Empowering the Next Generation of Social Workers: A Conversation with Resia Cooper, MSW
Join us for an insightful conversation with Resia Cooper, the Engagement Coordinator for the New Jersey and Delaware chapters of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). As a content creator, Fordham University alumna, and experienced macro and administrative social worker, Resia shares how she overcame her initial misconceptions about the field of social work and found her passion for empowering the next generation of social workers. Listen as she provides valuable insights on navigating the social work education journey, from self-care to self-discipline. Whether you’re new to social work or have years of experience, this episode is a must-listen for anyone looking to create a thriving community within the social work profession.
0:00 – Intro
0:59 — How she got started in social work
3:03 — What she does in her current role
4:23 — Curating an opportunity that aligned with her passions
6:05 — Education journey at Fordham University
8:25 — How to find the best social work program that fits you
Resia’s YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4WP9jDEtu9BEoMEoTXOvwA
Similar Degree Programs
Resia got her MSW at Fordham University. If you’re interested in a similar education path like Resia, we at SocialWorkDegrees.org recommend checking out these programs:
-Colorado State University: Hybrid Model MSW
-Eastern Washington University: Hybrid MSW
-University of Houston: Dual Degree Program
Connect with Us
Follow us on Instagram at @socialworkdegrees
Anna Shull 00:00
Hi, I’m Anna, a licensed social worker interviewing social workers and my guest today is Ms. Resia Cooper. She is an MSW. She is the Engagement Coordinator for New Jersey and Delaware chapters of the NASW. She shares her journey on YouTube as a content creator and she is also a fellow alumna of Fordham University.
Resia Cooper 00:17
Hi, everyone. I’m Resia. I am a social worker like Anna said. I am an alum of Fordham University as well. I graduated in 2022. I can’t believe I’m about to be at the one year mark, but I’m super excited about that. I’m a military spouse. I have two little babies. They’re not babies anymore. But I have two small kids and —
Anna Shull 00:39
Feel like they’re babies, yeah!
Resia Cooper 00:40
Yeah, I have two small kids, and they are my world. But more importantly, I’m a social worker, as Anna has alluded to. And I do currently serve as the Engagement Coordinator for two chapters of NASW. And that’s New Jersey and Delaware. So I’m super excited to be here.
Anna Shull 00:59
Awesome. Thank you so much. I would love to hear a bit about how you decided to become a social worker, what your journey kind of leading up to that was.
Resia Cooper 01:07
How did I decide to become a social worker? I think that’s a tricky question, because I came into the profession not too sure where I would land. I tell people all the time, I was one of those people that believed wholeheartedly that all social workers did was take children, because that’s what I saw. That’s the lens I saw growing up in New York City life. When you see the social worker, somebody’s mama or papa is going through a CPS case. So that is what I thought of when it came to the social work profession. So I never wanted to be a social worker. Quite honestly, I was in school to become a physician’s asistant. Because I really thought like, you know, I want to serve people. And I was like, why not do it through that lens and that avenue? And we moved to Germany in 2016, I think or 2017. And it was when I was there really to be quite honest, that I started to realize that social work was such a broad profession. I would like, casually walk through like the educational center and talk to the employees because I was a military spouse with no real job, right? But I love to talk to people. That’s, that’s the fact. And I met a social worker, and she was doing administrative work. And I was like, Oh, I’d never really thought about that. And that’s how I started to research because by nature, I’m a researcher. So I started to research and I was like, wow, this is like a whole other side of social work. And that’s when I decided to like start my journey through social work. So yeah.
Anna Shull 02:36
That’s cool. And something that stuck out to me that I heard you say was whenever you were thinking about becoming a physician’s assistant and in school for that, like you want it to serve people. And I think that’s something that so often people come into a feeling like, Oh, I just want to help people. But then it’s cool to see people’s journeys into like, how I’m going to use social work as an avenue to help people and like, for my future profession, so it’s cool that you landed on that and saw a different opportunity there.
