Student Spotlight: Monica Nichols

Colombia native bringing her experience as an interpreter to social work field

Monica Nichols, 42, is earning her Pre-Social Work Transfer Pathway A.S. as an adult part-time student at Inver Hills Community College. Monica serves as a Spanish medical interpreter at the Hennepin Healthcare East Lake Clinic in Minneapolis. She has more than 15 years of experience as an interpreter and is versed in medical/healthcare, education, and community services terminologies.

Monica is looking forward to attending either Metropolitan State University or St. Catherine’s University after she graduates from Inver Hills. She has centered her career plans on becoming a licensed independent clinical social worker (LICSW) in therapeutic services.

Monica’s experience and expertise as an interpreter will be an essential component of her new career as a social worker. She holds an  English as a Second Language certificate from Minneapolis Community and Technical College. She’s also completed Bridging the Gap Training, a professional medical interpreter program, through the Cross Cultural Health Care Program and Arch Language Network as well as the Community Interpreter Program/Interpreter Training, Education, Health and Human Services, also through the Arch Language Network.

Before taking on her role at Hennepin Healthcare, Monica worked as a healthcare navigator and Spanish interpreter at Minnesota Community Care for five years. She built her skills as an interpreter serving as a bilingual office manager at a family dentistry practice for more than a decade. She also worked as a Spanish interpreter for the Arch Language Network in Ramsey County.

Social Work Month 2023¹

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) holds an annual event in March called Social Work Month.

Social Work Month in March is a time to celebrate the great profession of social work. The theme for Social Work Month 2023 is Social Work Breaks Barriers.

During Social Work Month, take time to learn more about the many positive contributions of the profession. Use the items in our Social Media Toolkit for Social Work Month 2023 to celebrate all the social workers you know.

NASW is hoping you will take this month’s theme to heart and help bring awareness to the awesome, life-changing work social workers do by sharing your stories across NASW social media:


Learn more about how you can celebrate Social Work Month 2023 by emailing

About NASW

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is the largest membership organization of professional social workers in the world. NASW works to enhance the professional growth and development of its members to create and maintain professional standards for social workers, and to advance sound social policies.

Faculty perspective: Jill Grover, MSW, LISW

Jill Grover serves as faculty in the Pre-Social Work program. Jill is proud of Monica’s strong sense of social justice. She knows Monica has a very bright future as a social worker.

“Monica is the poster woman of someone who has seen inequitable issues in her work and decided to do something about it,” Jill said. “Her passion for wanting to support people in her community, so much so that she’s making a career change mid-life, is unmatched. I can’t wait to see what she does next!”

Jill reported that trained social workers are in high demand. “With the rise and growing awareness of mental health and social justice issues, our community needs more skilled and compassionate helping professionals now more than ever.  Our Pre-Social Work Transfer Pathway curriculum boasts small class sizes and offers a variety of electives for a personalized learning experience tailored to the career goals of our students.”

Jill added that the program’s required internship experience also provides a way for students to put their learning to practice before graduating and entering the field.

“Social work is an expansive and diverse industry both in terms of the types of settings employing social workers as well as the kinds of client populations served,” she said, noting that social workers can be employed at numerous institutions and entities:

  • Hospitals/clinics
  • County/state agencies
  • Schools
  • Nonprofit social service agencies
  • Home healthcare agencies
  • Libraries
  • Police departments
  • Corrections agencies
  • Animal welfare organizations
  • Legal advocacy organizations
  • Immigrant/refugee resettlement organizations
  • Private practice therapy
  • Mental health and chemical dependency treatment facilities
  • And so many more!
Learn more about Jill Grover by reading her Inver Hills News story:

New Faculty Spotlight: Jill Grover

Jill Grover, MSW, LISW

More about Monica…

Benjamin, Monica, Amelia, Nathan

Born and raised in Bogota, Colombia, Monica moved to the U.S. 2000 when she was 19 years old. She graduated from the Instituto Colsubsidio de Educación Femenina in Bogota, Class of 1998. Leaving family behind was the hardest part of moving to a new country.

