Above her office doorway, Briar Cliff University Social Work Department Chair Margarite Reinert has affixed a Latin phrase, Non Sibi Sed Aliis.
The translation in English is “Not for self, but for others,” and Reinert likes to be reminded of the phrase that informs her worldview each time she enters and exits her Heelan Hall office.
“Not for self, but for others” also doubles as a great summation of the social work field, added Reinert, who recently made the move to chair of the department.
She strongly believes in the good that quality social work can make in the world, which at the most basic level starts with ongoing interactions to aid people in their local communities.
The big focus for Reinert is “developing students into skilled helpers,” she said, since, “There actually is an art and science to doing social work well.”
Reinert came to Briar Cliff as a professor after roughly two decades as a K-12 school-based social worker in Siouxland and a teaching stint at the University of South Dakota. She arrived on campus in 2019, taking the open position vacated by the retirement of Sister Shirley Fineran. Reinert knew Fineran and the program due to having served in the 2010’s on the BCU Social Work Advisory Committee, where she perceived the program to be a strong one.
“The Briar Cliff Social Work Department had a strong community presence, from a lot of Briar Cliff alumni who I knew were quality people,” she said. “I was very excited to come be a part of that.”
The fact that BCU is a faith-based college also much appealed to Reinert.
“I often call Jesus the original social worker, advocating for the least of those among us,” she said.
Reinert took over the helm of the Social Work Department in the second semester of the 2022-23 year, after Liz Rembold assumed the Associate Provost role at BCU. Reinert said she has learned in life to accept new challenges that God has placed in her life, with the department chair duties being the latest one.
“It is definitely exciting,” she said, adding that in her new role she aims to carry out her strengths in being organized, detail oriented, person centered, and dedicated to relationship building both on campus and in the broader community.
The Social Work Department has about 30 students per semester, with both on campus and online programs that bring in students as far as the U.S. coasts and Canada most years. The department located on the third floor of Heelan has three professors, including Reinert, plus an administrative assistant.
“There is a heavy emphasis on positive and supportive student-professor relationships,” Reinert said.
She said the breadth of the three professors’ experiences is a notable positive for the department.
“We all have expertise in different areas, and I think that, combined, really gives students a well-rounded social work education. We three are all very invested in the community, which adds additional learning experiences for students,” Reinert said.
The accreditor for the social work program states that nine core competencies should have primacy in colleges, “so all our curriculum is geared towards students excelling in all those competencies,” Reinert said. Some of those competencies include assessment, intervention, and evaluations, plus advancing human rights via social, racial, and economic justice.
The social work students have what Reinert acclaimed as very valuable practicums in organizations such as Siouxland Mental Health Center and the Department of Human Services in Sioux City, and Unity in Action in South Sioux City.
“The practicums connect their classroom learning with real-life experiences. It enables students to apply social work practice, skills, and demonstrate their competence in the nine core competencies in a supportive learning environment,” she said.
This is part of a Faculty Stories series profiling all the chairs of BCU academic departments in 2023.