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May 6, 2012

DWU grad ready for social work career

By ANNA JAUHOLA, The Daily Republic

Sports and music have helped lead Mike Lynch on his journey to becoming a social worker.
Lynch, an Omaha, Neb., student of Dakota Wesleyan University, will celebrate his December graduation by walking through the spring commencement ceremony today at the Corn Palace.

Baccalaureate will begin at 10 a.m. at the Sherman Center on DWU’s campus, and graduation will start at 1 p.m. at the Corn Palace with 161 graduates.

Lynch came to DWU with a music scholarship, to run cross country and track, and to major in biology. Besides that, his connections to the area include that his mother was born in Winner and his uncle is DWU’s own Darryl Patten, famous for his involvement in the theater program. The Patten Theater is named for him.

During a visit to DWU as a high school student, Lynch was playing piano in one of the rooms on campus when someone suggested he talk to Dr. Daniel Barnard about a scholarship, which Lynch received after playing for Barnard. He was in the DWU choir and the Highlander musical group.

“I’d definitely thrown around the idea of being a music major,” he said. “But that’s as far as I got.”

Despite his love for music and interest in biology, his career path took a turn as he found psychology to be more interesting.

As a sophomore, Lynch participated in a group internship with Dr. Anne Kelly on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. During the two-semester program, the group visited the reservation each week. Lynch helped implement a suicide-prevention program that used extracurricular activities to teach children coping mechanisms. Lynch taught piano to some of the children, and other interns taught poetry, reading and writing.

“There were already a lot of intervention and prevention programs in place on the reservation. They were getting a lot of funding from the government,” he said. “But a lot of these programs were really struggling to be, from other peoples’ eyes, effective.”

Through teaching adolescents on the reservation creative outlets, Lynch and the other interns had the goal of helping them deal with depression and suicide.

Last summer, Lynch interned for a summer treatment program in Miami, Fla. The eight-week behavioral modification program helps boys ages 10 to 12 with disorders like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Dr. William Pelham, a leading expert on ADHD and professor at the University of Buffalo in New York state, ran the program in Miami.

“It was a real learning experience, just listening to the talks that Dr. Pelham gave,” Lynch said. “He actually gave us the opportunity to talk to him one-on-one, which is really unique because he’s kind of a rock star in psychology.”

As a part of the summer treatment program, half of every day was spent playing sports like basketball, football and ultimate Frisbee. It helped the children learn teamwork and gain friendships. Lynch coached four different sports during the eight-week period.

“What I want to do some day is work with kids and help them find other things to do,” he said. “I’ve worked with enough kids now to know that a lot of them grow up kind of bored.”

Prior to his internships, Lynch was “dead set” on being a clinical psychologist. After his experience at Rosebud, he leaned more toward psychology, and during his internship at the summer treatment program, Lynch realized he could be more of an asset as a social worker.

As he progresses in his career, Lynch hopes to include both sports and music when helping young people. This fall, Lynch will begin a four-year master’s program for social work at the University of Michigan School of Social Work. He will spend two years studying for his degree and two years in the Peace Corps.

“I like what I’ve done so far, because I’ve worked with so many different groups. I feel like I’m gaining a lot of perspective, and that’s really important to me,” he said. “I hope that I learn as much as I plan on teaching.”


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Last updated: 5/17/12