We would like to introduce Jo Ann Regan, dean of the National Catholic School of Social Service, one of three new deans who started at Catholic University over the summer. This interview was originally conducted for the 1887 Society's monthly newsletter.
What are you most excited about as you begin your tenure with Catholic University?
Jo Ann Regan: I am excited to be part of an academic and faith community of students, faculty, and staff at Catholic University. The University community brings together students and faculty from all over the world pursuing different academic interests and passions. I enjoy meeting people from different backgrounds and feel we learn from each other to enhance our own intellectual and spiritual growth.
What does Catholic University mean to you?
JAR: The mission of Catholic University resonates with me both personally and professionally given my own Catholic identity and my values as a social worker. The University and NCSSS with its 100-plus year history preparing social workers, has a long history of providing education grounded in the Catholic social teaching, as well as in the tradition of a modern university that welcomes all forms of human inquiry. I am also excited to join NCSSS' faculty, staff, and more than 7,000 alumni who promote individual and societal well-being.
The University and NCSSS with its 100-plus year history preparing social workers, has a long history of providing education grounded in the Catholic social teaching, as well as in the tradition of a modern university that welcomes all forms of human inquiry.— Jo Ann Regan
How are you planning to engage students and alumni in the mission of NCSSS?
JAR: I am beginning my third month at Catholic University and have been focused on listening and learning from faculty, staff, students, and alumni. Due to COVID-19, most of this has occurred on Zoom meetings or phone calls, which are more challenging than being in person. I have been doing virtual student town hall meetings and plan to have a weekly virtual office hour so students can drop in to talk about the mission of NCSSS and their views on the way forward. I am also hoping to do the same thing with alumni to engage them in this process. We are planning a "Fireside Chat" where I will be interviewed by Professor Emeritus Dr. Joe Shields, who retired in 2019 after 42 years, to reflect on the past and discuss the future of NCSSS.
I look forward to when we get on the other side of this pandemic to meet in person with more students and alumni to share in the mission of NCSSS "to educate students from diverse faiths and cultures who in their professional endeavors will embody the values of social justice, service, and scholarship." This mission is grounded in the justice and charity foundation of Catholic social teachings.
How will you continue to answer the unfolding impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic?
JAR: Social workers are essential to addressing the impacts of COVID-19, and many of our students are placed in field internships helping clients find the resources and support they need. Our students are providing mental health support and addressing challenges in areas such as finance, employment, and relationships impacted by this pandemic. With children out of school, many families are struggling to manage their daily routines, and we are seeing increases in domestic violence, child abuse, homelessness, and addiction. This pandemic has also highlighted the racial disparities in healthcare and the need for systemic changes.
We are planning a "Fireside Chat" where I will be interviewed by Professor Emeritus Dr. Joe Shields, who retired in 2019 after 42 years, to reflect on the past and discuss the future of NCSSS.— Jo Ann Regan
I want to make sure that our social work students are prepared for the challenges brought on by COVID-19. Social distancing guidelines have meant that safety needs to be a priority and that traditional, in-person appointments have moved to telehealth services that require new engagement skills. Our faculty and field office have been working with students and field supervisors to provide training in safety, telehealth, and racial disparities so that students are prepared to address these issues in their field placements.
Why is support to your school's annual fund important to you? How are you planning to spend gifts directed to this fund this year?
JAR: The annual fund allows us to further enhance the educational experience for our students in ways that extend beyond what the University can do. Last year, the annual fund was used to upgrade Shahan Hall, where our school is located. I would like to continue these enhancements by creating an area where students can gather and be together in person. Due to COVID-19, our students have been engaging online since March, so I feel it will be very important to have an updated student lounge area when they return to campus.
I would like to partner with School of Architecture and Planning students to help create an inviting space that would be designed by their peers for our students to collaborate and reconnect. Right now, the student lounge is located in the basement that is actually called "The Terrace." I would love for our new student space to be designed as if it were a terrace where students could gather in between classes and for meals.
Along with students having to be online for their courses, many of their field internships have become virtual experiences. We would also like to create a space where simulated practice could happen, where students could practice their social work skills, such as interviewing. This would be similar to what health professional students do in a hospital setting, but we would create a home or clinical environment similar to what they would experience in their actual field placement.
Given that I was adopted from the Philippines as a child, I chose social work as a career because I wanted to make a difference in the lives of children and families.— Jo Ann Regan
How will your clinical experience impact the way you work with students?
JAR: Given that I was adopted from the Philippines as a child, I chose social work as a career because I wanted to make a difference in the lives of children and families. I began my career in Child Protective Services, specifically with children and families affected by child sexual abuse. Although this was a difficult job, I found it to be one of the most rewarding, as I felt I was making a difference in the lives of vulnerable children. As I work with students, I hope to instill that same passion and commitment to making a difference and helping vulnerable individuals and communities in need. I could not be more proud to be a social worker, and want students to graduate with that same feeling about our profession.
Can you describe your most rewarding experience in helping a patient and/or client?
JAR: As a Child Protective Services social worker, your goal was always to reunite families (if possible). It was always rewarding to help families do the hard work to strengthen their relationships so they could be together. I also worked for Catholic Charities, which provided residential treatment services to children who could not be in a foster home. While many of these children had difficult and complex needs after suffering abuse and neglect, it was rewarding to be part of a faith-based organization and work with other professionals committed to helping children heal from the traumatic effects of abuse and neglect.
Who inspires you most in your life?
JAR: I am always inspired by people who choose to serve a cause or mission greater than themselves. Drew Faust, former president of Harvard University, gave a speech after the Boston Marathon bombing where she talked about first responders and spectators who, instead of running away, ran toward victims, risking their own safety to see if they could help. She encouraged students to live a life of "running toward not just your own dreams, but running toward where you can help." I am especially inspired by previous generations that served and sacrificed for our country so that succeeding generations can choose to live a life of "running toward." It is inspiring to be around students as they make their career and life decisions that serve and help others.
What is your favorite thing to do in D.C.?
JAR: There are so many great things to see and do in D.C., but I especially love the cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin. They bloom around my birthday, which is always a great way to celebrate my birthday.
Learn more about the appointment of Jo Ann Regan as dean of the National Catholic School of Social Service. Next, we will publicly share an interview with Thomas Smith, M.A. 1988, who has returned to campus as the new dean of the School of Arts and Sciences. Previously, we shared an interview with Mark Ferguson, the new dean of the School of Architecture and Planning.
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