Kathryn Sowa, MSW ’11, said she’s always had a passion for social work and helping others. "I think it came from being an immigrant and needing that help when I first moved here and not getting it as much as I needed," Sowa said. She immigrated from Poland and moved to New York City in 1997 where she finished high school and earned a bachelor’s degree in forensic psychology from John Jay College.
While at NYU Silver, Sowa interned at SCO Family of Services’ Bridges to Health program which provides services to children and young adults in foster care. She conducted extensive field work making home visits and attending court appointments, hearings and meetings for clients.
After graduating, Sowa worked for SCO for a few years as a Foster Care Supervisor providing clinical supervision as well as case planning. In 2013 she received her SIFI training at NYU Silver and was a field instructor at SCO. In February 2015, she decided to relocate to Alaska where she began a short stint working with the Girl Scouts of Alaska to recruit volunteers and provide strategic leadership over the program.
Currently, Sowa works at Alaska Career College as an Extern Coordinator where she coordinates externships for about 50 students. She is responsible for finding agencies and organizations that offer externships and providing career counseling. "About 75% of our graduates get hired full-time with their companies after graduating," said Sowa.
Sowa said she decided to move to Alaska to do something different. "I’ve always wanted to travel but I never really got the chance until now," she said. For now, Sowa has no plans to return to New York or go someplace else. "I’ve always wanted to visit Alaska, but I didn’t plan to move here. It just kind of worked out." She is looking into furthering her career and is currently applying to Ph.D. programs in the state.
What’s the job outlook for social workers in Alaska? Sowa said that there seems to be more of a focus on medical social work, especially in hospitals or through The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. During Sowa’s job search, she came across positions working with the elderly, juvenile detention and alcohol/drug treatment, in addition to working with Native Alaskan or Native American populations.
The life in Alaska is very different from her birthplace, Poland, and her home in the U.S. for many years, New York City. "In the summer, the sun is out 22 hours a day. So many times, I don’t even know what time it is. It may be light out, but it’s 11:30pm. I’ve told my friends that it snowed more in New York City last winter than it did in Anchorage."
Ms. Sowa earned a master’s degrees in forensic mental health counseling and forensic psychology and has found that having an MSW opened new doors. She believes, "Social work is so broad that it can prepare you for lots of different things."
By Jose Alvear, MSW ’16