It was just a doctor’s visit, but seeing how to access her medical chart online gave Keuka College social work student Cyndy Bundy an idea: why couldn’t social workers consult online, too?
Now, the Eastwood resident is soaring to new heights, thanks to her proposal for social workers to use social media as a way to combat issues like sexting, cyber-bullying, and suicidal tendencies.
Bundy was invited to share her poster presentation at the national Association of Baccalaureate Social Work Program Directors Conference (BPD), a competitive academic event, which will be held in March in Myrtle Beach, SC. She is the first Keuka social work student and first ASAP student to receive an invitation to present at a national conference. Bundy is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in social work through Keuka’s Accelerated Studies for Adults Program (ASAP). She attends classes at the Onondaga Community College site.
According to Assistant Professor of Social Work Vikki O’Conner, Bundy’s poster presentation demonstrates how social workers need to keep informed and up-to-date on social networking as a form of communication and relationship building in a technological age.
Bundy’s research revealed some long-held resistance to her proposed approach to use social media as a consulting tool, but only served to strengthen her resolve, she said. Critics in the field contend that social media use could conflict with issues of client confidentiality or reveal too much information.
While Bundy does not advocate abandoning face-to-face contact, she does believe it can be possible for social workers to begin a conversation online, then move into face-to-face counseling or consulting.
“Social workers need to get rid of the old mentality that the only way to establish services is making a phone call or going into an agency. Now, even communication is an online resource,” Bundy said. “Social workers should have a web page or a site that’s connected to a social networking site, so that they can connect prospective clients with prospective agencies. [For example], if someone is being harassed by a cyberbully, feels vulnerable, and doesn’t know where to go for help, the social worker can make a referral.”
In addition to providing an outlet for social workers to connect with the next generation, they can connect with each other too, Bundy said, suggesting that a social network can enhance and build on a professional network. For example, if a social worker in New York consults with a vulnerable teen from Nebraska, the social worker could refer the teen to an agency in Nebraska for face-to-face follow-up.
“Social workers need to get online because there are crimes being done over the Internet. We could talk about bullying, online predators or sexting all day, but why don’t we stop talking and start coming up with solutions to the problem?” she asked. “Social workers need to step out of the 19th century and realize that we have evolved as a nation and a world, and realize that everything is basically online.”
Her studies directed her thinking toward policy and she now hopes to pursue a master’s degree in social work policy after she graduates from Keuka in December
“I know it’s a rare area, but I see so many things that just have a need for social workers to step in,” Bundy said. “I think policy is fitting. I want to be able to say, this is a need and we need to bring this to the government and say ‘Hey, you need to look at this.’ I think this is a good experience for me. It would really connect me with those kinds of outlets.”
It’s quite a change for someone who “wasn’t supposed to graduate high school,” Bundy added, describing how she grew up in the projects. “My mom didn’t have a high school education, my father wasn’t around, and as far as going beyond [high school], we weren’t expected to do more than that.”
Bundy now believes social work studies are where she is “supposed to be. Every time I say I’m going to go after this or that, doors just open. I have to pinch myself.”
According to O’Connor, Bundy was initially hesitant about her abilities to be a social work researcher, but found her passion for research while taking a required research methods course.
“She takes her studies very seriously and considers her Keuka education to be life-changing,” O’Connor said. “The social work division is very proud of her accomplishment.”
Bundy adds that her cohort of 16 fellow students also became her family, bonding with her in support when she lost her son, Hosea, just 23 minutes after giving birth Jan. 6, 2012. Hosea had been diagnosed in the womb with a genetic disorder known as Trisomy18, and generally infants with Trisomy18 do not survive more than 48 hours outside the womb, Bundy said. More Americans are familiar with Trisomy21, which causes another genetic disorder better known as Down’s Syndrome, she said.
“[My classmates] were the main reason I came back. I wasn’t sure of a lot of things at that point,” Bundy said. “They encouraged to come back and it ended up being really good for me. The support helped me progress in my studies so I’m very thankful.We all just kind of help each other with personal issues and stand by each other. They’re more than a cohort, they’re really family and it’s great to be with them.”