Pursuing Social Work Degree, Senior Eyes Career in Policymaking
Meet Megan Rowe, an accomplished senior Bachelor of Social Work degree student at Saint Leo University who has her eyes on a career in policymaking.
Megan Rowe wants to make a difference in the world. To help her achieve this goal, she is close to polishing off an undergraduate social work degree from Saint Leo University before embarking on further education and career opportunities.
Rowe, who goes by “Meg” for short, was born in Kentucky but mostly grew up in Fort Myers, FL. The 21-year-old comes from a Puerto Rican family. She has an eight-year-old sister, Maite.
Rowe is a 2019 alumna of Estero High School in southwest Florida. She recalls making her first connection with Saint Leo University at a local college fair.
“I met an admissions counselor,” Rowe says. “I built a relationship with them and then got to visit University Campus. It was this connection with my admissions counselor that really solidified my decision to go to Saint Leo.”
She was also seeking an institution with a certain balance.
“It was really important for me to go where I would have a good academic experience and where I would feel comfortable,” she explains. “When I did an overnight stay there, I immediately felt comfortable and knew it was a good fit for me.”
Academically, she especially liked how Saint Leo offers small class sizes. She says that many of her classes in high school were larger than most of her college classes have been.
Rowe chose to pursue the Bachelor of Social Work degree program. And what inspired her to select this major?
“I originally was going to be an education major,” she says. “At my high school, we had a counselor who also went to Saint Leo for the BSW program who convinced me to be a social work major. I also talked to Dr. Veronika Ospina Kammerer (VOK) about working in nonprofits, policymaking, government bills, and community organizing. This sounded more like what I wanted to do.”
Additionally, she says her mom made an impression on her to consider this field of study and Saint Leo in general. She began the social work degree program in the fall of 2019.
When asked about who has impacted her most from the faculty members in the program, she has so many positive things to say about all of her instructors.
“It’s kind of hard to choose certain professors because they have all been influential in different ways. Dr. VOK was big on providing a welcoming environment in her classroom where we could all ask questions and feel comfortable doing so. She also spoke a lot about her personal experience working in the field.”
She says it was Prof. Christina Cazanave who influenced her to consider policymaking as a career focus.
“We have done lots of hands-on activities in her classes,” Rowe says. “She has given me a lot of support but also some constructive criticism that has helped me a lot.”
Dr. Debra Thrower has been a big help to her as well.
“Dr. Thrower emphasizes using creativity in social work,” she says. “One of my favorite classes was Social Work Practice Methods II. We got to spend the whole class being creative. We created our own groups we wanted to facilitate as a social worker. I focused on troubled high school girls. It was a great way to get practical experience as if we were working in this setting.”
She adds that Dr. Ebony Perez, chair of the undergraduate social work degree program, has influenced her interest in policy work as well.
“Those ladies have all been a big guiding hand for me.”
Rowe is already fully aware of the challenges social work professionals sometimes experience in the field. However, thanks to the Saint Leo social work degree program curriculum, she feels prepared to handle them.
“It’s important to remember why you are going into this field. The professors in this program do prioritize mental health and self-care.”
Since starting at Saint Leo University as a freshman, Rowe has lived on campus. She explains the benefits of living in the heart of campus.
“One thing about living on campus is making friends. You can always be around your friends and peers. If I’m ever struggling with something, there is a great support system. Also, if there are events going on, they are just a short walk away from my apartment.”
Along with convenience, living on campus has opened the door to her getting involved in several groups and organizations. Last year, she served as the social media chair of the Social Work Club and remains a member. Through this club, she has helped the Benedictine Sisters with gardening and also volunteered for a Halloween event at Little Cat Rescue, a nonprofit in Zephyrhills. She is also part of the e-board for the Student Ambassadors group. Plus, she is a member of the Phi Alpha Honor Society chapter on campus and helped collect household goods for Sunrise of Pasco County.
With the 2022 midterm elections on the horizon, Rowe is currently working with Prof. Cazanave and another student in the social work degree program, Vanessa Navarro, on the “Why Vote?” campaign.
“We have a voter registration drive coming up,” she says. “We are pushing people to vote and raising awareness about the importance of this.”
When it comes to hobbies, Rowe admits she is obsessed with reality TV. She is also big into art, photography, painting, and pottery. She played volleyball in high school and tries not to miss a chance to play recreationally. Plus, she also enjoys visiting Your Turn, a board game cafe in Zephyrhills.
Rowe is proud to have won some awards as a Saint Leo student. In the spring of 2022, she was presented with the Leven Chuck Wilson Scholarship. She received $1,000 toward her tuition for this recognition.
“I was completely surprised to win this award,” she says. “I was going to class and doing my work, but I didn’t realize I was making an impact on others. It was very validating to get this scholarship, and it was nice to be recognized for my academics.”
Her team also won first place in What Matters on Mane Street, a social impact competition put on by Saint Leo with several community sponsors and supporters. She worked alongside Dr. Perez, Maria Santos, an adjunct instructor and former staff member, and Sevana Gunn, a fellow social work major. They developed the idea of Leo’s Market to offer fresh and affordable produce. Her team won $1,000 for earning the top spot in the category titled “A Program That Matters.”
“We will use the money to kickstart this business concept,” she says. “We would love to be able to partner with a local grocery store and offer a fresh market on campus.”
Out of the six Saint Leo University core values, Rowe confides that community and personal development have been quite relevant to her journey as a college student.
“The communities I have both within and outside of the classroom are great support systems,” she says. “I would also say personal development because I was more shy and less talkative before coming to Saint Leo. Joining clubs and organizations on campus and being in the social work degree program have helped me break out of my shell.”
Based on these core values, she offers up some advice to anyone thinking about applying to Saint Leo.
“If you are more of a hands-on or interactive learner, Saint Leo is perfect for you. In every class I’ve taken, the discussions have always been a main method of learning. If you like that type of learning, this is a school where you will thrive. It is also really easy to get involved in things on campus. Everyone is so welcoming in the community here.”
In high school, she worked at Kinderworld Academy, a daycare in the Fort Myers area. During her freshman through junior years of college, Rowe worked in the University Campus Admissions office. This past summer, she got her first taste of the social work field as part of her degree program requirement. She began working for a nonprofit focusing on child welfare called JusticeWorks Family of Services.
“My job is to get referrals from my supervisor, analyze them, and then reach out to either the parents or caregivers involved in each case to conduct a visitation. Some visits are in person and others are virtual. I am mainly checking on children from birth to 17 years old.”
This coming spring, she will start a position with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
After completing her bachelor’s degree from Saint Leo, Rowe has her sights set on a Master of Social Work degree program and potentially going on for a law degree. She is also very interested in career options with the Pace Center for Girls and the American civil liberties union (ACLU).
“I want to dabble in working with all populations to get as much experience as I can,” she says.
Photo credit: The photographs included in this blog article were provided by Megan Rowe and are used with permission.