Resia Cooper 03:00
Yeah, it is. I love social work.
Anna Shull 3:03
What does your current position entail? Like which area of social worker you in? What do you do?
Resia Cooper 3:09
So I tell people, I’m a macro social worker, because that is what if we were to categorize it, my work falls more, or it aligns more, I should say, with the macro space. I currently serve in my role. And what I do for the most part is I identify speakers, I create engagement opportunities, I focus on our student members, and I make sure that they transition from student membership, to full membership without missing a beat. Part of my job is really just creating a space that I felt wasn’t there when I was an intern. And really mapping it out. There really isn’t a blueprint for my job. Some days, you might find me in back to back meetings trying to secure speakers. And other days, you might find me on a call about legislation and what’s going on within the profession and talking to those key stakeholders. And other days, you might find me traveling across the world to various conferences just to see what innovative things are happening, and how it aligns with the profession of social work. So that’s what I do.
Anna Shull 04:06
That’s cool. That’s very cool. It’s like helping social work be a profession that social workers can work in. That’s awesome. Is that something that you pictured yourself getting into?
Resia Cooper 04:23
Um, I knew for sure I didn’t want to do therapy, and I didn’t want to do anything clinical. Like I said, I like to talk. And I tend to be the friend that friends come to for advice. So before I even joined the profession, I was already burnt out with like helping people navigate their own challenges in life. So I knew that wasn’t for me. I knew for sure. I wasn’t going to do therapy, but I did not know what I was going to land on. I would say, I just started to explore social work. And then I started to align it with what I like. So when I was a Master’s student, I realized like, okay, the retention rate in higher education for students that are minorities, or LatinX, or BIPOC, is not as high as our other counterparts, right. So I knew for me, I wanted to become someone that can support those groups and individuals. And as I started to navigate that I started creating social media content on social work and the profession. And it really just enveloped to this love and passion for social work students. Um, so I really did not expect to be doing what I am doing now. But I would say that I was able to curate an opportunity for me that really aligns with my own personal passions. And yeah.
Anna Shull 05:41
That’s awesome. And that is so cool. Because in school for social work, you get so many, like your toolbox becomes so big, like the hard skills and the soft skills and everything you learned how to do and being able to fit those skills into a position that yeah, like plays on your strengths and empowers people and becomes a person that you wish maybe was there whenever you were in school is something that is very fulfilling, it seems like.
Resia Cooper 06:04
I’m enjoying it so far. I can’t complain.
Anna Shull 06:08
I would love to hear about your like degree experience, where you went to school, and what that MSW was like to get.
Resia Cooper 06:17
Um, so I said this already, I graduated from Fordham. So let’s go Rams, I’m gonna—
Anna Shull 06:23
Yeah, Resia and I were in the same cohort! Never had class together, but—
Resia Cooper 06:27
We never had a class together. I think you found me on YouTube. And you was like, Oh, I’m in this program, I’ve graduated.
Anna Shull 06:33
You just casually mentioned Fordham University and I was like, what?
Resia Cooper 06:38
So I went to Fordham. And when I was starting my MSW journey, I knew that I wanted to find a program that resonated with me, but also a program that would work with what I wanted to do. So I started doing this deep dive of like, what social work programs have administrative tracks, and I applied to quite a few schools. And thankfully, I was on the receiving end of getting into those programs. But Fordham really just pulled at my heartstrings, you know. It was the little things that they did like calling me on the phone continuously to check on me see how the application process was going, seeing if I needed any support in anything. And then having that pathway where we can kind of, I always tell people at Fordham, you can kind of build your own track. I love that for myself, right? I love that I wasn’t boxed in to taking these specific classes along my journey, but I was able to use more electives to my benefit to pick what I really wanted to learn in my graduate experience. So I went to Fordham. And I would say that the experience was amazing. I was only there for eight months. So I can’t speak about like campus life and what to expect if you live there, or if you’re in a two year program, or the traditional program, but I do know for my eight months there, I was able to do amazing things. I was able to like sit on a committee, I was able to meet amazing professors, I was able to bring like a council member to Fordham. And I think that for me, I felt like attending Fordham allowed me to be who I was. And not shine, like shrink back from that in any way. But I was able to really shine as a student, right. So I was able to insert what I like to do, and how I like to see things and implement it. So yeah!
