Professor, Director of the DSW Program
Social Work is a Calling
I came to the Silver School in August of 1993. And the School, in some ways, is very much similar and in other ways very different. I think the focus in the early 1990s was analytic with a strong emphasis on clinical work, but also with a strong sense of community, family, and purpose to educating our students.
Now, although we are still focused on clinical practice, we are also focused on evidence-based practice and we have a stronger focus on policy. So what we have now is a strong clinical school with well-integrated policy and research. And all is taught in the spirit of community.
I did a study called, The Post-9/11 Quality of Professional Practice. I looked at social workers who were working in Manhattan. I looked at a number of measures around trauma, secondary trauma, resiliency attachment styles, just to find out what their experiences were like. And sure enough, people who were exposed first-hand had, not only richer narrative of what occurred, but they were also more profoundly impacted. I’m interested in clinicians that are practicing in what’s called a traumatological environment, where they’re not only helping someone who’s been traumatized, but they’re traumatized themselves.
We’ve conducted a study of this in New York post-9/11, in New Orleans post-Katrina, and we’re going to be replicating it in southern Israel. Essentially, we’re comparing acute terrorism with a natural disaster with chronic terrorism to observe the differences between the clinical populations. And then the next step is to evaluate how we can better support clinicians working in these types of situations.
On Receiving the Distinguished Teaching Award at New York University
Being selected as a distinguished teacher at NYU is more meaningful than I can articulate. It’s especially meaningful because here at NYU’s School of Social Work, I know that every teacher is exceptional. And I don’t mean that in a generic way. The teaching evaluations from this school are stellar, so I don’t think that I am exceptional to the faculty here. I am just emblematic of what the faculty represents for everyone. In receiving this award, I truly felt like I was receiving it on behalf of the School.
I’m looking forward to this work and to being a part of the Silver School of Social Work as it moves forward. I think the future is very exciting for the School. We’ve spent many a faculty meeting defining what clinical social work is and who the invested players are. I think that process has really created a synergy within the faculty. Our faculty has become very inclusive of research and policy in order to enhance our clinical focus.
Our students are also mindful of these connections. At NYU, the School attracts students that, very early on, knew they wanted to be in a helping profession. It was a calling for them. And so, they’re applying this ability, this natural empathy, to help the most vulnerable populations. These are the students that we are inculcating into the social work profession and into the NYU community of social workers. They’re very dedicated. They’re very responsible. And they have a commitment to providing social justice.
Often times people ask, “Well, how can you stay in this field so long? It’s a difficult field.” I think social work is a noble profession. I think social work is a calling. I think our students have a calling to help others. And I think, because of that dedication and calling, we are able to overcome obstacles that might otherwise break us. You cannot beat that and I think we offer that at NYU.