Remark-a-Bull Podcast: Stories from USF Social Work

Conial Caldwell, Jr.

Episode Summary

Conial Caldwell, Jr., MSW, is a USF School of Social Work visiting instructor. In this episode, Conial shares his passion for researching the lived expertise of African American Fathers.

Episode Notes

Conial Caldwell, Jr. discusses his professional journey from Washington, D.C. back to the academy. Conial describes the importance of integrating our clinical work and that of a more macro nature. He discusses how understanding the clinical aspects of social work has informed his policy making ideals.

Learn more about an MSW at the University of South Florida's School of Social Work here.

Learn more about the School of Social Work at the University of South Florida here

Episode Transcription

Chris Groeber: Hi. I’m Chris Groeber, and I’m an associate in research at the University of South Florida’s College of Behavioral and Community Sciences School of Social Work. Welcome to the Remark-a-bull podcast. 

[Instrumental music]

Chris Groeber: We’re interviewing a guy today who is, actually, he doesn't know it, but he was directly responsible for me thinking, “gosh this is a really important idea to get these stories out onto the street.” Conial Caldwell Jr. applied for a job at USF and I was in on the interview committee and I got to hear his story. In doing so, I thought, “this is a really important story, people need to hear how this guy really took on social work and took on academia and all those things as a career.” So I thought, “heck let's interview him and talk to him about it.” So here we are. Conial, I am really excited to dig in and learn even more. It's so fun; it's almost like church for me, for those who had that church experience, to hear your stories, and it really inspires me. So, I just want you to know I am really excited to be here with you this morning. So tell me, what the heck moved you toward social work as a career?

Conial Caldwell Jr.: So initially with social work, starting school I wanted to be an occupational therapist, right?

Chris Groeber: Starting in college or in high school or what?

Conial Caldwell Jr.: College. So in college, I wanted to be an occupational therapist. So, doing courses in occupational therapy, it got to the point where we had to do our observational hours within the hospital and during that time I would witness people in the ICU that would have a few weeks to live. I experienced people who have elephantiasis, or children with different ailments that prevented them to walk or missing limbs and things of that sort. It just really made me sad. Being in that space I didn't think I would want to do that type of work. So I went back to the drawing boards to figure out what else I can do to be active in the community, but also have the ability to do some type of counseling or therapy. My guidance counselor at the time, she gave me this test that pointed out many different career options and social work was there. Well, psychology and social work were there. Psychology, like what would I be able to do with psychology? And you know if you want to go into psychology you're probably going to have to go and get your doctorate to really be successful in the field. I don't know if I really want go to school for that long, right? Which I ended up doing anyway.

Chris Groeber: Yeah. (Laughs.)

Conial Caldwell Jr.: Then I saw social work and I was like, “what is social work?” Like I kind of heard it before. I did the research to kind of figure out what in the career field you would be able to do and you can be boots on the ground, go get the doctorate and be engaged in research, or you could be a counselor, so I just love the different options that the career provided, with also being also to engage with communities, people in need, and things of that sort. So that's why I went the social work route.

Chris Groeber: So you got your BSW at Florida A&M?

Conial Caldwell Jr.: Yes.

Chris Groeber: So talk about that, talk about the importance and the part that graduating from a historically Black college or university really played in your career formation.

Conial Caldwell Jr.: Graduating from Florida A&M was ... my experience there was great! It helped me build some of the self-esteem and confidence that's needed when going into the field. You know, especially when advocating for different populations of people. Just to have a voice being in the BSW program there. There's a lot of advocacy efforts, being involved in policy, being involved in you know, some of the community issues and things of that sort. It was a really great experience, both being in the BSW program and being a graduate, my whole experience at FAMU. So in terms of like being professionally engaged in policy, being able to identify key issues, or how those issues impact different communities and different environments. That's really what made me hone in on that and helped really kind of pushed me to go to get the masters in public administration. Being able to look at policies and how, you know, as a social worker, having that social work background, how can I also develop skills to help people within certain communities, but also help relay how different policies and practices could have a negative impact on people in disenfranchised communities.

Chris Groeber: So you were at an HBCU and you were in social work, so it really upped the policy game for you. So did you come out of that BSW thinking, “oh I'm going to be a macro-practitioner?” So when you got ready to graduate from that program, tell me where your head was and what you were thinking about at that time?