Monica’s best memories from her life in Colombia are from spending time with family not just for holidays or birthday parties, but any day was a day to get together, visit, eat, and dance. Lots of weekends with family were set aside for going fishing and taking road trips.

Monica remembers spending a lot of time in nature. “I was a girl scout,” she said, “and we had lots of camps. I also have great memories of Colombian food all around. Also, I love my memories with friends from high school, just doing teenager stuff. At school, I went on field trips and practiced sports like swimming, volleyball, and basketball.”

Her favorite place in Colombia is her mother’s apartment. “Her love and cooking are precious,” Monica said. “Other places like the mountains and the ocean, too, are my favorites. What I miss most about Colombia is being with family and friends and sharing food and having gatherings for no reason, just to get together, no planning, no appointments needed to get together, just to be together and eat and sometimes party and dance.”

Reuniting with family in Colombia

Because she works full-time at the clinic and is raising two children, Monica doesn’t have much room for extracurricular activities at Inver Hills, but she does participate in Phi Theta Kappa. She and her husband, Nathan, will have been married 14 years this October. Nathan works as a painter and mechanic. Monica and Nathan have two children, a son named Benjamin, 9, and a daughter named Amelia, 5.

“We don’t have any pets,” Monica said, “but I love my plants. I’ve got lilies, aloe vera, cactus, African violets, and bromeliads.”

Monica and her family reside in West St. Paul.

Monica family, life, and Colombia gallery

One word that best describes your experience at Inver Hills:


Monica Nichols Q & A

Monica Nichols
What inspired you to pursue a Transfer Pathway A.S. in Pre-Social Work?

The need in the population we serve at the hospital—especially in the Hispanic community.

What do you find most engaging about your Pre-Social Work coursework?

Online work is very flexible, and I enjoy doing things on my own time and space. All the subjects I have had so far are very interesting.

How will your experience as a professional Spanish interpreter help you find your path as a social worker?

I have been working with lots of social workers as an interpreter. I see myself doing that work, and I feel very passionate about it. Being exposed to the medical field has helped me greatly to understand and be confident in wanting to do social work. I will be working with the Hispanic Latino population, and it is a great asset to know Spanish already.

Words that describe you as a college student:

What have you learned about social work from your time working in the healthcare system?

I have learned that many people from different backgrounds are seeking help for many different situations, and sometimes there are more patients than providers. The need nowadays is so large, especially for psychotherapeutic services.

It is a very rewarding career, but it is also emotionally taxing. But I am willing to do it because I can see the need in the community, and I want to help.

What area of social work interests you the most and why?

Psychotherapeutic services and mental health in general. I have always been inclined to work with mental health cases. I like it and I am good at it.

What do you like best about attending Inver Hills?

The flexibility with online courses. My advisor, Annette Carpenter, has also been an excellent help; she inspires me and is always willing to help me and answer all my questions. The campus is also close to home, and they have good tools for adult learners like me.

What person has influenced your life the most and why?

My mother. She is a very strong woman and has taught me that anything is possible if you put your mind into it. She is a great example in my life of a woman of character and strength. She believes in me and has helped me to keep my head into my goals and push my limits and go the extra mile.

My mother is also a great people person. She is kind and noble/humble and is always wanting to help people when possible. We are very good friends, and I wish we could live closer. She is still in Colombia.

Where do you hope to find yourself in 20 years?

Working at HCMC as a social worker first. Also traveling to help communities in need in Colombia and around the world—like a missionary.

