Social Work

Staying Connected in a Virtual World as a Graduate Student

Written By: Lauren Taylor, UCF CBHRT | May 7, 2021

UCF student sits at table with laptop open and books on table
Graduate Research Assistant Serenea Hines is featured as the CBHRT's student of the month

The UCF School of Social Work’s Center for Behavioral Health Research and Training (CBHRT) spotlights Research Assistants (RA) and Graduate Research Assistants (GRA) each month who support CBHRT’s mission of expanding research expertise and scientific discovery to improve best practices and behavioral health outcomes for local, national and global communities.  Serenea Hines is CBHRT’s inaugural Student of the Month for April.

Serenea Hines always knew she wanted to be a therapist but did not know that a degree in social work was the route for her. After earning a Bachelor of Science in psychology, she discovered that the tenants of social work aligned closely with the personal values she sought to include in her future education and career. Inspired by its focus on cultural competencies and a holistic approach for client care, she decided to pursue an Online Master of Social Work (MSW) degree at UCF.

Hines worried she would struggle to establish meaningful connections with her cohort and professors, given the 100 percent virtual nature of her program. Surprisingly, she found she could still have the “classroom” experience with her cohort and formed meaningful bonds (e.g., virtual meetings, group chats, and course discussion boards). Hines was also excited to engage in research as a GRA. “I have been able to work alongside Dr. Kim Gryglewicz on some great grant research, like the LINC Project. It’s exciting to learn from an expert who is not only passionate about the research, but also the results,” said Hines. Along with her experience with SPSS data entry, and analysis of quantitative and qualitative data, Hines had the opportunity to co-author publications and will be undertaking a literature review for an upcoming publication.

After graduating, Hines plans to use her GRA experience and mentorship to guide her goal of merging clinical work with academic research. “One of my big professional goals after obtaining my clinical license is to get certified for the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists to explore research into sexual health behavior.” Her time in Germany for three years also piqued her interest in perceptions of climate change and its effects on cultures and individuals. “Since my travels abroad, I’ve been intrigued by the emotional effects of climate change. While I haven’t been able to deeply explore this research now, I am eager to learn more and build upon my current expertise as an MSW graduate student at UCF.”


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