The following faculty Q&A was submitted by the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Faculty Advocacy Committee, a committee of the Faculty Senate. Quin Sullivan, professor of social work, wrote the introduction.
My valued colleague, Fredi Giesler, is coordinator of the Masters of Social Work program, which is a unique program because it is fully collaborative with University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. The program itself has met with enormous success, just as was expected since previously professional social workers in the northern part of the state had to travel to Madison or Milwaukee to complete advanced degrees. Fredi is interested in the common good of the program and is always willing to go the extra mile for it. She is fun to work with, a true team player, and just different enough to enjoy the hectic pace of keeping this relatively new program up and running.
Fredi sets the bar appropriately high for others in the department and for her students. She inspires those around her, takes her work very seriously and does it in an outstanding fashion. But she is never shy about laughing and enjoying the light-hearted nature of all that can be — at the same time — troubling, exasperating, joyful, scary and perplexing. She helps make work a productive and fun place to be.
How did you find your way to UW Oshkosh?
My father is a retired Air Force sergeant, and while we lived a majority of the time in Washington State, we lived in Upper Michigan and Guam as well. When the UW Oshkosh Department of Social Work offered me the opportunity to work in a program with both an undergraduate program and a new and developing master’s degree program, I was excited for the opportunity of a new adventure.
Why did you choose to go into your field?
Since I was 16, I knew I wanted to be a social worker. I have always been concerned about the needs of children and families, and even as an undergraduate social work major, I was interested in program administration and research. I wanted to make sure my efforts with families really made a difference.
My professional social work experience included many opportunities to work with community leaders and policy makers to promote evidence-based social service interventions and programs. These efforts eventually lead me to seek a doctoral degree in social welfare to continue this research and empower new social workers to engage in such efforts.
What is your favorite thing about UW Oshkosh?
The Department of Social Work faculty and staff are by far the best group of people I have ever had the good fortune to work with. Everyone is committed to providing high quality service to students and the community. I work with some of the best problem-solvers I have ever encountered, and we have a good time doing it. It is a pleasure to come to work every day. The graduate students are also particularly creative and hard-working. Most of them maintain full-time jobs and thriving families and may travel 75 miles or more to class. My work helping students become leaders in the field of social work is very rewarding.
What is the professional accomplishment of which you are most proud?
I worked in Washington State in the area of child welfare for 20 years before earning my doctorate in social welfare from the University of Washington in Seattle. My dissertation focused on the implementation of the Early Head Start Program, which serves low-income children from birth to age 3. Because of my community connections, I was able to see the development of the Early Head Start program from conceptualization and initial federal funding to presentation of final research results to Congress in 2002.
I was part of a group of nationally recognized early childhood researchers who published a paper on the importance of understanding the relationship between program outcomes and program implementation for family support programs. My interest in this area is directly related to my commitment and attention to program development. I continue to be connected to this group of researchers.
What leadership or service activities are you involved in?
I work with the Northeast Wisconsin County Social Service Administrators to coordinate Master of Social Work education with agency training needs. I am also working with a social worker in Winnebago County to develop a parenting program for traumatized families. I am starting to work on the Race Unity Social in Oshkosh, and I help out with my daughter’s musical theatre program. My role with the Collaborative Master of Social Work program also facilitates my participation in a number of departmental, University and community-based committees.
What is the most common misperception about what you do?
When I say I work in the area of child abuse prevention, many people think that means child protection, and they are sensitive to how difficult that kind of work is. When I explain that it really means parent education and family support, they usually want to learn more.
What is the most exciting project you are working on right now?
I am exploring factors that influence County Human Service Board members’ decisions regarding child welfare policy. This is joint work with a social work student from Marian University in Fond du Lac. We plan to survey Human Service Board members from a variety of Wisconsin Counties to better understand what influences the policy and budgeting decisions they make to keep children safe and support families.
How does what you research help you to be an effective teacher?
All social work students complete a 400-plus hour internship in a social service agency as a part of their education. The department’s supervision of these students enhances the quality and availability of services to individuals in need in the community.
The Collaborative Masters of Social Work Program provides federally funded stipends to students who are interested in working in child welfare services (e.g., child protection, foster care and adoption). These stipends pay for their tuition. In return the students agree to work for a county or tribal child welfare agency for up to two years after they graduate. This ensures well-educated, professional social workers are working with the most vulnerable people in our communities, abused children.
Describe some ways your department serves Northeastern Wisconsin.
Members of the social work faculty regularly engage in research and program evaluation activities with community-based agencies. These reports often result in additional or continued funding and improvement to available community services.
Tell us about your family.
I am a single mother of two wonderful daughters. Elyse is a junior at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash. She is studying geology, and she plans to attend graduate school to study dinosaurs. We enjoy hiking, movies and video chatting together. Bailey, who is in kindergarten in Oshkosh, is a princess and musical theatre diva. I think she has a future in showbiz. My parents and sisters live in Washington State, and we visit together as much as possible.
What are your hobbies?
I try to visit a different national park every summer and quilt in the winter. I enjoy playing tennis, riding my bike and hiking on trails in the area. When the weather is warm, I ride my bike to campus as often as possible. I am always reading a book and belong to a book group. In addition, my daughter encouraged me to participate in National Novel Writing Month by writing a novel in November.
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