Lorraine Suzuki enrolled in SSA’s doctoral program aspiring to “integrate community organization with systems organization and management to develop large scale policy intervention, based on an understanding of the resources and competencies at the community level.”
Throughout her long and distinguished career, she has applied her aspirations and systems integration skills, most recently to grow the regional research program for University of Maryland University College into one of the enterprise’s largest and most successful international programs.
Ms. Suzuki’s journey to SSA began much earlier with her first job out of college at Wayne State University in Michigan. Interested in working in developing countries, she discovered she wanted more formal knowledge of community organization. In return for agreeing to work for the Girl Scouts of America for two years after graduation, the organization sponsored her master’s degree from Wayne State School of Social Work. Serving as an organizer on the West Side of Chicago, she was one of the first to introduce scouting to the inner city.
In fulfilling her agreement with the Girl Scouts, Ms. Suzuki worked as an organizer and a systems intervener for the Hull House/Maxwell Street area and the Lawndale neighborhood in Chicago. She also helped develop one of the first AA degrees in Social Work at Kennedy-King College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago. Her work with a school intervention program at the Woodlawn Community Mental Health Center, and as Social Service Head Start administrator with the Chicago Commission on Urban Opportunity led her to SSA. Her responsibilities with the city involved systems organization, research, administration, and a “baptism” in political practices that convinced her she needed further education.
She investigated doctoral programs and chose SSA because it had the “strongest administration, planning and organization program supported by research theory and statistical methods.” Ms. Suzuki found the program’s blend of theory, strategic management, and input from other disciplines to be a good fit for her learning style. She recalls, “The broad scope of reading in the Ph.D. courses gave me a cross-disciplinary understanding of organization.”
What Ms. Suzuki did not expect to gain at SSA was a husband! After a quarter of advanced statistics tutoring by a Japanese Ph.D. student, she had not only acquired a deeper understanding of mathematics and a mastery of chopsticks, but also a life partner. She married Yuji Suzuki, a Japanese citizen, at the University of Chicago’s Bond Chapel after a ten-year long distance engagement. His career led him to a corporate position as a managing director charged with establishing a joint corporate venture between the U.S. and Japan, and, eventually, to become owner and president of the company. Their professional lives have criss-crossed continents, with home bases in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Tokyo, Japan.
After completing her Ph.D. at SSA, Ms. Suzuki took a faculty position in the University of Michigan School of Social Work, teaching in the areas of policy and administration. “My education at SSA grounded me in both administrative and organizational theory and prepared me well for teaching,” she states. In particular, she remembers Donnell Pappenfort’s (Donnell M. Pappenfort, Ph.D.) course on organizational behavior. Working with him as chairman, and with a faculty member (Sidney Verba, Ph.D.) from the Political Science Department helped her prepare her dissertation, Political Behavior of Community Organizations in Chicago.
While at Michigan, she earned a master’s degree in management from Stanford University, which provided her with new, more quantitative corporate knowledge to blend with her SSA perspective and understanding of individual sensitivity and culture in which organizations operate. Leaving the University of Michigan to join her husband, Ms. Suzuki took a position with the Asian Division of the University of Maryland University College to teach in its newly formed graduate program. She later became the Director of the Business and Management and Economics Program. In her roles, she devised more efficient systems for information processing and to document interrelated service systems for Asia and the University’s overseas military programs. SSA’s focus on the individual also helped her to bring the human aspect to bear on business practices and resources. Her work was so successful that she was named the Associate Dean of the Asian Division of Programs, and more recently Vice President and Interim Director of the Asian Division.
Ms. Suzuki believes that SSA has maintained its preeminence in social work and social welfare over 100 years because students are taught to ground their work in theory. However, they are also equally encouraged to explore many theories, analyze them, and not “swallow” any one approach without thorough investigation. “My doctoral education at SSA has served me well in my international systems focus for my work on both the Western and Eastern continents.”