Mary Desha Scanlon

Supporting Social Work Employment-Hosted Practicum Placements: Challenges and Recommendations

Mary Desha Scanlon is a field coordinator with the University of Kentucky’s (UK) College of Social Work. Her vital work assists over 2000 students a year connect with high quality experiential learning environments in agencies all over the U.S. As a seasoned higher education professional, Desha is a staunch advocate for her students and provides comprehensive services to them across their academic programs.

Prior to her work in higher education, Desha worked as a social worker in the Division of Pediatric Hematology-Oncology at the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center where she served over 250 families with children with life-threatening conditions. She is also a big proponent of birthing mother’s rights and is an original founder of Citizens for Midwifery, a national consumer-based organization promoting the midwifery model of care. She was also a certified Bradley Childbirth Educator and doula.

Desha holds a master’s degree in social work from the University of Kentucky, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Eastern Kentucky University. She is currently a Doctor of Social Work (DSW) candidate and is expected to earn her degree in May 2023.

While pursuing her DSW degree, with a concentration on social work education, Desha has focused her research on field education, known as the signature pedagogy of social work education. Her capstone project reviews current knowledge, best practices, and new ways of supporting learning within employment-hosted practicum placements.

Desha hopes to continue her work in social work education and specifically field education. She is based in her hometown of Lexington, Kentucky.