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Hilary Herbold, MSW '11

Hilary Herbold

For years Hilary Herbold, a student in the 32-month master’s program, has wanted to be a social worker and therapist. And though her path was circuitous—including a doctoral degree in English and two deanships at Princeton University—she is expected to achieve her lifelong goal in May.

As an undergraduate student studying English and psychology at the University of California at Irvine, Herbold had trouble finding a mentor in the psychology department. “They were very focused on neuropsychology and cognitive psychology, and I was much more interested in clinical psychology and the humanistic and literary aspects of the field.”

Instead, Herbold decided to pursue her other passion, and focused on psychoanalytic theory in literature. She obtained a PhD in English and afterwards took a position teaching. She found that she was most passionate about the human connection within teaching, and longed to be more involved with her students’ life experiences. To this end, Herbold took two consecutive positions at Princeton University—as the dean of Rockefeller College and then as the senior associate dean of undergraduate students. In these roles, she conducted academic advising, crisis management, and general counseling. But after ten years as an administrator, Herbold said she “started to become restless with administration, wanting more of a clinical role.”

In September 2008, Herbold enrolled in the 32-month master’s program, then a relatively new pathway to the MSW degree at the NYU Silver School of Social Work. She continued her position at Princeton while taking classes and completing her fieldwork hours.

Reflecting on her time at NYU Silver, she said she has been most impressed by her classmates’ dedication and intelligence, and has valued moving through the program with a small cohort of students.

Her experience in academia has also provided a transition that has been very dramatic, and a little scary. “Mostly, it’s been an asset to have so much life and professional experience,” Herbold said. “But I have to set it aside because I’m a student now. I have to focus on learning a new set of skills, keep an open mind, and keep learning.”

Recently, Herbold resigned from her position at Princeton to more fully focus and reflect on her final year at NYU Silver. After graduation, she is excited to join a diverse agency serving children, adults, and families, where she can continue learning. “Most of all, this has reaffirmed for me how critical it is to do something you find exciting and important in the world. There are not very many things one loves to do, and for me, this was one of them. It was worth everything I had to relinquish to come here.”