Anna Shull 08:27
That’s really cool. And yeah, I think that’s a big thing is, you hear so often about like, Oh, this is the best school for a program like this is the best like top whatever. But really finding one that aligns with like what you need and one and feels personable. Like, it’s not just oh, I’m just a student getting this degree. It’s like, oh, no, they know me. Like, they know who I am. And like, yeah, what I’m learning. That’s awesome to hear.
Resia Cooper 08:49
Yeah, I tell students that, like, if you’re looking for a program, I think people come up come to me often, like, how can I get into the best social work program? And like you said, I tell them, it’s really not about the best program, but it’s about the best fit for you. So like, really doing a deep dive on, like, what’s the mission of this school? Right, what they align with, right? What have I seen them do in the past? Where are their students working? And ask yourself, like, how does that really resonate with me? And does that work with for my future? So.
Anna Shull 09:21
Yeah, no, I definitely agree. I know that you wore a lot of hats, like had a lot of different roles while being a grad student as well. How did you handle that? And what was the workload and being a mom and all of that?
Resia Cooper 09:34
Listen, I tell people all the time, if you do not plan if you do not have a plan, you are not going to succeed. I remember when I got into the program, the advanced standing program where it’s 15 credits a semester, so that was a lot of classes. I think I took five classes every semester at an internship both semesters. I do have small kids, and I’m a mom, I’m a wife. I have so many other things that I was doing and then I also have my own passions, right? I had to live and breathe by a planner. I tell people all the time, like, if you do not plan for the day, you’re not going to succeed. So you have to be intentional about carving that time and planning. I would plan everything like I would color code like, Okay, this assignment is due. I had to make sure that I was on top of it so that I wasn’t drowning. And then I had to give myself like margins. Like what if a kid gets sick? So I made sure that I planned out like, mishaps so I can stay on top of it. So that’s the only way I really did it. I don’t know. And a lot of praying, I prayed every single day, I was like, just to make it to the end. Like I remember, there was one point I was like, this is not gonna work. This is crazy people stuff. And I did it.
Anna Shull 10:51
Yeah. And that’s the biggest thing too, is like you made it got through? Did you find that you were able to work self care type things into school? Like while you were there? How did you do that?
Resia Cooper 11:03
Self Care is number one, I always tell people, if anything is going to keep me away from making appointments for myself with myself. I don’t want it. I think oftentimes, we think that we just have to do and do and do and get burned out. And then at the point of burnout, that’s when we’re like, oh, I need me time. My planner, had self care time planned into it. Like I was serious about living by this planner. But I made sure like every Saturday, I would give myself time to sleep in. So I’ve created boundaries, right? So I didn’t take Saturday classes. I think I took a Saturday class my first semester and I was like, never again. Never again on a Saturday am I going to be here at 8am. Hey, not gonna happen Fordham. Get somebody else to do it. So I was adamant about like, just curating like what I wanted. So self care was on the top of the list. I always tell people, social workers don’t really care about themselves. And I think it’s a disservice, right? Because we always tell our clients or we tell the people that we interact with, like, make sure you’re, you don’t pour from an empty glass. And then here we are, like, pouring from the bottom of the glass. Like there’s literally droplets. And we’re like, okay, I still got to do one more thing. So I was important—it was important to me to do self care. And I made sure I scheduled them bubble baths. Like I wasn’t doing elaborate things. The biggest thing I did was after graduation, I went and I had like a trip to Jamaica. That was like my big self care thing. But throughout the semester, whether it was like running a bath or carving out 30 minutes in the morning just to drink my tea with no interruptions, I made sure I did something for Ray.
