Army Scholar to Serve the Nation in a New Way
NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – As a high school senior in the nation’s capitol, Candice Karber joined the Army National Guard to help pay for her college education. Now, eight years later, the service has enabled Karber to earn a master’s degree in social work so that she can help address the rising number of U.S. veterans with mental health needs.
Karber, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Morgan State University in Baltimore, is the first recipient of the Smith College School for Social Work’s full military scholarship, which was established in 2006 to attract military personnel committed to addressing the needs of their peers. The scholarship reflects the origin of the school’s founding in 1918 to prepare caregivers of veterans returning from World War I.
Karber and two other service members, Mary Fisher and Jerry Beene, will receive their degrees during the school’s commencement ceremony on Friday, Aug. 15.
“Smith has been a life-altering experience for me,” said Karber, 25, who is also the first member of her family to enlist and the first to receive an undergraduate degree. “It taught me so much about myself.”
The lessons weren’t always easy. In fact, Karber compares her first term in the School for Social Work to the rigor of basic training. “They work you to the bone the first year,” she recalled. Both the intensity of the program and the culture shock of moving to a new region of the country prompted thoughts of dropping out of the school, said Karber.
But she stayed. As the first military scholarship recipient, Karber helped the school identify areas of the curriculum in which discussion about treatment of military members needed to be added.
At the time Karber began the master’s program, the curriculum did not include specific courses about the military and the coursework did not typically address military members. That has since changed.
Further, when Karber did her field placement at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, she did not have any regular communication with other students in military settings. Now, monthly conference calls among students at military facilities allow them to share experiences.
“They have done such a wonderful job to incorporate the military into every course,” said Karber. “Social workers are change agents – that’s exactly why I want to be a social worker: to make change.”
Karber’s military term ended last November without her ever having been deployed. However, she plans to enlist again. After her Smith graduation, Karber wants to complete her clinical supervision hours, secure her social work license, re-enlist and apply to the U.S. Public Health Commission Corps, a branch of the military.
But first, Karber will collect her diploma and celebrate with 15 of her friends and family members.