Monica Nichols 12 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: Zumba dancing
  2. Place you would most like to visit: Greece and Fiji
  3. Most exciting thing you’ve ever done: Move to the United States
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Pay off all the debt 2) Get a house 3) Help family and friends
  5. Best book or movie you’ve read or seen lately: Movie: If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
  6. Time period (past or future) you would explore if you could time travel: Past: 18th century England; future: Going to the moon
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in your life: To graduate from college and university with a master’s degree
  8. Your national bird if you were your own country: Condor Andino
  9. Dream occupation: Mental health social worker at the hospital
  10. Person you would most like to meet: Jesus Christ and 14th Dalai Lama
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: Self-management
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: Eradicating poverty
Learn more about the Pre-Social Work program at Inver Hills by contacting:

Inver Hills Community College
Virtual Visit

¹ SOURCE: NASW Social Work Month

More about the Pre-Social Work program

Social work belongs to the field of human services that focuses on meeting human needs by applying methods, practices, and technologies from a vast, interdisciplinary knowledge base. Problem prevention and remediation as well as improving quality of life are the primary objectives of human services professionals.

Why Study Pre-Social Work at Inver Hills?

Help where you’re most needed.
Use your knowledge, values, understanding, competence, and empathy to directly improve the wellbeing of individuals and communities by helping meet their basic human needs.

You believe everyone matters.
People dealing with difficult circumstances struggle to find fulfillment in life. As a social worker, you will fight on their side, using your experience and expertise to make a lasting difference in their world.

Adapting to change is your strong suit.
Social work never stops evolving. New emphasis has moved to prevention and early intervention. If you feel primed to apply your talent and drive to help solve serious social challenges in innovative ways, social work might be your calling.

Be the voice for the voiceless.
People at risk need real assistance and understanding the most. Trouble is they are often the last to get the support they need. As a social worker, you will have the matchless capacity to step up on their behalf and persuade society to stop, pay attention, learn compassion, and race to the rescue.

Are you up for the biggest challenges of your life?
No two cases are exactly alike. That’s one of the first things you’ll learn as a social worker. Solving shifting problems with grit and creativity will become your second nature. Helping change someone’s life for the better can be uncommonly rewarding, but also emotionally demanding. Your intelligence and fortitude will be tested—then again, that’s a big reason you chose this profession.

Join a fast-growing, high-demand workforce.
CAREERwise includes four social work-related occupations on a list of 50 careers expected to grow at a faster rate than other careers from 2016 to 2026: Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers (18.1 percent), Health Care Social Workers (14.0 percent), Social and Community Service Managers (12.3 percent), and Social and Human Service Assistants (12.0 percent).

Pre-Social Work Career Paths

Make a genuine difference in our world.
Due to the nature of the work, which involves direct contact with vulnerable individuals, job applicants are carefully screened for professional and personal qualifications. Employers seek applicants with relevant academic credentials, work experience, and a history of volunteerism.

Career Opportunities

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for social workers approached $52,000 in May 2020. Overall employment of social workers in the U.S. is projected to grow 12 percent from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average for all occupations.

More than 78,000 openings for social workers are projected each year on average over the course of the decade.


Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers

Assess and treat people who struggle with addiction to substances such as alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.

Mental health and substance abuse social work is a very high-wage career that pays well above the statewide median wage of $23.81/hour.


Median: $29.88/hour
High: $38.18/hour

Seven-county Twin Cities metro

Median: $30.03/hour
High: $38.62/hour


In Minnesota, there are 3,110 workers employed in this small career. This career is currently in very high demand and seeing high growth (growth rate 14.9 percent in U.S.) compared to other careers.

There will be a need for about 2,707 new Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers to meet market demand between 2020–2030. This includes the demand due to replacement (workers leaving the occupation or retiring) as well as growth.

— Minnesota State CAREERwise Education (March 7, 2023)

Inver Hills News stories during Social Work Month 2023

Student Spotlight: Izzy Sutliff

Izzy Sutliff

Student Spotlight: Morgan Marvin

Morgan Marvin

Student Spotlight: Mariana Pirela-Diaz

Mariana Pirela-Diaz

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