This is the first in a series as we introduce our new faculty members.
Michaela Rinkel, Ph.D., LCSW, joined Saint Mary’s University as an associate professor in the Master of Social Work program on July 5.
Rinkel has extensive teaching experience at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Her most recent role was at Hawai‘i Pacific University in Honolulu, Hawaii, where she served as social work program director and associate professor.
Her scholarship is mainly focused on three areas: spirituality and social work practice, sustainability in social work practice, and the use of simulation in social work education and training. With years of clinical experience, she has also published many research findings, including a three volume workbook series published by the International Federation of Social Workers which examines different aspects of social work and environmental justice — a project Rinkel said she is most proud of.
“My passion right now involves preparing social workers to work on the sustainability movement,” she said. “Our profession is right in the middle of the climate crisis, but for many reasons is often not at the table working toward changing the social systems that are contributing to the problems. I can help by preparing social work educators to help this next generation of social workers be engaged on environmental issues.
Many see social work as working just with social systems and that the physical environment is somehow separate. But we work with the consequences of the systems that degrade both our natural and social environments such as oppression, racism, separation of humans from their cousins, and exploitation that has become synonymous with the brand of capitalism in the U.S.”
A member of the National Association of Social Workers Council on Social Work Education, Rinkel has delivered numerous presentations, particularly on ethics in social work, and even received an oral presentation award for the paper “Sitting in the Grey: How Social Work Practice Influences Spiritual Development” at the International Conference on Social Work in Health and Mental Health in Singapore.
Rinkel received a Ph.D. in social work and a MSW from the University of Minnesota. She also holds a BSW from the College of St. Catherine. The Minnesota native said she was drawn to Saint Mary’s because it brought her home after 10 years in Hawaii, and because the Saint Mary’s MSW program is in an exciting phase.
“It is new and innovative, growing, has competent compassionate faculty, and is delivering a high quality online education in social work. That is a challenge,” she exclaimed. “And I’m excited to be a part!”