Ruth Ackerman is set to graduate in May with aspirations to work with autistic children. Her road to the NYU Silver School of Social Work began when she briefly majored in fashion design, but she ultimately decided fashion was not for her. After graduating from Hunter College, she volunteered in a Hunter lab working on early intervention and play therapy for autistic children.
With her interest piqued, Ackerman began applying in 2010 for graduate schools, but she was torn between MSW programs and doctoral programs in psychology. “I like the fact that with an MSW degree, you think about the person as a whole and their environment rather than just what psychological issue a person has,” she said. She also appreciates the Silver School’s clinical focus and the ability to work directly with people.
The flexibility of an MSW degree was another draw for Ackerman. While she liked working with autistic children, she was curious to see if there were other populations that she might want to work with more. She said her first-year placement at the Queens Central YM & YWHA involved her interacting with a range of people, which helped her realize that working with autistic children was her true calling.
“Because I’m very creative and was always very artistic, I am very visual,” she explained. “A lot of children with autism are also very visual. I feel like I understand the language of children with autism better than most people.”
Ackerman was nervous to take on the cost of graduate school; however, she received two financial awards for her first year—the Silver School of Social Work Scholarship and Constance McCatherin-Silver Fellowship. “When I learned that I received scholarships, it really eased the pain,” she said. She called the MSW experience “less stressful” knowing her loan burden had been alleviated by scholarships. In her second year, she received a second Silver School of Social Work Scholarship.
The Silver Fellowship is funded by Martin and Constance Silver, BS ’78, MSW ’79. Said Connie Silver, “There is no greater satisfaction than to give back and help others, just as Marty and I were helped when we attended NYU.”
Even though Ackerman may not be earning a six-figure salary right out of school, she pursued her master’s degree to fulfill her desire to make a positive difference in the world. She would encourage anyone to make a gift to the Silver School. “I was determined to complete my education and it helps a lot to not feel this huge financial burden because I want to help people.”