MSW student, Colleen Kristich, grew up near Syracuse, N.Y. and received her Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Houghton College. A woman of many passions, Kristich also studied environmental biology and spent several years getting some work experience before settling on pursuing her passion related to social justice. As she moves toward graduation in May, Kristich already appreciates the tangible skillset provided by UB’s MSW program as well as the person-in-environment perspective it offers.
Driven to stand up for those who do not always have a voice of their own, Kristich says “I am really interested in macro level social work and changing systems to allow all people to freely and fully participate in democracy.” She has specific interest related to criminal justice reform and had opportunity to get some firsthand experience with the legal system during her foundation year field placement at the Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo.
In her advanced year field placement, Kristich has been able to get even more hands-on experience working with the Partnership for the Public Good. She elaborates, “I’ve been able to be more involved in ongoing campaigns to change policies relating to bail reform and bringing language access to Buffalo for speakers of other languages…it’s been really exciting.” Kristich especially values the field experience offered by UB’s MSW program because it directly relates to the type of work she wants to do after graduation. She is open minded and says she could “start out almost anywhere on some type of progressive social issue campaign” and hopes to one day direct a non-profit or run a statewide campaign.
While reflecting on her experience in the program so far, Kristich expresses an appreciation for the real world experience professors bring to the classroom. She goes on to say their experience is “really varied depending on what professor you’re talking to. They might have done research with people experiencing homelessness or they might have personally been affected by addictions.” Kristich specifically singles out a valuable experience she had in Dr. Bowen’s class where she was able to conduct a community analysis in Buffalo’s Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood.
As a student who has a desire to get involved, Kristich was also part of the first ever Social Impact Fellows program. She was paired with an MBA student and together they worked with the Matt Urban Hope Center to implement social enterprise as a way to intervene in lives of vulnerable people. Colleen and her partner actually came in second place, securing prize money for Matt Urban.
Through her varied experiences in the program, one of Kristich’s biggest takeaways is how resilient people can be. She says, “we talk about trauma a lot and that’s important, but the other side of trauma is resilience…I’ve learned people are more resilient than they are given credit for. It’s an encouraging and uplifting thing to discover.”
As she puts together the pieces she’s obtained from the MSW program, Kristich is beginning to solidify her conceptualization of her career goals. She shared a quote she heard that she feels summarizes her viewpoint around the need to avoid just talking about problems but also take action: “a vision without a task is just a dream, a task without vision is drudgery, but a vision combined with a task is the hope of the world.” Like many of UB’s students, with the skills and perspective provided by the MSW program, as well as her own personal drive and sense of justice, Kristich is well equipped to - at least in a small way - work with others toward a world full of hope.