Anna Shull 12:44
Yeah, I feel like I’m pretty similar to you in that sense, where like, my planner would have a chunk of time, like, just because this time doesn’t have something written does not mean it is free. That is mine.
Resia Cooper 12:55
Hello. And even like as a working professional, like my calendar, I have like three hours that is like for the week that I’m like, okay, these are hours that I’m not focusing on work, but I really have to make sure that I’m doing something for me, right? If I really value myself as a social worker, and I value this profession, I can’t, not this early on, right be so disgruntled or upset or dissatisfied. So even for me like I do little things like I always tell people on Mondays, I do not take meetings before 11am unless it’s internal, right? If there’s an external meeting, you’re not I’m not doing it, my calendar is closed off, okay, because I need to regroup from the weekend and come back and have that time to prioritize what I have to do for the week, so.
Anna Shull 13:42
Yeah, yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And that’s, I think, sometimes people will view it as almost like a badge of honor, if you like, do too much. And you’re like, Oh, I’m working so hard. Whereas really, people aren’t going to remember you for staying an extra 30 minutes, but they will remember you if you like have a personality and like are joyful and like be yourself or like be a good family member or whatever it may be. So that is a good example to see of, yeah, boundaries.
Resia Cooper 14:10
As social workers, whether you’re a student or you’re like an emerging professional, or you’ve been here for years, like you know, creating those boundaries, and I always tell people, I don’t even call it self care anymore. I call it me-time. Because it’s important, right? I think we have glamorized self care to this thing where it’s like, Oh, I gotta get a massage or I have to be going to this like secluded part of the cabin and making everything aesthetically pleasing for this moment where the reality is just like self care is pouring back into you. So whether that’s reading a book, which is something like I was telling a colleague yesterday, I was like, part of my self care now is like, I like fiction books, right? So, um, I literally two nights ago, sat through a book and read 180 pages.
Anna Shull 14:55
Resia Cooper 14:57
Right because I had the freedom and the flexibility to do that.
Anna Shull 15:02
Yeah, that is cool. And being able to be intentional with it where it’s like I’m spending this time because I like myself. And because I want to enjoy being here. Because like you said, like with a massage, you could go get a massage, and then it doesn’t actually make you feel better. Like, you’re still just upset, you’re still burned out, or you can set those boundaries and have that intentional time of like, I’m going to enjoy my cup of tea this morning. And I’m going to love is which really is, yeah, game changing.
Resia Cooper 15:27
And knowing what self care means to you is important. I think like, oftentimes you hear people saying, like, oh, I have the self care thing and self care retreat. It’s always these, like, I’m not gonna say expensive things, but they’re things that are marketed as self care, right? And it’s like, is it really self care? Like, what self care for you? So that’s one of the things I asked my students like, when they call me and they’re like, Oh, I’m having a rough day in my program. And I’m like, What have you done for you? And they like, well, I can’t afford to do this. Okay, what do you like to do?
Anna Shull 15:56
Yeah, because you have to make it to graduation. Like, doesn’t matter if you have the degree, if you lost yourself somewhere along the way. What advice kind of going along with that would you have for prospective social work students or someone who’s new coming in?
Resia Cooper 16:09
I guess the biggest advice I would say to anyone that’s new to the profession, or like exploring, you know, entering the profession is like, I don’t know, it’s like a diagram in my head, like, you know, like when there’s like a circle, and then like, you’re in the middle of the circle, and then like social work is around and it becomes your world, it becomes the your everything? I would say make sure it’s the other way around. Make sure that you’re around and the inside of social work, the core. And the reason why I say that is I think like when we flow from our core things are less likely to irritate us or to aggravate us, right? Because we have like a bigger “why” as to why we’re doing something. So if you’re a new student, I would ask you like, what is your “why” and how can you grab hold of that and remember along the journey? And not just become so distracted, I would say or enamored with, like being a social worker, or having this license or doing it this one way. But how does this profession add to your “why” and how can you use it as like, a foundation? That’s, that’s really what it is. It’s really a foundation to you doing what you want to do.
