My decision to pursue an MSW degree (which was not offered in Greece) in the United States was puzzling to my parents; they tried to persuade me to abandon my plans to study this field abroad. Not only did they question the application of advanced learning about an “unknown and devalued” profession, but they also saw my decision to study in a country at the other end of the world as a young woman to be a major deviation from what was socially and culturally expected in Greece at that time: marriage, perhaps a short career, then an exclusive focus on one’s own children and family. Nonetheless, my awareness that there was more to learn before I could become the social worker I envisioned myself being gave me strength to hold on to my plans and overcome their resistance.
I earned my MSW at the School of Social Work at the University of Southern California (USC). Following a two year post-MSW practice experience at the International Institute of Los Angeles, I returned to USC as a part-time doctoral student while gaining further experience in medical and mental health social work settings. These practice experiences helped strengthen my conviction that social workers could make a significant, positive difference in the lives of individuals who came to the doors of social service agencies seeking assistance. In a culturally and socio-economically diverse environment, I saw even more clearly the applicability and value of the social work profession.
Following receipt of my Ph.D. in June 1973 from the School of Education at USC, I entered my first classroom at CSULB as a novice lecturer to teach the undergraduate course Introduction to Social Welfare. The thought that I was helping students lay the foundation for their chosen major and perhaps, down the road, for their professional development into social workers and colleagues, was powerfully inspiring. It did not take long for me to discover how electrifying the classroom environment can be. Since then, and depending on the needs of my family, I have remained a part-time or full-time classroom instructor. The experience has been most rewarding and the benefits to my personal and professional growth too many to quantify.
I have appreciated the vibrant campus environment and the opportunities to serve on numerous committees and network with colleagues from multiple disciplines. I have deeply valued the relationships that I developed with my colleagues in the School of Social Work at all levels, administrators, faculty and staff.
Part of me wishes that the opportunity to interact with students as a classroom instructor, thesis chair, or academic advisor would never come to an end. I know that I will deeply miss the students- those who challenged me, whose commitment to learning and professional development impressed me, who gave me the good as well as the bad Instructor Evaluations. In the course of my tenure in academia, I have witnessed changes in our student population and diligently tried to adapt my expectations to the evolving changes.
Every generation of students has had its unique characteristics which I learned to value and respect. During classroom discussions, the collective wisdom of graduate social work students from diverse backgrounds and undergraduate majors strengthened my belief in their commitment and ability to become agents of change. As I got to know each student through personal interactions and assessment of their work, I worked to do my best to help them become social workers that would abide by the profession’s Code of Ethics and serve their clients competently. In the process, I learned much from my students and for this I feel indebted to each one of them.
The journey that combined graduate education abroad, micro and macro social work practice, membership in the academic community, classroom instruction and invaluable support of many forms and from different sources has been long, and its rewards have been most gratifying. To all my co-passengers I wish to express my deep appreciation and gratitude.