Hitting the Ground Running

Stephanie Birchfield is a Human Services Leadership major starting her senior year at UW-Oshkosh. Originally from Neenah, Wisconsin, Stephanie moved to Stevens Point shortly after graduating high school to pursue a degree in Elementary Education. After spending two years studying at UWSP Stephanie realized that while she loved helping children learn, her true passion is helping those in need. As a result, Stephanie transferred to UW-Oshkosh her junior year in search of a career in Human Services.

Stephanie has had the pleasure of interning at the UWSP Continuing Education office as well as volunteering at organizations such as the Boys’ and Girls’ Club, the Boys’ and Girls’ Brigade, and the Oshkosh Area Community Pantry. She is looking forward to helping others in a new setting as she begins her initial Human Services internship this fall. Follow along as Stephanie shares her experiences at the Emergency Shelter of the Fox Valley.

I have been interning at the Emergency Shelter of the Fox Valley for nearly a month now, and up to this point it has been quite an eye opening experience.  During my first two weeks at the shelter, I was asked to conduct interviews with clients (known as “residents”) of the shelter and obtain their feedback on the shelter’s overall performance. Speaking one-on-one with these individuals was very interesting, and allowed me to work with a very diverse group of people.

Many of the residents living at the shelter struggle with mental or physical illnesses, and I found myself having to adapt the way I communicated with each and every resident I spoke with. This was a very eye opening experience for me and helped me realize how important interpersonal skills and the ability to read other people are in this profession.

Within my first few days at the shelter, I was also quick to learn that I was entering a very fast-paced work environment. With funding being cut for nearly every non-profit organization in the state, many have had to reduce the amount of staff they employ in order to reduce costs.

The Emergency Shelter of the Fox Valley is no exception to this growing trend, and their employees have had to take on extra workloads in order to maintain their facility and programs while being a bit understaffed. While it can get a bit stressful at times, I am finding the need to multitask and work quickly to be quite exhilarating. The work at that I am doing at the Emergency Shelter is helping me develop the skills necessary to work in this type of fast-paced environment, and has helped me realize that I enjoy the unpredictability of the Human Services field.

As an intern at the Emergency Shelter of the Fox Valley, I have been very lucky to be surrounded by Human Service workers that are willing to teach me as much as they can about the work they do. I have had the opportunity to shadow the House Supervisors at ESFV (who work the most with residents and help maintain order around the shelter) as well as speak with Case Managers about the ways in which they give residents access to the resources they need to become independent.

The Senior Staff at the Emergency Shelter (such as the Executive Director and Deputy Director) have also given me some great insight into the Human Services field, and have allowed me to sit in on a planning meeting with them and the Board of Directors. I feel that I have learned so much about myself and the career I am pursuing in the past month, and the Emergency Shelter of the Fox Valley has only reinforced my desire to become a Human Services worker.

My experience at the shelter has been very enriching so far, and I look forward to learning more about myself and the Human Services field in the weeks to come.

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