Empowering Communities, Transforming Lives: The Impact of Social Work

Social workers have the power to create transformative change at both individual and community levels. This article highlights inspiring stories of two online MSW students aspiring to empowered communities, restored hope, and transformed lives. Learn about the invaluable contributions social work professionals make and how you can become a part of this impactful journey through OHIO's online MSW program.

January 23, 2024


Social workers share a common goal: improving lives.

Meet Akosua Afrakoma Peprah MS ’25 and Brian Hart MS ’24, OHIO Online Master's in Social Work students preparing for impactful careers. Shaped by their personal journeys, each aims to create transformative change in their communities. Their focus is on empowering people and restoring hope, especially in critical areas like public health and supporting survivors of sexual assault.

Akosua Afrakoma Peprah

A purpose both personal and profound: advocating for victims of sexual abuse in Ghana

Akosua Afrakoma Peprah grew up in Ghana, where her childhood was shaped by difficult circumstances.

“As a young girl, I bore witness to the harrowing scenes of my mother enduring the anguish of abuse,” said Akosua. “Love, it seemed, was not complete without the grim companion of abuse.”

When she moved to the United States to further her education goals, Akosua was able to better understand the intricacies of abuse.

“The shift occurred as I gained access to knowledge, theories, and books that challenged the toxic notion that abuse is acceptable within the realm of love. Therapy, extensive reading, and a shift in mindset became my tools for transformation.”

After receiving her bachelor’s degree, Akosua’s career path has led her to the field of social work as a family case manager providing advocacy, professional services, and support for youth, families of origin and foster parents. As rewarding as that work is, she has always had plans to return to Ghana. 

“I intend to practice as a clinical social worker in Ghana. To achieve this, I recognize the need to navigate the intricacies of licensure, particularly understanding how my licensure in Ohio will impact my practice in Ghana. My plan involves thorough research into international social work and the specific requirements for practicing as a licensed clinical social worker in Ghana,” said Akosua.

To help her achieve her goal, she enrolled in OHIO’s Online MSW program.

“Enrolling in Ohio University's online Master's in Social Work program holds profound significance in preparing me for my dedicated pursuit of positive change and advocacy for survivors of trauma and violence. The program's comprehensive curriculum, rooted in evidence-based practices and guided by social justice principles, aligns seamlessly with my professional values and objectives,” said Akosua.

OHIO’s social work program is designed to prepare students for addressing real-world issues in vulnerable communities. Emphasizing practical skills and hands-on experience over theoretical concepts, the program ensures that graduates are well-equipped to actively address barriers, challenge entrenched silence, and empower communities affected by trauma. This approach makes it an ideal choice for students who aim to actively dismantle oppressive systems and advocate for systemic change.

“What sets Ohio University's program apart is the inclusion of a field practicum, providing invaluable hands-on experience. My field placement has been crucial in bridging theory and practice. It's one thing to learn concepts in a classroom and another to apply them to real-life situations. Navigating challenges in the field has transformed theoretical knowledge into practical skills, making the experience worthwhile.”

To Akosua, her MSW will not be just a degree.

“It's a compass guiding me to build a grassroots, intersectional organization. One that sees and attends to the unique needs of each individual affected by abuse. It is a commitment to fostering change at the core, creating a society that stands just not for some but for all. This is how I plan to leverage my MSW – giving power back to those who have endured, and building a just society that benefits every individual within its embrace."

Brian Hart

Brian Hart

Evolution of purpose: creating a path from educator to health advocate

Hart, who started a foundation that focuses on disease prevention through the promotion of whole food, plant-based nutrition, spent almost 20 years working in private education as a humanities teacher, coach, curriculum specialist and administrator.

“Most of my life I have tried to ask myself a difficult question: Am I part of the problem or part of the solution?” Hart says, noting he felt drawn to help individuals through knowledge, leading them towards healthier choices, a reduced reliance on processed foods, and ultimately, less dependence on the healthcare system.

“Healthy eating and exercise are at the core of who I am. I never get tired of talking about it with others.”

As executive director of the non-profit Esselstyne Foundation located Cleveland, Ohio, Hart’s passion to help others is strong—but he knew passion alone wasn't enough. He needed skills and knowledge to help him make the most impact. The OHIO Online MSW program allowed him to learn as he worked, putting his new knowledge into direct action. This constant feedback pushed him to keep improving, turning his passion into real change for the people he helped.

“My MSW degree has really opened my eyes to different theories of being, wellness frameworks, and notions of how people construct their sense of community and the values that form their worldviews,” said Hart. “Most importantly, I have learned about human change. Learning about positive psychology methods, motivational interviewing, the nature of the therapeutic relationship, and cognitive behavioral therapy, among many other key ideas and theories, has really helped me approach the change process differently.”

OHIO's Online MSW program requires a hands-on field practicum where students gain practical experience in diagnostic assessment, therapeutic interventions for mental and emotional disorders, clinical documentation, and other clinical practices. Faculty actively work with students to help identify field placement options aligned with their specific areas of interest.

“I loved the fact that we were able to choose our own area of interest to research at our field placements in the final phase of the program.”  I chose to research the use of mindfulness-based interventions with clients engaged in acute drug and alcohol detox programs. I loved the entire planning and research process...I learned so much!”

Hart chose OHIO’s online education platform because it fit his needs the best.

“I really appreciated the autonomous nature of the program. We always received our assignments on Sunday night and had them due the following Sunday night. We could complete the assignments and readings when we wanted to and on our own timeline. We rarely had to attend a required session. It was a perfect program for anyone with a full-time job and/or family commitments."

OHIO’s online MSW program: where you develop the skills for meaningful change

Tailored for the needs of working professionals, OHIO's online MSW program offers the flexibility required to manage educational goals with existing employment and personal obligations.

The online program, accredited by the Council on Social Work Education, is designed as a part-time option. Students benefit from a reduced workload, completing fewer practicum hours and taking fewer classes each semester compared to full-time programs. This structure enables them to maintain their current employment while still dedicating time to family and social commitments.

The program stands out not only for its flexibility but also for its commitment to providing personalized attention from faculty members who are deeply invested in the success of their students by offering support and guidance from faculty, who actively assists them in navigating program requirements, identifying areas of interest, locating practicum sites, understanding licensure requirements, preparing for exams, and offering general support as needed. OHIO’s online MSW program is designed to equip students with the flexibility and resources essential for a rewarding career in social work. By delivering a top-quality education, the program ensures that graduates are well-prepared to play a crucial role in building a better future and addressing global challenges, one person and one community at a time.