“It was not a question of if – but when – I would return to school as an adult,” reflects Barbara Robertson, LMSW. As an undergraduate at DeVry University in Chicago, Robertson studied Computer Information Systems – but she knew she wanted something beyond that. “I always knew I wanted my life to be about helping people.” With a longstanding interest in psychology, she set out to find direction in a new career path. While perusing the UB website for course offerings, the UBSSW vision statement caught her eye, and, she says, she realized she wanted her life to mirror that philosophy.
Through her deep involvement in community issues during her MSW program internships, Robertson went to work making her presence known. She first worked as a Senior Outreach Services with Amherst Center for Senior Services – here, she assisted elderly clients in securing needed community resources and services. As a Hartford Partnership Program in Aging Education (HPPAE) Intern at Buffalo’s Veterans Administration Medical Center (VAMC), she served three distinct programs that provide services for older adult veterans: the Spinal Cord Clinic, where she conducted psychosocial assessments; the Outpatient Primary Care Clinic, where she provided patient support in the form of intervention and connection to community resources; and Inpatient Surgery, where she assisted in addressing patient needs prior to discharge. An engaged and dedicated student, wife, mother, and caregiver, Robertson was awarded the 2013 Kristopher L. Braselton Memorial Award.
In the months after earning her degree, Robertson continues to make her presence known in the social work field. She not only earned her licensure, but continues to participate in some important initiatives. Along with her involvement in the NASW, she continues her service to the Veteran and Military Trauma project in the Institute on Trauma and Trauma Informed Care (ITTIC). “I am a veteran myself and the caregiver of my spouse, who is a disabled veteran, so we have seen and experienced some aspects of this first hand,” Robertson relates. “It is my hope that this initiative will help to reduce re-traumatization and to improve delivery of service and quality of life for veterans and their caregivers.”
With this instrumental combination of real-world experience, comprehensive education, and a striking consciousness of the needs of others, Barbara offers some advice to current and prospective students of social work: “Self-awareness is very important in social work practice. There are a variety of people you will encounter,” she says, “but the common denominator in all those interactions will be you. Coming to terms with your own humanity, with both its positive and negative aspects, will help you to grow personally and be a more effective social worker professionally.”