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Student Spotlight: Neil Duffy, MSW, Intensive Weekend student

Can you give a brief biography about yourself?
I served in the Marine Corps from 2002-2006 ending my enlistment with the rank of Sergeant and earning the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Combat Action Ribon, Humanitarian Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (two awards), Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Global War of Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, National Defense Service Medal.

In 2011, I graduated from Rider University with a Bachelor of Arts. I was honored with the Ann Giovanelli Award for academic excellence while overcoming significant personal challenges during my time as an undergraduate. I have been working as a Readjustment Counseling Therapist at the Secaucus Vet Center for five years.  The Vet Center is an organization that is part of the larger VA healthcare system that specializes in individual and group counseling for combat veterans, victims of military sexual trauma, bereavement, and military families.

What is your hometown? 
Newark Ironbound, NJ

What drew you to Rutgers School of Social Work’s MSW program?
It was a program that could fit my needs. I looked at many other colleges and programs but could not find one that matched the quality and reputation of Rutgers while also meeting my requirements of a weekend school schedule.Being a professional in the field already, I wanted to find a program that would allow me to intern at my current position and Rutgers let me to do that. With the entire program outlined from the start, I was able to plan ahead when I could take a short vacation for some self care.  

What were you most excited about in coming to the School and the program? Most nervous about?
I was very excited for clinical training. I wanted to understand the "how" and "why" of the practice. Social work is an ever-changing field, which I appreciate now more than ever. I wanted to stay current in study and practice and I knew that Rutgers could get me there.  

My excitement was equally met with nervousness. This was really a big step for me, and the balance of work, life, and graduate school really scared me.  It felt a bit like the military all over again where I had to answer the question "Do I have what it takes?" I was ready to get it started.

Along the way, I have made some incredible friends, students who shared my interest and passion and who were overcoming the stresses and demands of the course right alongside me. I am sure that we will stay friends for life and colleagues in the field.

What are your areas of research or professional interest?
Currently, I host a therapeutic art group as well as a cinema therapy group at the Secaucus Vet Center. I am very interested in these schools of alternative therapy, while a great deal of healing and understanding can be gained from looking internally, external stimuli such as a movie can offer a new perspective, can illicit emotion or simply create a new line of dialogue. With the therapeutic art group there is an avenue of creativity that allows the artist to share what may be difficult or impossible to articulate with their words. I am fascinated by both of these mediums and always jump at the opportunity for training or discussion on the topics.  

What personally drew you to this particular area? 
I’ve wanted to be a therapist since I was nine years old, I always thought it was a fascinating field of study and research. I believed in the understanding and healing of the mind. Along the way I have had a number of captivating teachers and professors that reinforced my interest. Returning home from the Marine Corps was difficult for me, luckily my friends and family were patient and encouraged me to speak with someone at the VA. Their help was catalyst for me to finish my bachelor’s degree and apply for the Rutgers Intensive Weekend Program.   

List 5 words that friends would use to describe you.
Passionate, attentive, caring, diligent, and funny.

What are you reading/watching currently?  
I am currently reading Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation and rereading Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series and watching HBO’s Silicon Valley and The Night Of.

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