December 14, 2012
Judy Rosen, MSW '13, decided to go back to school and change careers after many years in the business world. Through her own experience, Rosen was inspired to start a new student organization at the NYU Silver School of Social Work, along with fellow student Liz Filburn, MSW '14, called NextSteppers: Non-Traditional Students Association. NextSteppers aims to provide support and resources to career changers and older students. Clinical Associate Professor Peggy Morton is the group's adviser.
"My mother was my role model because she went back to school when she was older as well," shared Rosen. When Rosen started as an undergraduate at Hunter College, she was 48 years old. She had already had two successful entrepreneurial careers -- first in technology and then media -- without a college degree. She decided to pursue media studies at Hunter, but soon switched to psychology. She said, "I realized working in the helping professions would be much more meaningful than working in entertainment news."
Now at the Silver School at age 53, Rosen admits there are advantages to being a non-traditional student. "You have worked. You're not distracted by parties. You're a grownup. In a lot of ways, school is easier." But there are concerns that non-traditional students have that are unique from the typical twenty-something MSW student.
Rosen described some of the "readjustments" that are needed. Some older students worry about memory problems. And there are students who have other responsibilities besides school and field, sometimes managing jobs and families. Student members of NextSteppers may be career changers, parents, or older students. They come from a variety of backgrounds: the military, homeopathy, broadcasting, and advertising. One student was a stay-at-home mom, another a dancer.
"Life experience counts for so much," said Rosen. She believes non-traditional students have a lot to offer to the social work field. "I can leverage everything I've done to this date, whether it is teaching, program development, or using my business background and reporting background, and use it as a social worker." She hopes that younger students will consider networking with older students, noting that having friends from different backgrounds and ages can be an enriching experience. "We have lived through history!" she laughed, stating how many older students can testify to having been around during critical policy changes.
Rosen is working on making resources available to career changers and older students through NextSteppers by talking about ageism in society, bringing in speakers to discuss job hunting, working with the Office of Admissions to speak to prospective students, and reaching out to other NYU schools group that involve non-traditional students.
With over 50 members on their Facebook page, and 15 students attending meetings, Rosen has founded a much needed and wanted student group. "You should not go through social work alone!" she adamantly declares. Interested non-traditional students will see they are not the only ones who do not fit the typical NYU Silver student mold. Variety is welcome at NextSteppers.
Meetings for NextSteppers: Non-Traditional Students Association are held monthly in the first floor parlor. You can find their Facebook group by searching "NextSteppers, The Silver Non-Traditional Students Association," where meeting dates are posted.
Students can contact Judy Rosen for more Information about NextSteppers.
By Rachel McCroy, MSW '13