Spring Faculty Highlight: Elisabeth Schelstraete

Elisabeth Schelstraete, a new lecturer at the NC State Department of Social Work, was born and raised in Lier, Belgium. Now living in Raleigh, North Carolina, she is excited to contribute to the Department and the social work profession.

Ms. Schelstraete earned a master’s degree in social and cultural pedagogy at KU Leuven, one of the oldest universities in Europe. Professionally she is an educational scientist, though she is not fond of that term. According to Ms. Schelstraete, “To me, education is about becoming a human being. It entails the process of becoming our very own selves, with our own opinions and beliefs. As a social and cultural educational scientist, I am intrigued by how the environment in which we live and grow up affects that process.”

During her studies, Elisabeth Schelstraete was fortunate enough to gain valuable work experience in South America. She worked in a youth center in an underprivileged neighborhood near Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. As she recounts her time there, she notes, “In helping these youngsters, I was able to experience for myself what it is to not be a part of the majority group. I like to think it made me not only a better professional but also a better person. Living in a different place always teaches you new things about yourself and about the world you are living in. As such, I hope that my experiences here may give me the same kind of insights and broaden my horizon.

In Belgium, Ms. Schelstraete worked as an instructor for non-profit sector volunteers, including placements like hospitals, homes for the elderly, psychiatric centers, and disability service centers. “Working as an instructor was very gratifying because I was able to make a difference for both volunteers and clients. I am convinced that working at NC State will be just as rewarding and will allow me to share my passion for social justice with students and prepare them for their career in social work,” she says.

Though she is not a social worker by strict definition, Ms. Schelstraete stresses the importance of a diverse team. “In Belgium, it is very common for social workers to work in interdisciplinary teams with, for instance, educational scientists, psychologists, etc. in non-profit organisations (I personally like the term social profit organisations). We all share an objective to help people in need of support and to advocate for those who cannot do so themselves,” says Ms. Schelstraete.

Looking forward to the summer and fall semesters, Ms. Schelstraete is enthusiastic about working at NC State. She states, “Working at NC State University is an incredibly exciting opportunity for which I am very grateful. I think both BSW and MSW programs are wonderful and I am eager to contribute. I look forward to meeting all of my colleagues in-person once the stay-at-home order is no longer in force and we are back at the office. But until that time, I hope you stay safe and healthy. Go Pack!”

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