1. Tell us about yourself and what your profession is
I am originally from York, PA and currently live in Clearwater, FL. I relocated to FL after graduate school to enjoy the warm weather and beaches. I am engaged to my wonderful fiancé Tara, who happens to currently be a Penn State World Campus student, and we have 3 cats. I have a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh and Bachelor’s degrees Political Science and History from Penn State University. I hold a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) professional license which qualifies me to independently provide psychotherapy and counseling services clients.
I am currently a Social Work Supervisor for a healthcare program called PACE (Program for All Inclusive Care of the Elderly) which provides a full range of healthcare services for Older Adults ages 55 and older who have chronic health conditions which put them at risk of nursing home placement. The goal of the program is to help Older Adults age in place at home either independently or with the care of their families. It is federally and state funded through Medicare and Medicaid. PACE serves as both the primary healthcare provider and insurance company of its participants.
In my role with PACE, I supervise a team of 5 Masters Level Social Workers. I am responsible administratively for the overall Social Work services of the program and I also directly serve a small caseload of participants. Our direct Social Work services include psychotherapy, supportive counseling, case management, caregiver support, community resource linkage, etc. We get to develop long term relationships with our participants and journey with them from relatively good health all the way through End of Life.
Prior to my work with PACE, I spent the majority of my career doing hospice work. Journeying with people and their families through terminal illness, death, and bereavement is a uniquely fascinating, challenging, taxing, and rewarding experience. I could probably write an entire book about the value of those experiences, but I shall spare you! Additionally, I serve on my company’s Ethics Committee and Veterans Committee.
2. Tell us about your experience at Penn State (what clubs were you involved in, what year did you graduate, what was your favorite restaurant, etc.)
My experience at Penn State evolved over the course of my four years there from 2002-2006. For the first 2 years, I was often frustrated by searching for friends with whom I really clicked and making time for my social life rather than focusing primarily on studying. At times, I felt lost in the masses and I even considered transferring to a small school. Gradually, I developed some strong friendships and became involved in some student groups like Lutheran Campus Ministry which really helped ground me and give me a foundation that allowed me to truly enjoy and appreciate my experience at Penn State. My final two years there were excellent and went way too fast!
I was involved in several student groups including Lutheran Campus Ministry, the Morale Committee for THON, and Student Judiciary through the Office of Judicial Affairs. Through LCM, I also had the opportunity to serve on Lutheran Student Council and on the Student Advisory Board of the Center for Ethical and Religious Affairs. These experiences helped connect me to the wider university, give my university life a sense of purpose, make good friends, and build a strong resume.
Connecting to LCM really was a key turning point for me at Penn State. It gave me a space to grow in my faith while also openly questioning it. We were always encouraged to “live the questions” and think freely. It gave me a place to connect with a small group of diverse people who shared similar values. The intimacy and connection found during the Thursday night services and dinners provided a much needed space for intimacy and connection within the hustle and bustle of campus life. The guidance and support proved by the Campus Pastors Alicia and Marsh was invaluable. They always made time for individual conversations and I still keep in touch with Alicia and catch up with her whenever I make it back to PA and visit campus.
3. Why do you think your work is important and meaningful in this world?
I believe wholeheartedly in the power and value of Social Work. It is a values based profession which aims to improve the lives of individuals, families, and society at large. The core values of the Social Work profession as outlined in the Code of Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) are service, social justice, dignity and worth of the person, importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence. These values directly align with my personal ethics, morals, and values which adds to the personal sense of fulfillment I derive from my work. The foundation of the profession is a strengths based approach which focuses all interventions on helping clients achieve their goals by leveraging their inherent strengths and support networks. Empowering and advocating for people has a ripple effect which benefits our entire communities.
Social Work is a diverse and dynamic profession which provides opportunities to work in a wide range of different fields based on your interests. It is much different and much broader than the stereotype of the child welfare working removing children from their home, which is how it is most commonly portrayed in the media. The hospice and PACE work within the healthcare field that I have been blessed to be a part of is a testament to that fact. There are Bachelors, Masters, and PhD levels within Social Work which qualify you for different professional opportunities based on your level of education and licensure. 4. How does your work allow you to use your gifts and talents?
As I matured, I gradually became more compassionate in my interactions with others, a more skilled listener, and developed the desire to help others achieve their goals. I began to notice that I had a gift for making people feel comfortable in conversations and willing to share about their challenges and difficulties. The Social Work profession and the healthcare field have provided me with the perfect arena to utilize these gifts and talents. My education and professional experience helped me water these seeds and blossom them into practical counseling skills which allow me to guide clients toward their goals. I’ve learned that perhaps the most important thing
in working with people, in any context, is that they feel that you are fully present with them and genuinely concerned about and interested in them. 5. Is this work what you imagined you’d be doing when you were in college?
Yes and no. I always imagined myself working directly with people in a helping manner in some fashion or another. My original plan was to attend law school, which I did for about an entire two weeks at West Virginia University. My goal was to work in Family or Elder law. Shortly after arriving, I had a strikingly strong sense that I was on the wrong path. Against the advice of friends and family to stay and stick it out for at least a semester, I followed my intuition and returned home to York, PA where I worked for 2 years full time in a factory position which had been my summer employment during college. (Of interesting note, this is actually where I met my fiancé Tara after which we would both go down two completely different paths and eventually reconnect in FL of all places!).
During this time, I was able to slowly discern my true interests. I considered pursuing teaching and seminary which had also interested me while at Penn State. Through reflection, prayer, and consultation with family and friends I realized that one thing all these professions had in common is direct interaction with people and a focus on helping them achieve goals and improved personal well-being.
During this time, my older sister completed a Master’s Degree in Social Work. Through discussion with her and observation of her experience, I realized that Social Work could bring together all of the key elements of my other professional interests and so I embarked on that path which led me to where I am today.
6. Any advice for current Penn State students?
My best advice is to strive for balance and moderation in most things. The extreme ends of any activity or pursuit usually tend not to be beneficial or healthy. In the context of university life, seek balance between educational, extracurricular, and social opportunities. This is a unique time in your life that you will likely never experience again. Practice mindfulness, presence, and gratitude in order to fully appreciate it. The college experience is one which can feel like a time warp. At first it seems like a long term, almost insurmountable goal and before you know it you are walking across the graduation stage.
Take time to occasionally step back and reflect on your overall experience during your time at Penn State. Soak up the myriad experiences available to you. Penn State is truly a unique place with amazing people and you are lucky to be there. Take time recognize the select few relationships that are most important to you and cultivate them. It’s so easy to get lost in the craziness of day to day life, but making time for these people will help you get the most out of your time at Penn State, have support during the highs and the lows, and will likely result in lifelong friendships.
WE ARE PENN STATE!!!