Conial Caldwell Jr.: So at the time I really wanted to do clinical, because I was so engaged in the macro piece. It was advocacy, policy, and those type of things. So I always wanted to see what it was like in the clinical space, right? So at the time, I made the grades to be admitted to advanced standing programs and my plan was to go get the MSW advanced standing, complete all the requirements necessary for a LCSW, get the LCSW, maybe work for maybe a year or so, and start my own private practice and provide clinically. But that took a change, you know I'm not doing clinical work at all.

Chris Groeber: So what happened? I mean so what happened to make the shift?

Conial Caldwell Jr.: A lot of different things, right? So I graduate from the BSW program, wanted to get a ... wanted to go on to the MSW program but during that break, before starting the MSW I was applying for jobs. Those salaries, I wasn't comfortable with the salaries. But at the time there was a lot of things going on politically with the Tea Party and Trayvon Martin incident. In terms of advocacy, being involved in the community and things of that sort, I just wanted to kind of focus on that, so I stayed at FAMU to get a master's in applied social science with a concentration in public administration. Later I moved to DC, but then came back to USF to do the advanced standing here because I wanted to make sure I had the best of both worlds and able to apply macro, mezzo, and micro, encompass all those things within the career. I think, counseling, I kind of got burnt out a little bit. You take on so much from ... and I was doing individual group counseling with adolescents. Hearing those experiences, some of the same lived experiences, even still kind of see how policy impacts people and you're trying to remedy it by providing needed therapy, but these students and these children still go back in those environments where they're being triggered, they get pulled back into some of the same cycles. For me, it kind of, like, it burnt me out. Especially wanting the change and have them experience the change, but then a lot of that change has to be internal.

Chris Groeber: So if I'm tracking then, you got your bachelor's, you got your master's in public administration at FAMU, went to DC, and then did you come back to USF to get the MSW? Did you, like, physically come back to Tampa?

Conial Caldwell Jr.: Yes, so when I was in DC, I was a grants management specialist with the Department of Health and at the time I was admitted into a doctoral program in sociology.

Chris Groeber: Oh wow!

Conial Caldwell Jr.: So I was like okay I'm going to go get my PhD in sociology, do some research, but then started to think, “ah with sociology I wouldn't be able to really engage in practice as I would be able to in social work,” right?

Chris Groeber: Right.

Conial Caldwell Jr.: I wanted to make sure I still had boots on the ground and things of that sort ... being able to engage as like a practitioner. I came back, moved back to Tampa, and started the advanced standing program here at USF.

Chris Groeber: So were you married at the time or what, what was going on like personally? How did you ... that's a lot of stuff going on, so what was going on personally?

Conial Caldwell Jr.: Yeah, so I wasn't married at the time. Me and my wife now, we were together then. She was living in Jacksonville, Florida working and I was in DC. I would commute back and forth and at the time. My daughter was about, I would say she was about two or three and I was commuting from DC to Jacksonville whenever I had time to travel and things of that sort. Again, I would be back in Florida, be closer to them as well, but thinking long-term. Long-term what's going to make me happy? Am I going to be happy just doing research? Or, you know, not being not able to engage in ways I want to be. I don't think I would be happy. So you know, I chose something. Even though the money I was making in DC was really, really good, I chose to kind of, like, pursue the MSW because it would enable me to engage in ways that I want to engage with the public.

Chris Groeber: So Conial, its always fascinating to me, like when I teach in the MSW program, our non-traditional students who, like, went to work and came back. So what did that balance look like for you as an MSW student who was ... how old were you at the time?

Conial Caldwell Jr.: Uh when I came back for the MSW I want to say I was about 23, maybe?

Chris Groeber: 23- 24 so, you were ... you came in you had a lot of stuff packed in a short amount of time. You'd had a lot of experiences. So how did you balance that? Did you work while you did your MSW?

Conial Caldwell Jr.: So it was tough because I was making really great money in DC.

Chris Groeber: Right!

Conial Caldwell Jr.: And I'm coming back and I wasn't ... the advanced standing program, the way it's set up is not ... you can't work full time.

Chris Groeber: I'm glad you're saying that because I tell people that all the time and worry sometimes it's me that couldn't do it. (Laughs.)

