Faculty member guides students on path to higher learning

Dr. Whitney Harper, assistant professor in the WKU Department of Social Work is dedicated to guiding students on a path of higher learning. She taught at a community college for 15 years before joining the faculty at WKU Owensboro in 2015. Today she teaches at both the Owensboro and Bowling Green campuses. 

An important part of the higher learning process is gaining hands-on experience through applied research. Harper serves as faculty mentor for several students from the Owensboro and Bowling Green campuses as they present at research conferences throughout the year, including the annual WKU Student Research Conference (REACH) in March and the Kentucky Association of Social Work Educators Conference in April. In addition, she works with a Faculty-Undergraduate Student Engagement (FUSE) grant scholar, and with students as they finish up the Social Work program and are challenged to develop, implement and evaluate a research project addressing a social problem within the agency that they practicing.

Harper said students at all WKU campuses have opportunities to become active in research, and offered some practical tips for beginning a research project: 

  1. Embrace the idea of research. Don’t be intimidated by it but intrigued. Know that your faculty is here to support you in this endeavor.
  2. Focus on a passion. Be interested in learning all you can about a particular topic. Let some of your assignments revolve around learning more about your passions. Let this be the start of doing some investigative work.
  3. Talk to your advisor or program faculty about research opportunities at WKU. There is a FUSE grant and the REACH conference both offered annually. Both are great ways to be in a supportive environment while you learn to develop and implement a research study.

WKU students, particularly those in the Social Work program, have the unique opportunity to work with faculty to develop an independent study that solely focuses on individual interests and investigative work.

Harper said that she is dedicated to making an impact on her students lives as well as those they will serve as they enter the field of social work. 

“I am passionate about making a lasting impact on the well being of others. This includes not only clients, but students, colleagues, friends and family,” said Harper. “As social workers, we have many opportunities to help change the trajectory of a person’s life. That is also true of professors. To positively influence and guide those who will have so many opportunities to do the same for vulnerable people is a responsibility I take very seriously.”

Posted with permission from WKU News

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