2022 EU Outstanding Young Alum Perspective: Jennifer Finstad (Stallworth)
Name: Jennifer Finstad (Stallworth)
Graduation Year: 2006
Major: Social Work
Current Position: Clinical Social Worker at HealthPartners Neuroscience Center & the Center for Memory and Aging
City and State: Saint Paul, Minnesota
Tell us about your career and what you do now.
I would consider myself a Lifespan Social Worker: working with the youngest to the oldest. One of the things I enjoy most about my field is that with the title of Social Worker, I can work with many different populations of people.
After graduating from Evangel in 2006 with my Bachelor’s degree in Social Work, I had the opportunity to work in a long-term care facility as a discharge planner, on a team with other rehab professionals to help adults regain their mobility and independence.
I completed my Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities in 2009. During this time I worked in schools with children who were struggling with completing their school work due to their parents’ absence from home, or with those learning to manage their strong feelings amongst unhealthy friend groups. In the adoption & foster care system, I coached and approved hopeful parents awaiting children to complete their families.
As a community social worker in a non-profit agency, I led meetings on bridging racial differences to better care for those in our own neighborhoods struggling with Alzheimer’s disease. I also led a metro area Caregiver Awareness campaign to bring attention to the unique needs of unpaid friend and family care partners of those with dementia. This campaign was utilized across the nation.
After over 4000 hours of post-graduate supervision and passing the clinical licensure exam, I obtained my Independent Clinical Social Worker license to provide psychotherapy. I worked at a Christian-based psychotherapy clinic for 5 years where I pursued trauma-certification and maintained a caseload of therapy individuals and families.
For the past 3 years, I have been working at the HealthPartners Neuroscience Center in Saint Paul, collaborating with neurologists, neuropsychologists, and other medical professionals to help newly diagnosed patients and their families find resources and support.
As the only social worker in the building, I facilitate support groups and hold individual meetings with patients and their families to coach them on future planning, community resources, behaviors techniques, and building their support network. I continue to offer psychotherapy for early-stage dementia patients. Family members have separate sessions and find comfort in being heard and validated. I continue to grow as I work with my patients, and I enjoy the opportunity to learn from their stories as I share in their journey.
What is your favorite memory from Evangel?
When you go to college you hope to meet lifelong friends and make memories that last long beyond your college years. For me the end of my junior year holds a favorite memory of mine. It was our final spring exams and we were not looking forward to packing up our dorm rooms to return home. The weather was perfect- sunny, breezy, and warm. My group of friends lounged in the green space on blankets reminiscing about the year. We had finals to take all across campus but we all agreed that this moment had to last! We grabbed our lunches and came back to the blanket. We took naps under the trees. Someone grabbed Andy’s shakes for the group. We laughed and crammed a study session in. Without saying it out loud, we all acknowledged that this day would be one with minimal responsibilities outside of taking our final exams. I don’t recall another day that was as chill as that one during my college years, being with great friends and just enjoying the day God had given us.
How did Evangel help you identify/develop your calling?
I knew coming into Evangel that I would be applying to the Social Work program- my mother is a social worker and I have always had a heart to be Jesus’ hands extended to those hurting and in need. Social Work is considered a liberal career and is more geared towards accepting all without exception. I wanted to go to a school that would help me dig in deep with my faith while learning how to do a job that may push against my beliefs. I am thankful for my professors at Evangel (Dr. Fulks, Donna Washburn, Lacey Nunnely, and Mr. Cristin) who pushed me to know myself better- to question and to see the person behind the pain and the symptoms. They also illustrated in our classes how to accept all people through the lenses of Jesus and His compassion for all, no matter their politics, their religious leanings, or their level of wealth.
How did your experience at Evangel prepare you for life after graduation?
Evangel helped me learn more about my faith and my relationship with God for myself, not my parents’ relationship. I was encouraged to do work on myself while at Evangel so I could live out my faith in the world without being weighed down.
What advice would you give a current student preparing for the workforce?
Be yourself, do your research on the company and job that you’re applying for, and be willing to take a job or two for what you will learn from the job compared to getting a larger paycheck. Money isn’t everything- experiences are worth more.
What would you look for if you were in a position to hire new graduates from Evangel?
- Someone who would be willing to try something new or be out of their comfort zone before making a final decision.
- Someone who is willing to bring their faith and belief in God into their learnings.
- A student that is willing to stretch and ask questions.