Conial Caldwell Jr.: No, like the way the courses were structured, you know the rigor of the MSW advanced standing program here in addition to having to be in the field, there's no way that I would have been able to be successful in the program and work or attempt to work a full-time job.

Chris Groeber: Right.

Conial Caldwell Jr.: But I did work ... you know I had a lot of jobs like I would work at Footlocker part-time. Here at USF, they had the campus events, I would kind of, like, work some of the campus events things of that sort to kind of, like, help. But then I also applied for the minority fellowship program through NASW and CSWE and I was awarded a stipend from there that helped out a lot, that helped out a great deal, but it was also a great experience. I was ... it was a tough transition because you're like, “ah money, money wasn't an issue before whereas now it's like ah I have to go through the struggles of being a graduate student and not just a traditional graduate student, I have a family, I have a daughter.”

Chris Groeber: And a taste for living because you knew what it was like to make money before (laughs) got that whole comparison thing going on in your head.

Conial Caldwell Jr.: Right so a lot of little luxuries you have to cut back on, but it was well worth it. At the time it was ahh man I can't wait to get out of school, to go into the workforce, go back into the workforce, but it was definitely a struggle. 

Chris Groeber: So you do that, you get your MSW, then what?

Conial Caldwell Jr.: I get my MSW and so I applied for Tampa General. So I was like okay cool so I'm going to work in either Tampa General or I’m going to work within the school district. Those were my two options, didn't want to work anywhere else. But I also applied for DACO, I had like some colleagues from the MSW program that actually work at DACO at the time. They were like, “oh you should apply for DACO, they have a youth counselor position available,” and I was like, “I’ll apply just to apply, but I really want to go into school social work or work within the hospital setting, you know.” DACO gave me the offer and I was like man, you know, that wasn't my preference at the time and DACO was working more so with substance use, substance abuse, and behavioral management, those types of things. Like I really don't ... that's really not my interest. Within the first week of graduating, they gave me the offer and I went ahead and accepted the offer instead of having to wait to be interviewed and you know click with their process in terms of interviewing and submitting offers. Like you know what, it's not necessarily the setting that I want to be in but it's going to provide me with the experience that's needed to more develop as a practitioner.

Chris Groeber: Wow, and so you did that. When did the whole concept of, you know, I think I'll go back and get my PhD (laughs). So how did that get put into the mix?

Conial Caldwell Jr.: At DACO. DACO is one of those places where again I'm seeing how policy issues and you’re trying to provide certain services to people, students, and families that are in need but the living  environment and ... you know they're criminalized, certain people are criminalized, and then you have some of the people ... well they're adults now ... some of the clients I would have, they would come from upper-middle class backgrounds, where they would have lawyers to get them out of those situations, whereas you'd have these students, or these youth, that didn't have those same luxuries.

Chris Groeber: Right. The privilege, yeah.

Conial Caldwell Jr.: So, worked there for about a year and a half, ended up leaving to get another job with Hillsborough County School District. Also seeing the same thing; one of my first placements was Carver Exceptional Center, where there's those same student populations where they're dealing with a lot of community issues like violence, substance use, dual-diagnosed intellectual disabilities, as well as behavioral. Then I moved on and started working at McLane Middle where's a little better but then you still kind of see like the separation of you know certain students that live in certain environments or communities opposed to others. I kind of felt as if you know what, several reasons why the PhD. One, I'm young, I'm kind of young but I look younger than ..

Chris Groeber: Yeah you do look very .. yeah so you wear it well, my friend. So you walk with a purpose. (Laughs.)

Conial Caldwell Jr.: So then, the other thing is that ageism is a thing, right?

Chris Groeber: It is a thing, absolutely, trust me it's a thing. (Laughs.)

Conial Caldwell Jr.: In terms of me, it's like, “aw, I'm kind of young I can occupy this space but they only want to listen to me,” ... for certain roles I only get selected because I am the Black male.

Chris Groeber: Okay, alright.

Conial Caldwell Jr.: They want me to focus on, work on this right, but then there's other issues like a lot of people won't ... don't listen to you unless you have some type of title. But then also I kind of felt as if, you know what, being involved in research with the MSW/BSW program we always hear oh you know, research influences policy, policy influences practice, and it's this wheel. At the time it was like I don't care, but then going as a practitioner, being at DACO seeing how policy impacted.

