Indiana State University Newsroom

Grant connects Sycamores with social service experiences in rural areas

April 14, 2017

Kaila-Danielle Clements is ready for graduation day.

The Indiana State University senior social work major from Terre Haute has already lined up a job as a family case manager with Parke County Department of Child Services, and she is nearly finished with her required 175 hours per semester during her full academic year placement, which she was able to complete with her soon-to-be employer.

"I went to a school in Parke County for my sophomore through senior year of high school, and my family lives in the area. I like the environment up there, and Rockville was my choice of places to do placement," Clements said.

Getting to know the place she will soon call home has been an invaluable experience, but also a costly one. Since beginning placement in Rockville last fall, Clements spends about $20 to $25 a week in gas to travel to placement.

Clements is one of several Indiana State social work students who travel several days a week to rural placements and internships at their own expense, but a grant from the West Central Indiana-Area Health Education Center will alleviate some the financial burden.

Melissa Ketner, instructor and field director for the social work program, applies every fall to cover students who travel 20 miles or more in each direction for their all-academic year placements and works with West Central Indiana-Area Health Education Center Director Jackie Mathis to coordinate the reimbursements.

"We have field placements happening all academic year, but sometimes we have a ton of students who travel and other times we don't," Ketner said. "We've been able to adapt the grant as we've needed to to cover students in our graduate program too, which has a rural focus. The mileage helps bridge the financial gap, so they can access placements in rural areas."

A recipient of the Title IV-E Scholars Employment-Based Practicum scholarship through the Indiana Department of Child Services, Clements went into her placement knowing that the Department of Child Services would place her in a county in the area where she will work for two years after graduation.

In March, Clements learned she will continue at the Parke County Department of Child Services in Rockville as a full-time caseworker after commencement, making her months-long placement invaluable and the help of AHEC to cover the cost of travel even more beneficial.

"When you add up the other driving I do and coming to campus, I spend a lot of money filling up my car," Clements said. "The grant really helps because from where I live to my placement site is about 38 miles one-way and those miles add up. Even though the money doesn't come until after placement is over, just knowing that it is coming is a big relief."
When students apply for placement, they identify the populations and agencies they wish to serve and indicate their willingness to travel to their placement sites, especially in rural areas.

"In gaining experience in rural areas, there is usually a higher cost to travel to those sites, so we are glad to be able to provide funds to help students have experiences in those areas and if they gain experiences in rural areas they will know if that is an area for them," Mathis said. "Our hope is that they enjoy the experience and want to return to that site or a similar place once they are licensed."

The center's funding only covers travel to rural Indiana, so Ketner also applies for funds through Indiana State's Center for Community Engagement to assist students who travel to Illinois or to urban settings. All funds are distributed based on the total miles traveled after placements at schools, child welfare service offices, hospitals or other medical facilities are complete.

Juniors in the Bachelor of Social Work program participate in a 100-hour placement during spring semester, while seniors in the program participate in a 175-hour per semester, full academic year placements. Students in the graduate program, which requires a 350-hour placement in the fall and spring semester. All are eligible for travel reimbursement.

This year, six students have received funding to travel to placement sites in Linton, Sullivan, Greencastle, Rockville and Shakamak. Two or more students placed at the same site can carpool and share the reimbursement, which allowed two Sycamores who did a ride-share to meet with a social worker in Brazil to be reimbursed for their commute.

Since starting her school year-long placement at the Department of Child Services in Sullivan last fall, Shunte Wilson's nearly hour commute at least two days a week has cost her about $60 in gas per week.

"The grant funding was very much needed because I have a 4-year-old who I have to take back and forth to daycare by Indiana State's campus and I live south at here," said Wilson, a senior social work major from Indianapolis who will work as a family case manager there after graduation in May. "My placement is about 40 minutes away, but this opportunity has helped me get my foot in the door."

Ketner has a request pending for mileage reimbursement to help students who traveled to internships and clinicals during the spring semester only. The center's grant funds have also helped send several Indiana State graduate students to training in their clinical area.

"If I had to guess, I would say that more than half of the students driving this year to placements would not be able to get training in these rural settings if it wasn't for the grant funding," she said. "We recognize and support AHEC's mission to recruit people into rural health careers, help students get through graduation and retain professionals in health careers. This collaboration with AHEC is really important to us as a department, because we align right with their mission."

Contact: Melissa Ketner, social work instructor and field director for the social work program, Indiana State University,

Writer: Betsy Simon, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-7972 or