Anna Shull 17:20
Yeah, that is really cool to hear. And that was a good mental image to the circle and what’s on the outside? Yeah. What is that? all encompassing? And yeah, who you are. With that? What does inspire you like, what keeps you going as a social worker?
Resia Cooper 17:36
I think I’m a new social worker. So I think what keeps me going is just the high of being here like making it. I don’t know how I’ll feel in like five years, but I feel like for right now, what keeps me really motivated is that I’m doing what I love. And I hope that I never become so focused on like titles or like the monetary gain, that I forget my “why” and I forget why I’m doing it. Right? I came into this profession really confused as to what I wanted to do like where I wanted my niche to be, how I wanted it to look, right? And now I’m reimagining it in a way where I’m the star player, right? This is the Resia show. This is, how does Resia want to show up as a social worker? And I’m having so much fun, like actually putting that into into practice, like doing what I love. So.
Anna Shull 18:37
Yeah, is there anybody that has like inspired you along the way, like whether it was when you were getting your degree or choosing or now?
Resia Cooper 18:44
For sure, like there are so many people that I could like accredit to like me, being who I am, like I have, I have phenomenal mentors. Actually have two social work mentors. And it’s so funny because they’re in two different lanes of social work. One is like a administrative all the way. She has literally done all the things when it comes to higher education. And then I have another one who is more on the clinical side. But it was to be someone that, um, people would know, I would say the one person that I think really inspired me is Dr. King. I think just growing up and learning about how radically he fought for the Civil Rights movement and how he really was a social worker at heart and how he embodied the ethics that we live on as social workers and how he did it even if it costed him his entire life, that motivates me, right, to show up every day. Not to lose myself, right? And I don’t mean like, if I die, but I mean, like not to lose myself in the cause, but to show up because this cause is important to me.
Anna Shull 20:02
Yeah. And he really is a good example of paving a new way to because he didn’t necessarily follow exactly in the footsteps of anybody else. He found a way that worked, and organized a community and was willing to lead when necessary. So that is cool to hear that he played a role in. Yeah, you keep going too.
Resia Cooper 20:21
Definitely played a role and I tell people that all the time, like even entering into this profession, it’s intimidating, right? Because you graduated with me. So I’m pretty sure you heard people say, like, you’re not going to make money or you have clinical. I’ve had so many naysayers on this journey, like I’ve had people telling me straight up, like, you’re insane to think that you’re going to impact like, the social work profession, if you don’t go through this pathway. And at one point, I started taking all these clinical classes, because I was like, Well, if this is the only pathway I have to ensure that I do it, but then I started to ask myself, like, being a social worker is not whether your clinical, whether your micro, mezzo or macro, but it’s really about who you are at your core and living out those ethics that we, I kind of say, you know, let’s take an oath to, but that’s what it really is. Right? So even on this journey for me, it’s like okay, Resia, you know, you don’t want to be clinical. So how do you provide yourself opportunities to be in the right spaces, and to make those impacts and to reach the demographic that you really want to reach? So yeah.
Anna Shull 21:36
Yeah, and that’s something that like, I keep hearing from people how so many of us had preconceptions about what social work was before we got into it, like whether it was just Child Protective Services, or even like just therapy, and how seeing someone who was a social worker doing something different, like impacted us. So I think it’s very cool that you’ve chosen to share your journey online too to an extent so that other people see like, Oh, this is an option, like, if I am interested in this social work is a path that I could use to get there. Could you speak a little bit on like that decision, like so like the YouTube videos you make? And kind of how you decided to do that? What that’s been like?
