GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.,—A mother and daughter from Grand Rapids, Cathy Langereis and her daughter Joy Langereis, both decided that enrolling in the WMU-Grand Rapids master of social work program would help them advance their careers and gain applicable knowledge in the field that they’re passionate about.
Joy Langereis graduated from the WMU MSW program in 2016 and works at Hope Network, a non-profit organization that helps individuals with disabilities live independently, while Cathy Langereis is in her first MSW semester as she continues her work at Grand Rapids Public Schools.
Cathy Langereis has worked at GRPS for 17 years in their special education department. She began her career with them as a preschool classroom teacher and since 2010 has been a service coordinator. As a service coordinator, she supports parents with children who have severe disabilities to establish learning and social goals within the family’s daily routine which led her to look into the MSW program at WMU.
“I was prompted to enroll in WMU’s MSW program when I did a presentation for parents on the emotions of having a child with disabilities,” said Cathy. “And at that moment, I realized that there is a healing power in being able to help parents through a difficult time in their life.”
Additionally, if it weren’t for Joy leaving one of her WMU textbooks within arms reach of her mother around the time of her presentation, Cathy wouldn’t have discovered that there is still so much to learn.
“One day I found myself with one of Joy’s textbooks and I just started reading,” said Cathy. “I realized that there is a lot of material on recent social work policies that I didn’t know anything about and I knew it was important that I continue my education because I work in today’s social work world.”
As a part of her job Cathy also interviews parents and supports them with plans for goal acquisition, grief counseling, and post partum depression awareness and finds that she is applying her WMU coursework to her job.
“So far, my coursework has been very interesting and applicable to my job, especially my core concepts in trauma and psychopathology course” said Cathy. “I utilize social work practices in my job through reflective listening, grief counseling, creating family cohesiveness, and more.”
Similar to her mother, Joy uses what she researched at WMU to benefit her patients at Hope Network. She provides case management for seniors with mental illness by helping them obtain goals and create care plans.
“The faculty at WMU helped to illuminate the possibilities that are associated with a social work career and encouraged me to explore what I am interested in,” said Joy. “I was exposed to many great opportunities at WMU and am thankful for my experiences.”
Before beginning her position with Hope Network, Joy traveled to New Orleans, Louisiana to present her research on artistic, holistic treatments and programs for anxiety. She also traveled to Salamanca, Spain with Dr. Dee Ann Sherwood, WMU-Grand Rapids MSW program director, to present research on strategies for developing intercultural competencies at the International Conference of the European Council for Social Research on Latin America.
“I’m really excited to grow my social work career at Hope Network but will miss WMU, academia and the thrill of finding great literature,” said Joy. “I look forward to additional opportunities that come along to conduct and present research.”
Although Cathy and Joy Langereis are at different stages in their careers, the WMU-Grand Rapids MSW program was ideal for both. The MSW program prepares students of all ages to advocate for social and economic justice and for the personal well-being for all people. Students learn to identify and correct the individual and social causes of problems using a dynamic person-in-environment perspective.
“Earning my MSW is allowing me to better serve families at GRPS but will also help me start a new chapter after retirement,” said Cathy. “I hope to offer trauma, health, and spirituality counseling for individuals that align with my personal passions of clean-eating and faith.”
Cathy and Joy Langereis both earned their undergraduate degrees from Grand Valley State University. Additionally, Cathy earned a master’s degree in educational psychology from Michigan State University.
Learn more information on the MSW program