He’s a self-proclaimed “water rat” who enjoys spy novels, action-adventure and cruising down the highway. As director of the Master of Social Work Program and associate professor of Social Work, he prefers the macro approach and experiential learning. He is Dr. James (Jay) Dickerson. Let’s get to know him.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Juggling all the hats I wear, especially in this position being an administrator, faculty member, advisor, researcher, community member. The second thing is that I’m a clinician, and sometimes it’s difficult to make sure there are clear boundaries with students. “I’m your professor-advisor, I’m not your therapist.” Given the profession, it’s very easy to slip into the therapist role and over-empathize. You have to recognize that you’re not wearing that hat at that moment.
What are some misconceptions about your field?
A lot of times when you say “I’m a social worker,” people identify that profession with “Oh, you take people’s children from them.” That’s the biggest misconception is about what we do. Not even when I worked in direct practice was that one of my goals. The main goal is family unification, it’s not to take the kids away or separate families. It’s about making sure the kids are safe and the parents are healthy and providing a supportive environment. There’s all kinds of things you can do in this profession, and separating families is definitely not one that would be at the top of the list. That’s the worst thing a clinician or social worker could ever experience.
How do you apply the information that you learned in your favorite class in your life today?
Gary May, associate professor emeritus, and Martha Raske, professor emerita, were two very important faculty members when I went through the USI Master of Social Work (MSW) program. They taught in the macro sequence: policy, community practice and public analysis. Those courses helped me with what I’m doing today. I consider myself a macro practitioner. I work with groups, organizations and communities for positive sustainable growth. Those macro-sequence courses I took in my MSW helped me understand what it meant to be more than a direct-practicing clinician. It set a path for me and now I help administrate the MSW program. I’m also the outside program evaluator for Vanderburgh County Community Corrections. I do evaluations for both the therapeutic work release and Vanderburgh County treatment court.
What was your favorite Saturday morning cartoon as a child?
I remember getting up on Saturday mornings to watch the Super Friends – Batman, Superman, Aquaman.
Did you get into character watching those?
Sometimes. My family lived in a rural area. We had woods and fields to play in, so there was definitely some role playing using towels as a cape and making utility belts. Now, with the resurgence of DC and Marvel movies, I’m getting to relive some of my childhood.
What are the top three things on your bucket list?
I have a very long bucket list. I like adventure. I would like to drive the entire Pacific Coast Highway. I love the coast and the water. I’d just start in Southern California and drive up the northern coast. I’d also like to see the Iguazu Falls in Argentina. They are world-renowned. My third would be to sail the Seychelles Islands and do a sailing/diving trip. I’m from Southern Florida so I’m a big water rat.
What’s the most interesting documentary you’ve ever watched?
The most recent one I saw that really made me start thinking was about food and securities in the United States called A Seat at the Table. You look at the United States – we’re not poor, but we have more than 35 million people going hungry in our country, many don’t know where their next meal is going to be. You take that 35 million and around 15% or so are children. They are going to school hungry. It really makes you question, “Who’s responsible? What’s everybody’s role?”
If someone narrated your life, who would you want to be the narrator?
Maybe Jeff Bridges because he has a very nice delivery and speech pattern.
What’s your favorite genre of book or movie?
I have a short attention span and so it has to be something very engaging. I like action movies and for books, more along the lines of fiction. I like spy novels and movies. It would have to be something with a quick pace, action adventure.
If you could turn any activity into an Olympic sport, what would you have a good chance at winning?
Cross country driving. I love windshield time. It helps me clear the cobwebs out. I love seeing the landscape. Usually when you’re doing a road trip, you’re on route to a new destination.
It’s funny because right now I don’t put a lot of miles on my car. It’s mostly to work and back home. We’ll talk about going to dinner or picking something up on the east side of Evansville and I’ll be like, “Uh, all the way to the east side?”
But when I have the opportunity I like getting on the road, putting the windows down and listening to some good music.
What is one thing you will never do again?
Never throw an anchor off a boat without checking to make sure it’s tied off. I have actually done it more than once.
Photo Credit: Provided
Dr. Jay Dickerson