Chris Groeber: That's a real thing. That really does happen, and they're not wrong about that, yeah. 

Conial Caldwell Jr.: Exactly so, and then you know um I'm thinking, well maybe it's just this setting that its happening to this population, and then you go into the school district it's like oh ...

Chris Groeber: It's there.

Conial Caldwell Jr.: It’s the same thing. It's here, so it's like, you know, I have this particular interest, I always have these questions, I always want to try to figure out solutions to these things. Like, you know what, why not get a PhD? That's what they do. Like they have these questions, they engage in research, and they try to find best practices, especially with social work, you know do the evaluations or to make ... shine light on certain situations with the specific group or population of people. And you’re like, you know what, let me try to do this and hopefully that kind of places me in a setting where ... or position where I'm able to kind of like highlight some of the key issues or things of my interest it can help mediate or like some of the issues that the students and families, people ...

Chris Groeber: It's kind of your opportunity to go upstream and see where the kids are coming from that were flowing down the river right? I mean it’s to go up and see ... is there a place I can help stop the flow?

Conial Caldwell Jr.: Right, right, yeah. 

Chris Groeber: Alright, so most of us don't do this alone and in isolation, so talk a little about what support you had in place personally that were like, “okay Conial, it's fine go ahead, quit your job and go get your PhD.” How did that work for you?

Conial Caldwell Jr.: So man, like, even as a BSW student at Florida A&M, I would have mentors that I'm still close with today, and they would say, “you know what you can write, you need a little bit of tweaking or adjustments or you know experience writing, but you can write, and you have perspective, you should consider getting a PhD.” At the time I'm like, “naw, PhD? I'm going to get this MSW, get my license and work, make money, right?” And they were, “ah, consider a PhD.” My first master's program I got the same thing, like, “hey you should consider it, go consider a PhD.” I didn't know much about social work and PhDs at the time because MSW is terminal.

Chris Groeber: Right!

Conial Caldwell Jr.: So you can get your LCSW or you can kind of work in the community things of that sort. So I kind of started to Google and researched people with similar interests that have PhDs in the interest, with my interests with the social work PhD, and I found several individuals that I reached out and connected to, and they've been my mentors to this day. And, again, “hey you have perspective, you can do it.”

Chris Groeber: Right.

Conial Caldwell Jr.: That encouragement came there. I don't think that, without that encouragement at the BSW or even masters level if I didn't have those people, I wouldn't have done it. You know representation is important. Personally, I didn't know of anyone with a PhD at the time, especially not in social work. I have friends who completed pharmacy school and things of that sort but in terms of like engaging in research as a social worker, and then as a Black male social worker it's like, it's kind of foreign, you know. That's what encouraged me to go and get the social work. But then my wife big, big, big support, friends from back home, you know my family, major support. In terms of like a tribe of people, I continue to meet people throughout my journey in terms of completing the PhD that kind of like uplift me, even the cohort before me, they reach back and they provide all types of encouragement. So initially, you know, I have my tribe, I have the people who sparked the interest of even potentially getting the PhD, but then I have those who have supported and continued to support me throughout the completing.

Chris Groeber: I want to say something about that because I think it's really, really important that we are super conscious, those of us in the field, right, that we’re super conscious of reaching back and pulling people along with us. I say to students all the time, “Do you have a mentor? Find a mentor.” Because I do believe that every social worker needs a social worker (laughs). You know, because it's hard and you get it on you. There's no way to not get it on you. Especially when you're working with those huge policy issues that you were wrestling with in practice every day and then the personal decision on top of that. Where do I go? What do I do to help ameliorate what I see going on out there? So I just want to take a moment to celebrate those people who really encouraged you and say to anybody who's listening, you know, find somebody. If you don't have somebody, that representation that you spoke of that's so important. That's part of the reason we're doing these podcast! So that people can see someone who looks like them, or who has the same interest as them, or is the same age as them, or has had a similar situation as them, and say, “you know what, Conial did it. I think I can do it too.” I think that really is that hand out to pull people with you.

