Part Time Faculty Spotlight: Shemika Whiteside

Shemika, please tell us about yourself. 

Greetings and salutations! I am originally from Springfield, IL and moved to Kentucky in 2002 to attend Berea College in Berea, KY. I was asked to return home in 2004 by my maternal grandmother (who saw those “Girls Gone Wild” commercials and felt she needed to keep a close eye on me...*sigh*) and graduated from the University of Illinois-Springfield in 2006 with a B.A. in Liberal Studies (minor in African-American Studies). I love Kentucky and returned to complete my MSSW at the University of Louisville in 2013. Over the years, my professional roles have included mobile assessment clinician, case management supervisor, and currently: Co-Founder/Executive Director of Zora’s Cradle

Zora’s Cradle is a maternity program that provides essential services (housing, case management, doula supports, behavioral therapy, etc.) to homeless, expectant mothers. One of the primary objectives of the program is to address the racial disparities that persist in maternal morbidity and infant health amongst Black Women and Latinx. In a nutshell, I put on my cape (it’s pink suede, by the way. LOL!) each morning to save mamas! I LOVE what I do!

Where else have you instructed and what brought you to the Kent School of Social Work? 

Prior to teaching at the Kent School of Social Work, I taught as an adjunct instructor for the Human Services Department at Ivy Tech Community College in Sellersburg, Indiana. I was there from 2015 to 2019. My favorite course to teach was “Understanding Human Diversity.”

Who has influenced you the most in life and why?

Lisa Borgen! She was my supervisor during my time at Father Maloney’s Boys’ & Girls’ Haven. She taught me about advocacy, ensuring my work was polished, and being comfortable in my own skin. She was firm, yet friendly. I model my current leadership style after her. She also has her MSSW and encouraged me to pursue higher education. If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t be able to afford to get my MSSW degree. She helped me to pay out-of-pocket school costs and with securing my practicum in another department at the agency.

Why were you interested in studying social work? 

I have always loved helping people! Helping others to access their basic needs and enhance their social functioning is one of the most gratifying experiences I have ever had. During my studies, I learned that I also have an affinity for all things data and research related in the field of social work. (Kudos to Dr. Andy Frey and Dr. Theresa Hayden, my previous instructors).

What are you teaching this semester? 

I am teaching SW 601 Human Behavior in theSocial Environment and SW 668 Program Evaluation in Social Work

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

I love watching the “Aha!” on a student’sface the moment they have learned something in my class. It is even more gratifying to watch that same student teaching a student who may have been absent the same material. Kent School has some promising future scholars sitting in our classrooms. The field of social work is in great hands!

I love SW 601, especially reading the journal assignments. It helps me to extend further support to students. COVID-19 had a heartbreaking impact on many of our students. I spoke with those in need privately and connected them to community-based resources.

Staying current can be difficult at times. I often try to make the lessons tangible by bridging things I deem to be relatable to the students into the class, especially from the media. However, I am slowly learning that I can be out of touch at times. Last semester during a class, I tried to demonstrate the impact of the ACEs by using Mike Tyson as an example. A student yelled out “Who is Mike Tyson?” Another student replied “He’s an actor! He was in that movie! You know. “The Hangover!” I shared that he had a lengthy career as a boxer prior to this. This remark was met with a classroom full of confused faces and a student yelling out “Are you sure?”. *sigh* I’ve gotta watch more MTV or whatever students arewatching these days....

How do you bring your experience into the classroom? 

The great thing about social work is its versatility. I love bringing my experience from previous courses and places of employment into the classroom to further assist students. As someone who previously worked with clients with intellectual disabilities, I try to remember that all students learn differently. There is no “one-size-fits-all" way of teaching. I work to ensure that my lessons accommodate students with visual, auditory, etc. needs, even if they don’t mention they prefer a certain method. I am often thanked after class by a student who didn’t understand the lecture, but understood the video resources I secured and shared in class.

What about the Kent School of Social Work most excites you?

In addition to meeting all of the awesome students each semester, I love reading the research directory. I have read the 2020 Research Directory repeatedly. The publications section is jaw- dropping. When do these folks find the time to crank out this awesome work? It is beyond inspiring! I am excited to see Kent School’s continued contributions to the field of social work!

What other projects are you working on right now?

I am currently working on my CEU presentation on 10/15 for Kent School entitled"Trauma- Informed Maternal Care for Survivors of Abuse and Neglect". My team and I are also working on developing a 2022 trainings calendar for perinatal mental health for the community and practitioners. Stay tuned!

Why is this topic(s) important to you? 

Maternal morbidity in the United States doubledin 1983 and the rate has never gone down. This is a crisis that is slowly coming to light, but there remains limited research in this area. Heartbreaking....

How do you like to spend your free time?

I love spending my free time with my husband and son. Eating dinner, playing board games (my husband cheats at “Life”, but refuses to admit it), and simply shooting the breeze is pretty standard in my home daily

Trivia tournaments. Pre-COVID, my husband and I loved going to local pubs to eat wings and take part in trivia tournaments. My specialty is the sitcom “The Golden Girls”. So, if anyone is ever short a player and that is the topic, give me a jingle! :)