What are you doing now?
After receiving my Masters in Social Work with a concentration in community organization, policy practice and administration, I began my first social work position at the Alzheimer’s Association, Central New York Chapter. The Alzheimer’s Association, CNY Chapter spans over 14 counties with six core services provided to the families and individuals impacted by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. As an associate program director, I am responsible for the programs and services delivery across core service areas. We cover six core services as follows: information and referral, care consultation, support groups, safety services, education programs, and online services. My day-to-day involves individual care consultations for families to develop action plans throughout disease navigation, following up with caregivers who are facing challenges with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, individuals who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, facilitating a support group for those in the early stages of the disease, management of caregiver support groups, presentation of public and professional education programs and multiple other duties as the position allows.
In what ways did your experiences at Naz prepare you for what you’re doing now?
In the Fall of 2012, I was fresh from completing my Associate’s Degree in Human Services from Tompkins-Cortland Community College. With two years flying by, I felt my educational foundation was solid but incomplete. Transferring to a four-year university with an accredited social work program would further my ultimate goal of becoming a licensed social worker, and the search began! After exploring multiple programs, I made a decision: the accreditation by the National Association of Social Workers, stellar faculty and commitment to field experience at Nazareth College was unlike any other, and my journey with social work continued.
Within the first week I knew I had made the right choice. The Department of Social Work at Nazareth College has faculty members from a variety of professional and educational backgrounds, providing students with the accurate and broad depiction of social work as a profession. No faculty story is identical, and this perspective is transitioned to their students; we were all recognized as individual learners with strengths and challenges that would impact our experiences in the field. This was recognized from day one. Nazareth College believes that the only way to learn and explore knowledge and skills effectively is a combination of the classroom and experience, and as a result, we have field placements beginning junior year.
Nazareth College prepared me for acceptance into one of the top Master of Social Work (MSW) Programs in the nation at Syracuse University. The phenomenal faculty, academics, commitment to field experiences and accreditation sets Nazareth College above and beyond what an undergraduate social work student expects to experience. I have always wanted to help people: Nazareth College taught me how to do that professionally through the ideal combination of academics, research and direct experience. I am so proud to be a Nazareth College Alumni and (finally) a licensed social worker!
What is your fondest memory of your time at Naz?
I have countless wonderful memories at Nazareth College, but my favorite experiences were the hands-on emphases on all studies. No textbook or lecture can fully articulate the experience that is being a social worker. Nazareth College recognized this, and as a result, we were placed as interns earlier than many programs. My first semester as a junior, I was placed at Gilda’s Club of Rochester, a Cancer Support Community. I assisted with support groups, program implementation and interacted with countless populations who were impacted by cancer. My senior year, I was placed at Step by Step, an outreach program of Volunteers of America. I facilitated workshops and groups for women who were at the time, had been, or were at risk of incarceration. Because of Naz’s uniquely strong connections within the community, I was able to work with a variety of populations and learn the value of internship experiences.
Another favorite memory was Project Homeless Connect for a research class. The mission of Project Homeless Connect is to “Connect homeless people with critical services in a ‘one-stop’ venue. We are bringing together a wide range of community agencies and professionals to provide the homeless with access to health care, social services, legal advice, food, medical care and much more—all within a caring and safe environment.” As volunteers, we were more than bystanders. We were a critical piece in the collection and analyzation of data, interacting directly with hundreds of individuals of various backgrounds and challenges. We collected and presented the demographic information of all attendees. Sometimes it was a simple, 30-second interaction. Often, life stories were shared. It was an enriching and eye-opening experience, for those needing assistance were our neighbors. The event now takes place annually, so it is yet another opportunity to volunteer and get involved at Nazareth College!
How do you think your life has changed the most since leaving college? As someone who’s been through the entire college experience, what’s some advice you have for incoming freshman?
My life has changed drastically since leaving college. A mandatory seminar class should one day be: “Adulting: Levels 100-400” with sessions on how to pick an apartment, household chore schedules, advice on when to get your first pet, healthy and cheap lunches, and (most importantly) self-care! College teaches one a level of independence, but life in college is expected to be sporadic and there is seldom a solid routine for four years straight. While my job is very demanding and my schedule can vary, there are no more college activities, mandatory trainings or side jobs. Developing and maintaining my own “adult” life with the freedom of time has been the biggest change! It is so easy to come home from work, have no homework, sit and do nothing because I valued that rarity so much in college. My advice is this: Try one new thing every week, and it has to be something suggested by another fellow “adult” (Yes, I will put this word in quotes until I am 25). Whether it is an online suggestion or advice from a coworker, venture out on a random Wednesday and do it. A full time job, while a major adjustment, allows for true independence.
Read more of our alumni profiles here: Nicole Andolina ’15, Political Science and Legal Studies, Mary Bonomo ’15, Visual and Communication Design, Jenn Lachell ’15, Marketing, Hayley Johnson ’15, English, Matt Maloney ’14, History and Spanish and Kelsey Sweet ’15, Communications and Media