Conial Caldwell Jr.: Maybe like two weeks ago, there was one of my colleagues, he has a PhD from Purdue in like ag and engineering, and he made contact with someone who was in the BSW program there. They were graduating with their MSW but they're also considered a PhD in social work but didn't have access to anyone personally. He was like, “let me connect you with him, speak to you and help you work through pursuing a PhD in social work.” I was able to make contact with her, but I also informed her like, I did a Google search. I went on the university website. I did not know these people at all. I Googled these people, saw their interest within their profile, their bios, saw their emails, and their phone numbers, and I made the calls. I would make the call. I sent those emails and they would respond, and oftentimes whenever you share similar interests, people are going to be like, “wow, this is a student that has these similar interests as I do, and if I'm able to help, whether they go pursue the PhD or not. I would like to help them kind of talk through.”

Chris Groeber: Right!

Conial Caldwell Jr.: A lot of those mentorships, a lot of the mentors that I do have, it came from that. Just calling people. And then...

Chris Groeber: What made you brave enough, because I think a lot of people are listening thinking, oh I could never do that, so what made you brave enough to say, “By God I'm going to find somebody who represents what I'm about.”

Conial Caldwell Jr.: Well, see just being inquisitive, at the times I want to know, “How did you do it?” You know. You're here. How did you get here? Like I have the BSW, I'm getting ready to complete the MSW, but you have a PhD What made you consider the PhD?

Chris Groeber: Right.

Conial Caldwell Jr.: How was it for you going through the process of the PhD? After the PhD, what was it like? And even to this day I would still contact them and be like, “well at this part of your career what was it like for you?” and take those things that they provide you with, the encouragement and everything, and still trying to apply them through my process, you know. I still kind of keep them involved in what it is that I'm doing. Often times if I don't contact them for a period of time, they'll reach out and say, “hey what's up? What's going on?”

Chris Groeber: Right, right.

Conial Caldwell Jr.: So like it's like a family. They become like family so to speak.

Chris Groeber: Well and the other point you're making that I think is a really important point is that you never stop learning. You know that's the thing for me. Part of the reason I want to do this and ask these kinds of questions is I want to learn what makes people tick, and I want to learn what attracts people to social work. I really, for me, I want to be a catalyst of attracting good people to social work, a profession that's served me so well for 30-plus years. I want people like yourself, that are on a mission, that have lived expertise, that can really bring change to bear because we've got to figure something out. 

Conial Caldwell Jr.: Right, yeah.

Chris Groeber: You know? So I want you, I want you to just kind of encapsulate, you talked about ... we've a lot of students that come ... we've got a clinical program at USF so that's what it called, and that's the way it's accredited, and we've a lot of students that'll come in and usually every semester I’ll have four to five students who are like on this, like, macro kind of ... but I don't want to be a clinician. Talk about how that experience at USF, in a clinical program, solidified your research interest and the macro professional that you have become.

Conial Caldwell Jr.: Again like, I was like one of those students, saying, “I'm just going clinical, I'm going the clinical route, I want to be in private practice.” Once I get into private practice, I'm going to make all this money, and that's going to be my lifestyle.

Chris Groeber: (Laughs.)

Conial Caldwell Jr.: That's not exactly what the reality is. For some people it may be, but for me, even throughout the MSW program, “I'm going clinical.” You know that's my goal. I have no other ... you know, a PhD was a thought in my mind, okay maybe I’ll go back and get it, actually maybe I’ll probably go get a DSW because I'm going to be a practitioner, clinical practitioner.

Chris Groeber: Right, right.

Conial Caldwell Jr.: So having that work experience where, working at DACO, but then again seeing how, wait a minute, just providing the clinical piece is not enough, and being involved at the community level, and also having to be involved in the policy level because you have to go to court and then you have to advocate, and it's like there's so much more that can be done. So you still kind of,  even though the clinical program for me, the MSW program for me was a clinical here at USF, I still had the macro, so I'm still ... okay I'm able to utilize both, but then you're kind of forced to do it regardless when you're in the field.

Chris Groeber: Yeah, right! There's no separation there.

Conial Caldwell Jr.: There's none. Throughout the career as a social worker, whether it's at McLane Middle School or it's at Carver Exceptional, like it's all ... you're going to be a macro, micro, mezzo. 

Chris Groeber: Walk back and forth across that bridge, over and over and over and over.

Conial Caldwell Jr.: Exactly. So for students that have this one-track mind, “I'm just going to be macro, I'm just going to be clinical.” Like, no. You're going to get into the field, and you're going to be engaged in all macro, micro ...

