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Empowering others: A path to change for MSW student
June 13, 2018

By: Aimee LaBrie

Kristy Lauricella '19 has always felt called on to make a difference in the world. After earning her undergraduate degree in English and secondary education at TCNJ, she worked as an English teacher off and on for nearly seventeen years. 

Along the way, she also became a certified doula, a guide for mothers and their partners during childbirth. "It's not like the role of a midwife. A doula is basically someone who provides education, emotional support, and physical comfort through pregnancy and labor, oftentimes in the home, assisting both the mom and the other people in the family who might be present."

She has taken on this role in about fifteen births, and she says that they all have a common thread. "Once the baby is born and we're all sure that the baby and mom are okay, there's the collective sigh in the room, that we've made it through something remarkable."

As much as she loved her students and teaching, in 2016, she found herself called to pursue something where her ability to make a difference was more pronounced and immediate. With the support of her husband Alex, who is a writing professor in the Rutgers English Department, she applied to the MSW program. Her initial plan was to continue to teach, and go to school part-time, but she soon found that the time she needed to absorb her work required a sharper focus. 

Currently, she also has a role part-time helping a friend who has Alzheimer's. She sees the parallels between this situation and her role as a doula. "I have to be present with her, and follow her lead; it's about looking at a situation and assessing where you can best empower the individuals you're with and keep them safe." 

She doesn't see this new role in the social work profession as much different from her previous ones. "I've always been supremely sensitive and it's only recently that I've chosen to see that as a strength. I have good intuition and the birth work is what led me to be interested in the end of life care, because it's really all so linked together. I love being present with people and I'm so curious about the human experience."

This fall, Lauricella will start her first field placement at Robert Wood Johnson's  Accountable Care Organization.  The program is focused on providing high quality, patient-centered and cost-effective care through an integrated delivery system of care. “I worked with Professor Nancy Schley to find a placement that fit my interests. I had no idea how much of an effort was made to customize your field work."

As far as her experiences in the classroom, they have been similarly positive. "I love the program. It's even better than I thought it would be," she says. "The micro and macro exposure of the first semester was mind-blowing. The program is focused inwardly as well, which I appreciate."

Lauricella acknowledges that giving up the teaching part of her life was difficult, but she also stresses that she doesn't see herself as extraordinary for returning to school a bit later in life. "I don't want this to sound new age-y or weird, but if anybody wants to do this program, he or she will have to make room for it," she explains. "And I'm not saying it's easy.  But when I was leaving my teaching job, my friends kept saying, 'You're so brave!' And I wanted to tell them, 'No, it's not just me. I'm not the only one who can do this. You can too.'" 


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