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The Rosen Alumni: A Social Work Tradition

Naomi Rosen, AM '15 and Steve Rosen, AM '15

Albert Schweitzer once said, "Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing." For Steve Rosen and his daughter Naomi, both 2015 graduates from SSA's full-time master's program, truer words have never been spoken. The Rosens have quite a family lineage as healthcare and social work professionals, including Claudia Rosen, Steve's spouse (Naomi's mother) who has a 25 year private practice as a therapist, and stretching back generations to include Steve's father and uncle who were nonprofit leaders concerned with poverty, education, and delivering social services, to Claudia's stepmother, a social worker still practicing while in her eighties. Steve's parents met in a Jewish social work center. Of his daughter, Steve notes, "Naomi is now also in the 'family profession' and pursuing exciting work overseas as a German Chancellor Fellow."

Steve RosenArriving in the "family profession" did not happen immediately for Steve Rosen. Steve spent a quarter century as a management consultant, executive, and entrepreneur specializing in IT/communications and enterprise management software. Steve arrived at the decision to pursue social work as a career-changer, in part due to family tradition, but moreover as a result of educational and personal interests that included psychology and relationship development, decision-making and personal growth. "At Brown and Kellogg, I enjoyed coursework in psychology, public policy, economic development, and organizational change. In my business career, I embraced leadership, team-building, relationship-oriented marketing, and ethics. As a volunteer and board member, I had meaningful experiences in therapeutic schools and camps, enrichment programs for children and adolescents, strategic planning and fundraising with philanthropies and nonprofits, and social entrepreneurship associations that fueled my eventual social work career change," he said.

It was Naomi however, encouraged by parents Steve and Claudia to follow her ambitions, who first identified SSA as a place where she could combine Naomi Rosenher interests in theatre and the arts with serving those who have been victimized. Naomi submitted her application solely to SSA intent on understanding the utility and limits of art as a therapeutic strategy allowing for healing, resilience and transformation. "I was seeking a place where I could be in a community that valued listening, understanding people through the awareness systems of oppression that affect people and their identities," said Naomi. Her application was already in the accept pile, when father Steve thought that SSA could also be the school best suited for his goals. Naomi remembers, "My dad wanted to make sure that I would be okay with being his classmate at SSA. Of course I would! He is a role model for me and I am very proud of him. My parents have always encouraged me and I admire them both greatly."

For both Steve and Naomi, SSA delivered a learning experience that catalyzed their intellectual and professional development, encouraged innovative thinking and explorations, and prepared them rigorously for fruitful pursuits after graduation. Steve actively sought and found opportunities to explore ideas and activities with faculty and students alike – a "community of learners and doers," he said, in the classroom and even more as part of course-based program development projects, new curriculum initiatives, and the Social Innovations Conference, which Steve helped conceive and organize. As a career-changer, Steve had education and professional experiences to compare with SSA's curriculum and field placements and strong curiosity about new perspectives and his younger peers' viewpoints. "I had some incredible discussions with students, some personal and intense ... students were welcoming and it was okay to have a different perspective, to not know something, and to be open. I really appreciated and benefited from students' mix of strengths in research, presentations, team and work process skills, and their creative approaches to thinking about problems and ideas," he said.

Though they only shared one workshop together as a result of their individual interests, Steve and Naomi share a strong desire for knowledge. Naomi delved into clinical classes and field placements, experiencing excellent mentoring at SSA and in her field placement with the Live Oak practice, and designed an independent study concentrating on art as a tool for clients who are survivors of sexual abuse. "My dad and I had different paths at SSA, but we share experiences and learn from each other, and from my mom who is a clinical therapist. We are a family that strives to practice life-long learning," Naomi said.

Since commencement June 2015 at Rockefeller Chapel with their fellow graduates, Steve and Naomi are pursuing their interests on two continents, informed and animated by their SSA experiences. While preparing for his LCSW exam, Steve is working with a north suburban group practice serving couples, parents, and families, launching an innovative technology resource and app called "Dad's Place" developed by extensive research and surveys of 120 fathers and children, consultations with family and fatherhood experts, and evaluations of analogous apps, and envisions eventually building a group practice with his wife Claudia. In Germany and the UK, as the first SSA recipient of the German Chancellor Fellowship, through the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Naomi is using her performing arts background and SSA experience, exploring the intersection of arts with social work therapies, and developing a resource for practitioners serving women who are survivors of female genital mutilation arts-based methods. Naomi is observing and documenting findings on art and expressive therapy methods for trauma healing and community dialogue, building an online resource, and connecting and collaborating with an international community of multi-cultural practitioners.

Steve sums up his and Naomi's enthusiasm for social work as a profession that can transform lives commenting "Claudia has always inspired us with her dedication and the profound impact she has had on her clients and their families. It is exciting that Naomi and I, after graduating from SSA, are now also pursuing work and interests that matter to us and can help make a difference."