Chris Groeber: It ain't that discrete, right.

Conial Caldwell Jr.: It's not, and, you know, I think that for me, being able to have those skills as a social work practitioner whether you do become LCSW or you do become a macro social worker, just being able to have all those skills makes for like the best outcome.

Chris Groeber: Absolutely.

Conial Caldwell Jr.: And you'll be able to work with individuals, but then help them see, okay this is important on the community level, or in terms of administration. So just being able to have those skills and that experience has been great and it helps me a lot with the doctoral program because, even as a PhD candidate, you have to, for your research, you have to have policy implications and you know how does this ...

Chris Groeber: It needs to matter, it needs to matter. So talk about that Conial, talk about what your policy interest ... I know you're busy ... guys just so ya’ll know, this man is a prolific writer, and he's taking this year, he's going to write, he's got some stringent goals for himself to be all done with his first draft fairly soon. Talk about what that's going to look like. What's your research looking like? What's it turned into for you?

Conial Caldwell Jr.: Yeah so, well my research is looking at the talk, so looking specifically at Black fathers and the ways in which they talk to their children about race and racism.

Chris Groeber: Wow, okay.

Conial Caldwell Jr.: In terms of policy, right now here in Florida and in different parts of the country, there are bills that are kind of trying to get pushed through to eliminate, you know, critical race theory, or anything involving critical race theory and the teaching of basically race and racism. A lot of people don't know what the experience is of. A lot of people who are pushing these policies don't have the same experiences as other people.

Chris Groeber: Absolutely, absolutely.

Conial Caldwell Jr.: To be in a classroom and to hear certain things or to be taught certain things and to know that's not your reality, it's like, well hey this applies to you but not necessarily me or you know you're teaching me that I should know and understand this, but you know my teaches and upbringing, or the way that I was treated in the world. It's no justice for all. For some, not necessarily everyone. So I think that hopefully with my research it'll help influence people that it'll help provide examples of how race and racism help develop a worldview. It's not necessarily, oh well we're going to implement these policies, well these policies how does it impact other people, whether they're people of color, whether they're women, and that's kind of like what's happening throughout the country right now.

Chris Groeber: Absolutely.

Conial Caldwell Jr.: Like women's right to give birth. You know people, men, almost stripping women of their right to choose or how police are involved and engaged with people of color. I think I mentioned before, outside of this, that I'm in this space, or I’m a doctoral candidate, or whatever, and I can be respected and people and can be in amazement of oh this is the environment that you came from and oh you're doing such a great job, but then outside of the academy I may look like someone that you would criminalize or who would be criminalized.

Chris Groeber: Right, when you're driving down the road you look like everybody else, they don't know you got that PhD attached to your name.

Conial Caldwell Jr.: Exactly, and then I still have to engage with family members, friends, loved ones, and certain communities that I come from. These are the tribes that I come from. I engage with these people on the regular, so I know those struggles, and most people, though they come from certain backgrounds, or they may not have certain things, or they look differently, everyone is human, right? You just have to find certain traits and qualities of people to kind of make it connect for you.

Chris Groeber: That's so important. Like to me that's become one of the most important learnings that I've had, and I tell students all the time, “Go in relentless search of your common humanity because I don't care what population you're dealing with, you're probably more alike than you are different.” Something put them there, whether it's circumstance, experience, genetics, whatever, something put them there and you just talked all about it. Man, I've got to learn about that, I’ve got to learn about that, I’ve got to learn about that, and that whole concept, I said this the last time, I’ll say it again this time, that concept of using learning as a coping mechanism and as a resiliency characteristic, using learning to build your own resiliency, and man you're a study in that, you're a study in I'm just going to learn about it. You know I appreciate that about you so much – your inquisitiveness. 

Conial Caldwell Jr.: Yeah it's a lot, but I appreciate the experience, and I really wish, man, MSW students and even some of my colleagues and people that I've gone through the MSW program with, they're doing great things to be able to reach back and kind of mentor people at the BSW level. Even not BSW because we also get, often times,  with the MSW courses or MSW track, and we have people from criminal justice background ...

Chris Groeber: Right, right, right.