Resia Cooper 22:15
I think the main reason why I started making the YouTube videos wasn’t because I wanted to, but I think as I started searching like for social workers, right, I would put specific things in Google or YouTube, because everyone’s at YouTube, TikTok, and I wasn’t finding the answers that I wanted. Like, although I was finding social workers that were doing great things it didn’t resonate with me, right? And I always felt like the outcast, right, because like, even in my my classes out, people would be talking about their internships and like what are you talking about, right? Because I had no frame of reference of what was going on, like I understood to a certain degree, because I have the educational background but it was just like, a whole new world, right? And even I would talk to other interns, and they’ll be like, Oh, you don’t you don’t go to office like you do all of this remotely? Like, how did you secure that? Like, how did you get this gig, right? And I was like, Yo, we are really like, close minded as social workers which is why I really was like, Okay, I’m going on YouTube, I’m gonna tell my story. I’m not gonna, you know, I can’t there’s a lot of things I can’t divulge. Right, because I do work for the National Association, but I try to share what it looks like to one, work remote, one, have amazing opportunities as a social worker, even as a social work student, like I was able to learn things that other social work students weren’t learning, right? Like how to table at a conference, how to put together a conference, right? How to run a budget. You know? Things that people in my cohort was like, what you went to a conference and you set up a table and you spoke during lunch? Like, what are you talking about, right? And I was like, this is the things that they don’t teach us, right? And I wanted to let people know that this is an option like you can do this. You don’t have to go down one track. And I’m happy that I have been graced and I was fortunate enough to meet social workers that are very progressive, and futuristic that I don’t feel as awkward now, as I felt when I was a student and I think that’s really why I do YouTube, right? I want that 1% or I should say, 5% because that’s the actual number, to feel like there’s a space for them, even if it’s not in the classroom.
Anna Shull 24:39
Yeah, there’s something about video content like that, where it’s like, oh, you’re a real person. And like, this is your real journey. And like, maybe it’s not always easy, or maybe you don’t always know exactly where you’re headed, but you end up somewhere and it might be different than other social workers or clinical social workers, but it’s an option. So that is so cool.
Resia Cooper 25:00
Aspire for the difference, you know, like, I think that’s the real purpose of me showing myself to YouTube and being vulnerable is I want people to feel like okay, I can, I can aspire to be different. And then I could create a plan to become different, right or to do different, like, you don’t have to do it the same way. Like my job, we’re actually hosting a conference at the end of this month. And we’re doing like a full student summit at the conference, right? And a lot of people’s like, Oh, you’re having students come to a conference and you have like your own mini conference for them? And I’m like, yeah, like how many times that a social work student comes to a regular conference, and the content wasn’t beneficial, right? And I say that to say like, if I didn’t bet on Resia and bet on the ability that I’d know that I have to advocate for what students need, I don’t think that social work students in New Jersey would get the things that they’re getting now. So yeah.
Anna Shull 26:01
Yeah, because it is more niche definitely within the field of, you’re empowering future social workers, and then they’re gonna go out and like the web of impact is just gonna keep growing because they felt poured into now they have more in them to pour into other areas, which is huge. That’s so cool. Well, I so appreciate you sharing your insight and your journey. If people do want to keep up with you, where can they find you, whether it’s YouTube, or whatever you wanna share?
Resia Cooper 26:29
Find me on YouTube. I think my name is Resia J. They can find me on Instagram, obviously, at Resia J and then I do do some things on TikTok. And I think it’s like ResiaJ__socialworker but I will provide you with all the information if I butchered anything, but you can find me and I am a real person.
Anna Shull 26:52
I’m a subscriber of Resia. Can recommend the YouTube channel. Yeah, it’s so cool to one, just the fact that like, yeah, we graduated at the same time went through the same program, but also now we’re like, doing such different things. So it’s cool to see how somebody similarities can also branch out and be so different at the same time.
Resia Cooper 27:13
I’m looking at your story. I’m like, Oh my gosh, like, she’s doing great things. And it’s good to see that like, you know, we both came into the profession at the same time, but we didn’t allow like that, that fear of being the newbie. So like, I always tell people, when you graduate don’t really it does matter because you need your degree, but it doesn’t take away from your expertise and what you want.
Anna Shull 27:35
There’s no box that can hold you in. Well, thank you so much. It’s been so great to talk to you.
Resia Cooper 27:41
Great talking to you, too.