When Christa Moore, assistant professor of sociology, came to the University of Virginia’s College at Wise to share her knowledge about and experience in human services with her students, she knew she’d be mentoring them as they searched for careers. But, she didn’t realize that five years into her time at UVA Wise, she’d also be sharing her knowledge about careers in human services with students across the U.S.
A few months ago, Moore was approached by Zippia.com, a career website visited by approximately 2.6 million visitors seeking career info each month, about sharing insights on job trends in the social sciences. Now, the content she uses when mentoring students at UVA Wise is included on the homepage of the website, just below mentions of Harvard and Yale Universities.
“I feel really grateful to share pieces of my own story and insights about how students can think about how to move forward after graduation,” Moore says. “So many students graduate and think ‘OK I have a degree, now what?’ so I tried to reinforce that they should trust the knowledge and expertise they have gained, have confidence in what they’ve learned, but also maintain humility in knowing there’s still so much to learn in the field, too.”
In addition to teaching courses like Community and Social Change, Marriage and Family, and Sociology and Gender, Moore serves as the sociology advisor at UVA Wise. As a certified clinical sociologist, she draws on two decades of experience as a human services practitioner in Kentucky, where she worked in settings such as a prison, in-patient psychiatric facilities, a Community Action organization, and Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
Moore’s research focuses on child welfare and interagency collaboration, as many organizations in a community need to cooperate to serve the same families. Such collaboration, Moore says, is especially important for helping vulnerable families, now more than ever.
“We’re at a time when social science is going to be called upon to promote innovative ways to collaboratively face the consequences and outcomes of the pandemic, which has gone on longer than anticipated,” Moore adds. “We’re still learning what people need to feel comfortable again. People have been isolated for too long.”
Moore knows that no matter the clinical setting, recent sociology graduates can help mitigate these concerns. And the human services field is growing. A 17 percent increase in human services jobs was projected before the pandemic, and is especially needed in rural areas. Unfortunately, the pandemic has amplified growing concerns about child mistreatment and neglect, which will necessitate even more professionals in the fields of prevention and treatment.
Moore’s article addresses a critical step in helping individuals and families that face ongoing homelessness, food insecurity and other challenges: identifying future clinical practitioners who are well prepared for their careers.
“I expose my students to real human services settings, and challenge them to empower others in a fulfilling way,” Moore says. “Students feel like this is adopting a mission. In sociology careers, there are a lot of intrinsic benefits. Helping people just feels good.”
Moore was drawn to teaching because it is also a form of prevention work.
“We’re living with a generation of students who are engaged and interested in helping others,” Moore says. “It’s refreshing working with college students. I enjoy taking students out in to the community to observe different domains of human services. Through that, they get a broad understanding of the spectrum of human services and which piece of it they might want to go into.”
Moore and Heather Evans, John Morton Beaty Endowed Chair in Political Science, have been expanding their mission to get students to help others through UVA Wise CONNECTS, a community engagement initiative that encourages courses that merge academic instruction with disciplinary-specific forms of service learning. She is the winner of the 2021 Rising Star Faculty Award at UVA Wise. And, she will soon publish a book, Gendered Power in Human Services Organizations: Interagency Collaboration, Child Welfare Services, and the Ethics of Care, about organizational dynamics within child welfare systems with a focus on gender and power dynamics.