Alumni Profiles

EMILY TUUK

CLASS OF 2016

Working as a child welfare specialist at a foster care agency in Chicago is not an easy task, but Tuuk said she feels prepared. “Dordt helped me prepare spiritually to stand firm in my beliefs, but to act professionally when working with those who do not agree or believe in Christ,” she said. “It has prepared me to project Christ and be confident in my career.”

Looking back, Tuuk is thankful for her Dordt professors. “I think one thing I appreciated most was learning from professors who were not only passionate about teaching social work but were also professional social workers who know the values and ethics of social work,” said Tuuk.

“An achievement that I am particularly proud of was passing the licensing exam to become a child welfare specialist,” said Tuuk. In the future, she would like to get a Master of Social Work degree to specialize in mental health.

“Dordt’s community is unlike any other and I cherish every memory I have from attending this amazing institution.”

Kaycie Olson

Class of 2016

After graduating with a degree in social work in 2016, Sioux Falls native Kaycie Olson didn’t have to look far for a position where she could make an impact in her field and for Christ.

In college, Olson knew she wanted to help people and work with families. After starting in nursing, she realized that social work was more in line with what her interests were. Following graduation, Olson continued on to get her social work license in the state of South Dakota and accepted a position in Sioux Falls.

 “I work at Avera Behavioral Health Center, which is an inpatient behavioral health hospital,” says Olson. “We work with mental health disorders, treating patients in an acute or short-term setting. I specifically serve children and adolescents. I started out more in an assistant role and worked mostly with the kids. Then I also started in a social work role, where I was able to work more with families and other staff members, and do more of those case management services.”

Due to working in a short-term facility that typically involves a timeline of one to two weeks, Olson’s team helps families come up with a long-term plan. This involves working with a variety of people, including patients and their families, but also an extensive team that works together to help patients with the next steps to recovery or care.

“In the social work role, every day I start out by finding out who new patients are that came in, either the day before or early in the morning,” said Olson. “I type up a social history, giving an idea of why they came in, what services they have, and just really getting to know them based on their assessment coming in. Then I have a meeting with our psychiatrist, our psychologist, another case manager, and nursing staff. That’s kind of how we start out—by putting it as a whole team approach—and figure out what is going to help individual patients.”

After working as a team to determine how to best assist their patients, Olson works with families to find long-term treatment plans or help them find therapy or medication in their local areas.

 “Something that has also been more challenging but very rewarding for me is that I get to help patients and families access resources or get to know things in their area that maybe they weren’t familiar with before,” explained Olson.  “I also like working as a team with all the different professions because you get to see what their role looks like but also how it goes with yours—you’re working with each other.”

Her position gives an opportunity to work alongside those who are feeling broken, and with nowhere to turn.

 “We serve people that are often in crisis mode, so more if they have suicidal ideation, homicidal ideation, or just very aggressive behaviors,” said Olson. It also involves “working with families who are facing not only the mental health crisis, with their child, but also financial issues, legal issues, and a lot of family dynamics that go into play.”

Olson feels that her Dordt education helped her to look beyond people’s circumstances, looking at situations from a Christian perspective.

“Something that we really focus on at Avera that I first experienced at Dordt is focusing on the whole person,” said Olson. “The people we work with have so much more value than their current situation, and seeing them as having value as someone that God created is a good perspective to have going into a lot of this.”

CASSIE (LANE) ZONNEFELD

CLASS OF 2006

"Dordt College's social work program provided me with a holistic, well-rounded framework with which to enter the world of social work. The professors were knowledgeable, well-versed, and came from a variety of backgrounds and professional experiences. My fellow students are still some of my closest friends today. I felt very prepared as I earned my M.S.W. from the University of Minnesota and received a full scholarship. Most important, I feel like I am able to serve and walk alongside people in need. Thank you, Dordt, for your great preparation and teaching."

JUDY SCHEP

CLASS OF 2007

"The classes offered give us an opportunity to focus on the aspect of social work we want to pursue, but they gave us experience in other areas as well. I loved where I was placed for my professional semester and was even offered a position there after I graduated!"

JOLENE HOFMAN

CLASS OF 2012

"My job is fun, and not one day is the same! I have a lot of contact with patients, both over the phone and face to face. The job requires a solid knowledge of community resources, as well as flexibility, since patients come from different backgrounds and have a variety of needs. I use the social work skills I learned at Dordt every day-advocating for clients, serving as mediator between the client and other facilities, connecting clients to resources, and working with vulnerable populations."