When I misbehaved as a child, my father would look directly at me and very quietly say, “Remember who you are.” With this simple sentence he asked me to remember who I was as his daughter, as a member of my immediate and extended family, as a member of my ethnic group, as a resident of my town, as a citizen of my country. With one sentence I bore the weight and the pride of representing kin who had come before me and those who would be connected to me in the future. His words emphasized that my choices mattered and had meaning that stretched beyond the moment I occupied.
I brought the knowledge, that my choices mattered, into my career and chose social work, a profession dedicated to alleviating human suffering on the individual, group, and institutional level. What social workers do, matters. It matters to those in crisis, to those who are grieving a loss, to those who struggle in school, to those whose marriages are failing, to those whose families feel fractured and disjointed, to those who struggle with addictions or mental illness, to those who want to make a change but aren’t sure how. Every single day of my career what I have done matters, not just to me, but to the critical repair of our social fabric.
Wurzweiler School of Social Work attracts a diverse body of students but they all come with one thing in common: the desire to make a difference and the knowledge that through social work, what they do matters. Unlike other graduate programs, social work is not just a subject you study, it is a craft that must be carefully learned and nurtured through intense teaching/learning relationships. At Wurzweiler we provide the opportunity to learn this craft through small classes, one-to-one faculty advising, field placements in social service agencies and opportunities to specialize in important practice areas.
We know that the world needs well-trained social workers so we make getting a degree as flexible as we can. Our summer program allows students to take classes for 7 weeks in Manhattan and then complete a clinical field placement in their home community during the academic year. We also have a program for working professionals that allows students to take classes on Sundays and evenings as well as a full time or part time programs starting in the fall. We offer inexpensive summer housing for those in our summer program and scholarships for those who apply.
This is my first year as Dean of the Wurzweiler School of Social Work and I am thrilled to look toward spring and my first Wurzweiler graduation. We will usher another generation of highly skilled practitioners into the practice world with advice from peers, alumni and experts in their field. They will certainly hear motivational speeches from accomplished practitioners. But as I send our graduates into the world to work on some of the hardest problems we face as a society, I will simply say to them, “Remember who you are.” Remember who you are as social workers, as professionals who are devoted to the core values of social justice, service, dignity and integrity. Remember our mandate to work with society’s most vulnerable and to give voice to those who may be silenced. Remember that as we take up this mantle, we stand shoulder to shoulder with all the social workers who have come before us and those who will assume this work in the future, to assert, affirm and act on these core values. Remember that who we are and what we do matters. Remember who you are.