Emily Stolarick, AM '10

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Name: Emily Stolarick
Class: 2010
Specialization/Concentration: Clinical Practice/School Social Work
Undergraduate Major: Communications
Undergraduate Institution: Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA

Why did you choose SSA?  Why is SSA a good fit for you?

I chose SSA because I felt that its program would help me to develop both the intellectual base and practical skills that are necessary to excel in the field of social work.  Also, SSA is invested in affecting social change in the Chicago area.  This link to the community was definitely a deciding factor in my choosing a graduate program.  
In addition to these reasons, I have come to find that SSA provides a rigorous, but warm environment in which students can question and explore issues at multiple system levels ranging from the individual to social policy.

How did you become interested in the field of social work?  How did you decide you wanted to dedicate your career to social work?

My involvement with Teach For America spurred my interest in social work.  For three years I taught Special Education at a low-income high school in Phoenix, AZ.  My students constantly fought uphill battles towards success.  They lacked resources, emotional support, and knowledge about their rights as students with disabilities.
I always felt that if my students had someone else who was invested in their education and who could help them to develop supports outside of the classroom, they would experience more success.

What is your favorite class?  Why?

My favorite class is Direct Practice with William Borden because I feel that I'm able to put the content and knowledge I glean from class into practice at my field placement.  Being able to apply this knowledge in my work with clients is both revealing and satisfying.

What teacher or mentor at SSA stands out in your mind?  How did that person add to your experience at SSA?

I have truly enjoyed all of my experiences with faculty at SSA, but I really value the opportunity to work with Joan Servatius, my field liaison.  Joan is sensitive to difficulty of balancing fieldwork and course work and she has really helped me to synthesize both of these experiences.  Also, she is a master practitioner; learning from her example is a joy.

What have you enjoyed most about your experience at SSA?

I have really enjoyed coming together with other students who, while having a common interest in social justice, have a wide variety of interests and life experience.  Hearing about how other students have come to SSA and the field of social work is humbling and inspiring.  I feel that I have found an invaluable resource in my fellow students and I suspect that this network will continue to deepen after we move into the field.

Where is your field placement?

The Jen School, a therapeutic day school housed within Maryville Academy in Des Plaines.

What specific projects are you working on in your field placement?  How have you enhanced the work of the organization?

I work with students in one of Maryville's dual diagnosis programs for young men with Mental Illness/Substance Abuse.  I provide interventions within the classroom setting and individually as needed.  Currently, I am working to develop a curriculum based on Illinois state social/emotional standards.  The curriculum will then be implemented by counselors and social workers at the school.

What do you enjoy most about your field placement?

What an exciting place to work!  The work I do each day varies a great deal and the students make sure that there is never a dull moment.  Thinking together with the students about their progress in the program and the lasting affects of their rehabilitation is what I enjoy the most.  The young men at the Jen School are articulate and insightful; they are some of my best teachers.

How have your perceptions of the field of social work changed since you came to SSA?

I have come to learn that social work takes on many forms.  Before coming to SSA my view of the field was much more narrow.  I now realize that, in addition to working with individual clients, social workers can be advocates, community planners, policy makers, nonprofit managers and the list goes on.

What impact do you think SSA students completing their fieldwork have on the Chicago area?

Something that drew me to SSA is the volume and diversity of field placements that are offered.  While learning a great deal from fieldwork, students can also contribute to the success of the agencies they work with.  I think that SSA students are often proactive about accepting and creating projects that will benefit the populations they work with.  Fieldwork is a great tool for cultivating investment in Chicago.

What are your plans after you graduate?  How has your degree from SSA influenced these plans?

I think I would like to continue to work with schools.  Previously, I was sure that I wanted to remain within the public school system, but field experience at SSA has definitely expanded my thinking about the variety of school settings and issues surrounding educational policy.