We recently had the opportunity to speak with MSW student Rachel Stutzman, the first recipient of the School of Social Work's Lisa Oberle Memorial Scholarship. She shares what brought her to the School and how she plans to use her degree after she graduates.

Why did you choose to pursue your MSW at Rutgers School of Social Work?
Rutgers has an excellent reputation for its social work program, and some of the best social workers I’ve met have been Rutgers graduates. I was previously familiar with the School of Social Work as they offer a certificate in gerontology, which I completed a few years ago.  The information I learned in the certificate program was immediately applicable to my work as a case manager, so I felt confident that both the MSW course content and professors would be excellent.

What do you hope to gain from your studies here?
My friends say that my hobby is learning – I love learning new things (about almost any topic) and finding constructive ways to share and use that knowledge. My experience in the field education program has also been fulfilling. It’s one thing to learn about a skill or technique in class but to be able to use it right away with a client and see them make progress towards their goals is immensely gratifying. 

Lisa’s daughter, Paige, requested that the scholarship be given to a student that embodies Lisa’s values and holds similar qualities – thoughtful, compassionate, and dedicated to changing the world one person at a time. What does it mean to you to be the first recipient of the Lisa Oberle Memorial Scholarship?
I hope I can measure up to such a high standard. I strive to be thoughtful and compassionate, and I’ve been told I’m a good listener. I don’t know if I can change the world one person at a time, but I do know I have changed the world of my clients. I often feel like the child in the Tale of the Starfish; I can’t save all the starfish on the beach, but I am completely committed to improving the situation of the ones I can reach. 

How is the scholarship helping you?
The financial benefit of the scholarship has been helpful and decreased my out-of-pocket costs for tuition. It gives my budget some additional breathing room as I try to figure out how best to cover the costs of my education as well as my regular living expenses, especially as I have had to cut back on my work hours to accommodate the internship requirements. Every dollar received as a scholarship is one less dollar needed as a loan. And students who graduate without loans or low loan balances have more options when looking for jobs after graduation.

Do you know what you’d like to do after you graduate from Rutgers School of Social Work?
I’ve been working as a geriatric case manager for over 20 years, and part of my job is to connect my clients with high-quality medical providers – cardiologists, neurologists, etc. The one provider I have difficulty finding is psychotherapists. My case management clients are facing significant health concerns and end-of-life issues – all of them would benefit from psychotherapy. My plan is to transition out of case management and into a private therapy practice, specifically focused on seniors who are living with a debilitating chronic disease, facing a terminal diagnosis, or thinking about their end-of-life goals. I am particularly concerned about seniors who are unable to leave their homes due to mobility issues and would like to offer home visits as part of my practice.

What is your proudest achievement?
I am older than most graduate students, and my two young adult daughters are my proudest achievement. I can’t take full credit for how amazing they are, as my husband was an equal co-parent, and my children were headstrong and independent from the minute they were born.  They have grown into kind and compassionate young women who are also funny, interesting, creative, and committed to helping others, animals, and the environment.  

Is there anything else you would like to share?
I feel incredibly honored to be one of the first recipients of this scholarship. From what I read about Lisa Oberle on the Rutgers scholarship page, it sounds like she was an amazing mom and social worker. And I imagine she would be so proud of the person her daughter grew up to be. We’ve all heard about awful bridezillas, but Paige is the exact opposite type of bride – someone who thought of ways to help others as part of her wedding celebration.