A journey to Eastern

California, Texas, Spain and now Pennsylvania: these have been the places Eastern’s new Social Work professor Charlene Chen-McGrew has worked.  Chen-McGrew is a graduate from the University of California-Santa Cruz, Dallas Theological Seminary and University of Pennsylvania.

She began teaching at Eastern as an adjunct professor in 2005. Currently, she is working towards earning her PhD from University of Pennsylvania, all the while teaching at Eastern full-time and raising two children.

Chen-McGrew was raised in California and met her husband when she attended Seminary in Dallas. “We came to Pennsylvania because Penn had what we were both looking for: Social Work for me and Linguistics for him,” she said.

Chen-McGrew stated she was planning to apply for a job in the area, “but the more time I spent getting to know (Eastern), the more I was drawn to it.”

The adjustment has been somewhat difficult for Chen-McGrew, although very rewarding at the same time. “For first and second-year teaching jobs, it’s always brutal,” she said. “This is the first time that I’ve really worked full-time since having kids, but it’s been made to be as easy as possible, thanks to an incredibly supportive department chair (Sandy Bauer), wonderful colleagues and engaging students.”

Before teaching here, Chen-McGrew worked with immigrants and refugees in Dallas and Spain, and was able to work with low-income families and the elderly, as well as adolescents in after-school prevention programs. Both of McGrew’s parents were immigrants to the United States from China, so she understands how difficult the transition period can be for immigrants and refugees.

This fall, Chen-McGrew is teaching two social work classes: Research Methods, and Human Need and Social Response. “My hope is to make the topics more interesting, explore different ways to teaching these classes to make them more fun for students,” she said.

Chen-McGrew is very excited to be a part of the Eastern community, especially since she primarily worked with research universities in the past. “I was very much struck by how much the students are valued here,” she said. “Coming from a research university, you don’t have that. I love how much support there is for the students. It is a great aspect of this job.”

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