Conial Caldwell Jr.: So oftentimes they really don't become engaged with, you know, social work until there's like, ah I decide I don't want to be a police officer or you know a counselor, or you know, whatever, I'm going to come in the field of social work. So just to be able to explore, engage with them, and provide some type of mentorship to help them understand what the different career options are. Yes I'm getting a PhD, but I do have experience outside the traditional roles of social work, and I think that MSW students, social work students, need to kind of be exposed to those other non-traditional social work roles because we have the skills to kind of thrive and that being said, prior to this I was a director of student conduct but then there's still social work practice, you know what I'm saying, engaging with students.

Chris Groeber: If you think about it almost everything is ... I mean everything requires ... if you're going to do it right everything requires the skills of engagement right?

Conial Caldwell Jr.: Exactly.

Chris Groeber: And that ability to connect. I think people have this deep desire inside them to be connected with. People want you to connect with them, they want to be connected. It's like built into our collective DNA. So all of this said, I mean you have this, I can't wait to see where this all ends up for you, I mean it's so fun for me to hear about and to watch and to see in real life occurring, but what advice do you have for students that are pursuing a BSW maybe in an HBCU or an MSW, clinical or macro, or a PhD. So if you're going to give Conial's nuggets of wisdom and support those people, what are you going to say? 

Conial Caldwell Jr.: First, academic performance is important. Performing well academically is going to be your ticket to the advanced standing MSW programs to graduate school. It's going to be your – you're going to be able to put your bid in for competitive scholarships; and connections and networks, social networking within a profession. You'll be able to have access to so many different mentors, whether they're in the world of social work or outside of it. So first academic performance. Two, reach out to people, do not be afraid to make those connections. Whether they have similar interests, especially if they have similar interests, or if they don't. If they're involved in or engaged in some type of work that you're interested in, you need to reach out, whether you Google, search the university website.

Chris Groeber: LinkedIn, whatever.

Conial Caldwell Jr.: All that, make the connection, and reach out. If that person is unavailable for whatever reason, continue to reach out. Do not let that prevent you from trying to connect with someone else, and a lot of the questions that you may have they may be able to provide the answers for you or connect you with someone else that'll be able to help see you along your way. And then, stand resilient, do some self-discovery, and not just, oh today I'm just going to self-explore and identify this thing, you have to continue to do it, you have to continue to search and make sure that the things that you're doing is in alignment with your purpose and making sure that your mentors are providing you with proper support to be able to help you be successful in whatever it is that you are seeking to do. So don't take no for an answer. So when it comes down to the MSW, applying for MSW programs, PhD programs, or reaching out to connect with certain mentors you know, don't allow one bad experience prevent you from moving forward. In a nutshell, those two things are extremely important to me, and that's what's helped me. Well those three things: academic performance, identifying mentors, and identifying purpose. 

Chris Groeber: So if I'm to summarize what I've heard from you is that you are relentlessly resilient because of representation and reaching out and those are our cornerstones for kind of who Conial Caldwell Jr. is becoming, who he's been and is becoming. So I just want to say, I'm honored for you to tell me your story, and I hope that, I really do hope that we are able to use stories like yours to show ourselves that it's not just one kind of person that becomes a social worker, it's a lot of different, and it's social work isn't just one kind of thing. It can be a lot of things. I just, I want to thank you for bringing that to the party and reminding us that, man, you can be clinical one day, and the macro the next, and both can coexist in a world, and do coexist in practice in ways you've never dreamt of. So thank you for that. Any parting shots before I shut this recording down and send it off to be edited in the netherworld? 

Conial Caldwell Jr.: So um, we talked about mentorship and things of that sort and reaching out to people. If you are interested in pursuing an MSW or even have any questions about what PhD in social work looks like, or what that process looks like, I don't mind being connected or you know people reaching out to me regarding my experience in terms of MSW as well as PhD.

Chris Groeber: Well there's the invite guys, so take this man up on it. You will be a better person for spending a little time in his sphere, I'll tell ya’. Again I appreciate you, I'm so happy that I get to be your colleague for this season, whatever this is I'm really humbled by that, I count that as a blessing in my life. I want you to know that. If there's anything I can ever do to support where you want to go or where you're headed count me as a fan, I'll go and do whatever. So I appreciate you my friend and I'm looking forward to seeing where this is headed.

Conial Caldwell Jr.: Thank you so much.