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Amy Ward, social program director at East Central University, has developed an innovative method of enhancing social work students’ learning experiences as well as bring together several departments across campus into a collaborative academic setting.

Ward’s project, entitled “Implementing Simulation Labs: A Creative Approach in Social Work,” has led to her being named a 2017 winner of the prestigious DaVinci Fellow Award.

Recipients of the DaVinci Fellow Award are creative thinkers whose work represents academic scholarship, innovative approaches to teaching and a passion for promoting creativity in the classroom.

The Simulation Lab will bring together several academic disciplines, including social work, criminal justice, nursing, legal studies and fine arts, according to Ward.

“The simulation labs will hire paid actors who will interact with our (social work) students. The students will engage with the actors as if they are clients,” said Ward, who is hoping to implement the program this fall. “Once in these labs, we will be able to give our students immediate feedback on their assessment skills and intervention skills. I feel like this will bring real-world scenarios to our students.”

The reasoning behind the lab, according to Ward, is that so many students are terrified when they first serve clients during their internships. By participating in these simulation labs, the social work students will have a better grasp of what do and how to react to situations, thus providing a smoother transition into their internships and ultimately their careers.

According to Ward, the actors won’t necessarily receive a script, but they will be given an outline of their scenario and will have the ability to improvise.

“It might be a situation in which a woman, who has been severely beaten, is trying to flee domestic abuse or an aging individual, who may have suffered a broken hip or is in early-onset dementia, is seeking help,” Ward said.

Ward is pleased with receiving the DaVinci Award, but is more excited about how the program can take off and have far-reaching effects.

“I’m so excited that it can really change the outcomes for students and the people they serve,” said Ward. “I’m excited to potentially help improve the outcomes for the students and people of Oklahoma.”

Ward earned her bachelor of social work from ECU and her master of social work from the University of Oklahoma.  She is a licensed clinical social worker.  Ward also holds a certification in trauma specialty.  She has worked for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services Adoption Unit and the Chickasaw Nation. 

In addition to her work with the university, she is an active community member and has served on several community committees, including branch chair for the National Association of Social Workers (NASW).



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