Interview with Mandy Fauble – Assistant Professor at Edinboro University | Online Learning, Behavioral Health, and Task Forces

About Mandy Fauble, Ph.D., LCSW: Mandy Fauble earned her Master of Social Work from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania in 2002 and became a licensed clinical social worker prior to completing her Ph.D. in Social Welfare in 2009 at Case Western Reserve University. Currently, she is the vice president of clinical operations at Safe Harbor Behavioral Health of UPMC Hamot. She is deeply connected to the agency where she has worked as a therapist, therapy supervisor, program director, and administrator. Fauble has been teaching at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania since 2012 and Mercyhurst University since 2005. She is a certified trainer in several evidence-based suicide prevention programs. Mandy Fauble was compensated to participate in this interview.

[] Prior to becoming an assistant professor in the Social Work Department at Edinboro University (EU), you earned your Master of Social Work there. What have you noticed has changed in the MSW program since you attended? Have there been any developments that you wish had happened while you were still a student?

[Mandy Fauble, Ph.D., LCSW] I was in the very first cohort for the MSW program. I remember my class was given a paperweight that said “Pioneers 2002.” That coaster sits on the table in my office, along with the many memories it holds. It was, of course, different, because the program was so new and small. Everyone knew everyone and there was definitely an “in it together” feel. While it is easy to notice how large and different the program has become, there is still a sense of community and now a wide array of options for students, especially related to online studies. I am very proud to say that the program has done so much to move in a direction that supports teachers in teaching in a trauma-informed way, and in creating a trauma-informed curriculum.

Ultimately, I learned a lot about starting a program through what I was able to observe and experience, and also learned the tools I needed to become an MSW. It was a two-for-one experience!

[] You work with graduate students in both the on-campus and online classes. Aside from the medium, what most distinguishes these learning environments? Does each have its own advantages and challenges?

[Mandy Fauble, Ph.D., LCSW] This is such a great question.

I think the most important thing about the online environment is just dispensing with the myth that it is not rigorous. In reality, when courses are designed appropriately, the online students do the exact same types of assignments, and, because they are more individually accountable, they have to be active independently to earn their grades. In a seated classroom, a person can have an off week and not really participate, or do a more minimal amount of engagement. In the online classroom, I get a chance to engage with each student far more. The environment requires more sustained energy from the students over time. As a faculty member, it also demands greater sustained energy. So, for me the advantage of the online environment is the ability to engage individual students more deeply.

There are some challenges, such as varying levels of technological savvy, difficulty having spontaneous exchanges, and a need for concrete communication. While some folks also question if you can “really” get to know a student online, I would just point out that we can observe how students interact with one another online and even review tapes of interviews.

As any classroom environment is somewhat artificial, instructors have to be mindful of how interactions might translate to working with clients in either a seated or an online classroom. This speaks more to a need to carefully observe, ask challenging questions, and integrate classroom and field observations in a meaningful way than it does to the classroom format.

[] Developing and implementing innovative behavioral health programs is your passion. How does this manifest in your classes? Are there any educational or professional experiences you would recommend for students who hope to develop and implement their own innovative behavioral health programs?

[Mandy Fauble, Ph.D., LCSW] My students often describe me as “passionate” so I think this translates in my energy for our work.

In the classroom, I think it is important to expose students to a wide array of authors, perspectives and styles of work, particularly as it relates to the socio-political environment. Successful outcomes come in many forms, so I try to push students to really examine their own potential for leadership and to understand that change is something created by the average person with a vision. My goal is to help students recognize they have power to create change. In our field, we can’t settle for the “way it is” or the “way it’s always been done.” If we are called by our code of ethics to create a socially just community, we have to keep pushing ourselves.

My advice for students is simple: Get connected to someone with a “project” and be open to trying new things. Sometimes people miss the big picture because they are looking at the small picture. If you want to develop innovative programs for children, your immediate response may be to decline an invite to help on a project for the elderly. That is a short-sighted strategy, given we learn so many useful tools in projects that might not be our passion but give us what we need to fan the flames of our own areas of interest. If we don’t sometimes take a step in a different direction to learn something, we may never get where we truly want to go. A good metaphor for this is taking a road trip. If you don’t exit every now and then to fuel up, you won’t get there. So, take a detour every now and then to learn something and pick up a tip. You will likely find that you develop the skills, relationships and knowledge of processes to actually make your own visions happen.

And keep reminding yourself it is possible. Journal articles are often a great place to learn about innovative projects and programs, but reading for inspiration is important, too. Books by authors in our fields, and even documentaries and movies can be a source of inspiration. We have to be intentional about the messages we choose to consume about our work. There’s a lot out there to sustain us!

[] You serve on the Erie County Suicide Prevention Task Force. Can you describe the suicide prevention challenges facing Erie County? How is the task force working to address them?

[Mandy Fauble, Ph.D., LCSW] The Task Force is a wonderful group of stakeholders who come together to address this issue. The group is made up of people with deeply personal connections, professional interest, and from a wide array of career paths that intersect on this topic. We have folks from public policy entities, people with lived experiences of being suicidal, surviving family members, advocacy groups, researchers and academics, behavioral health organization staff, law enforcement, and more.

Suicide is an important topic nationwide, and the challenges in Erie are similar to those faced in other areas. Education and awareness continues to be a major focus, as people are still stunned to learn how many more people die by suicide than homicide, and how many people feel suicidal in any given year. The Task Force is currently also engaged in its annual conference planning. The conference, in Erie on Sept. 20, had over 300 attendees last year and offers experts discussing suicide in a wide array of contexts. We are privileged this year to have a Task Force member who is an MSW student from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania who will be studying suicide in Erie. We hope to learn about any unique factors in Erie that can be better addressed by the community.

[] Why is it important for social workers to be involved in such task forces? How can they learn about and get involved with similar efforts?

[Mandy Fauble, Ph.D., LCSW] As social workers, we are so lucky to have training that focuses on micro, mezzo, and macro practice, and a code of ethics that calls us to create deep and meaningful change in our communities. Getting involved in projects that can address wider audiences and bring community members together is foundational to making changes happen across levels of practice. It can also provide a satisfying opportunity for social workers who do mostly individual work each day, but who want to participate in broader social change, or take opportunities to use their skills differently.

To find out about local opportunities, I would suggest four strategies. First, ask supervisors, program managers, and administrators at your agencies, or faculty at your schools. Many task forces start with two or three people recruiting folks they know who may have an interest, so, it helps to meet those people, as they are often quite networked in the community. Second, Google your location, areas of interest, and the terms “coalition,” “task force,” or “meeting.” Odds are you will find something if you search something like “Pleasantville homelessness coalition.” Then, you can reach out to anyone connected to the meeting. Third, volunteer with an organization that you know works on the topic you’re interested in; information is likely to come your way. For instance, if you are interested in working to do something to better support families of those with Alzheimer’s, getting involved with an adult day center, a senior center, or the Alzheimer’s Association is going to help you meet with people with similar interests and their social networks. More opportunities will come your way. Finally, take the opportunity to serve on the first task force you can, if it is something you can get behind. This will multiply your social network, and you may become a go-to resource; increasing the odds you will learn about other opportunities.

Thank you Mandy Fauble for your time and insight into social work!

Last updated: April 2020