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What It Means

I entered Rutgers Social Work with modest, cynical plans. I wanted to earn my degree as quickly as possible: minimal fanfare, perhaps a few decent references. My undergraduate reverence to academic greatness had withered away, post-recession. “Forget summa cum laude,” I told myself. “I’ll take a job, please.” I didn’t begin my classes with, shall we say, wide eyes and hopeful excitement. I told myself enjoyment and fulfillment would be secondary. In effect, I had prepared myself to be an unfulfilled, soon-to-be burned out social worker. And as I now prepare to graduate in May, I’m incredibly grateful that my friends in Camden had other plans.

None of my classmates was getting a degree for a paycheck. No one chose social work for the acclaim. My friends didn’t want cushy jobs or someone else’s approval. They didn’t need Italian honorifics after their name at graduation. They wanted to change lives. And they intended to use their time at Rutgers to do so.

Together, we’ve created homelessness resources, co-hosted international food security events, and volunteered at Camden-area food centers. We arranged for a midwife from Somaliland to speak to social work and nursing students. Our classroom theory is becoming our daily practice. Looking back to my first month of the program, I struggle to summarize how much I might have missed out on had I continued to define Rutgers Social Work as merely a step towards a job.

Being a social worker means finding whatever way you can to give back. It means fighting good fights, even when you might lose. It is the challenge to be the person you once promised yourself you could be. I never expected to learn what being a social worker meant before I graduated. I’m grateful to have friends—and soon, colleagues—who were patient enough to help me find out.

Which, really, shouldn’t be surprising at all.
It’s almost like they’re social workers.

Robert Mundy is a full-time Camden student in the Class of 2014.

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