency Fair for final year students. The field faculty team reviews every single social work student’s application and takes the time to look at career goals, location, experience, and areas of interest. Candy believes the more details a student can provide about themselves on the application, the better. The Mental Health Program has been available to Social Work students since 2005. The program allows students who have an interest in the public mental health field to receive specialized seminars, internships in the field, to receive a stipend, and so much more. SDSU has seen approximately 120 students successfully complete the Mental Health Training Program.
What is the key for Candy managing all of her roles? Balance and humor. Candy has managed to find the balance between work, family, and spirituality and hopes students can find this for their own life. Candy wants soon-to-be graduating students to know, “You are about to embark on the steepest learning curve of your career. It is so important to be open and don’t narrow any of your options.” Candy believes in practicing self-care, using good boundaries at work and remembering it is okay to leave work at work and to keep a sense of humor and perspective. The loves of her life, include her three sons, dog, and her hobbies such as playing golf, biking, going to movies, reading mysteries, travel and getting outdoors in nature, all help contribute to help Candy maintain her balancing act.
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Written by: Megan Clauson, MSW student