An infant adoptee from South Korea, Katie Witmer has had a personal connection to the adoption process her entire life, as well as to the difficulties adopted children potentially face in both the long and short term. Her personal experiences with growing up in Western New York as a member of a “non-traditional,” multiracial family and as a racial minority proved a difficult at times, but those experiences ultimately led her to the social work profession and to UB.
“As I learned about the adoption process, I discovered that my parents worked closely with a social worker who graduated from UB’s School of Social Work in 1971, whom I met at age 20,” Witmer explains. “This experience was pivotal in my motivation and commitment to becoming a social worker. My interest and focus on adoption and the larger child welfare system continued to grow as I became more informed about the history, policies and legislation, and issues within them. My direction as a social worker changed and both my professional and personal goals evolved.”
Aside from this significant interaction with a UBSSW alum, Witmer was drawn to the School’s reputation options for her MSW degree. “UBSSW offers several ways to earn an advanced degree for those with other responsibilities, such as full-time employment – the part-time traditional program was perfect for me. There were always plenty of courses that were offered in the evening, as well as opportunities for online learning and hybrid courses,” she says. She also took advantage of field placement opportunities, embarking on a rewarding overseas field placement in Seoul with Korean Unwed Mothers Support Network with help from the Dean's Social Work Resource Fund grant to offset travel expenses.
Now a service coordinator at People Inc., Witmer develops and implements person-centered service plans and provides case management services to individuals and their families through linkage and referrals, partnerships, and advocacy. Her interest in the mezzo and macro level of social work practice, particularly with the operations and administration of community organizations, as well as the development and implementation of policies and how they impact people at the micro level, continues to strengthen alongside her interest in domestic and international child and family welfare as she grows professionally in the field.
“The United Nations released a report in 2008 citing the Buffalo-Niagara Falls area as having one of the worst rates of economic inequality in the world and that it is racially based. Social workers and other helping professionals are greatly needed in the Buffalo area and the work that we do is very important. There is a wide variety of opportunities and resources for volunteering, field placements, and networking available to UBSSW students. No matter your area of interest or professional goals, you will have valuable experiences and opportunities for learning at UBSSW and in the Buffalo community.”