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Alicia Kaufman, MSW '17

Alicia Kaufman.
“I think I’ve always had a bit of an inclination toward the field without really knowing there was a field. ”

A story that seems too common among social workers, recent graduate of UB’s part time online program, Alicia Kaufman, says she was originally unaware of the world of social work. She states, “I think I’ve always had a bit of an inclination toward the field without really knowing there was a field. In high school, I was a peer mediator and tutor. In college, I was a resident advisor and did social programming. I was the first person in my family to go to college and I didn’t have a lot of good career guidance. Eventually it dawned on me that there was a whole field for this when I started working in the financial department at a substance abuse counseling center. I started to realize that the work that the counselors were doing on the clinical end was more what I had always wanted to do, but didn’t realize I could do.” Luckily, Kaufman did find her path to social work, because for her, “Even on the worst days of work I still feel like it’s a perfect fit.”

Kaufman came to Buffalo as a college freshman, studying anthropology right here at UB. Discussing her move to Buffalo from Long Island, she explains “I lived in Buffalo since I was a teenager…I really love it.” Her choice to stay in Buffalo also helped Kaufman to begin the MSW program. “I knew UB, so I felt comfortable and I knew the layout of the campus in case I needed to be there for anything. I felt comfortable with the HUB as well.” Personal life circumstances along with “the ability to be flexible with scheduling” while working made UB the right choice.

Reflecting upon the professors she had during her career at UB, Kaufman says “I had the pleasure of having [clinical professor] Denise Krause for Interventions I and II. She was a rock star to work with…[adjunct instructor] Kris Decker was really wonderful to work with as well, he has an organizational style that really fits mine and he was my field liaison as well, so we got to know each other a little more than the usual online courses allow.” Kaufman also mentions, “[associate professor] Lisa Butler who…does the military families work,” which Kaufman specialized in. “Lisa Butler is wonderful, her research is pretty amazing, it’s inspiring.”

As far as coursework goes, Kaufman says, “I really had to find out how to listen to online lectures and hold my attention. I like multitasking but I know that it’s not always the best way to absorb things, so I had to learn what would work for me. After the first two semesters I realized if I was doodling or coloring while listening to a lecture, I could at least focus my attention on that. It is hard to have this online material hold your attention when there’s a thousand distractions happening around you.”

Kaufman explained that she found it important to be honest with herself, and encourages prospective students to do the same. She says, “I would say if you’re considering it, know yourself, know if you can hold yourself accountable to a schedule…make sure you can do it, know how you work best organizationally, but also do not skip out on self-care and don’t skip out on the orientation to online classes. Those were really important, to sit down and say 'am I really good at time management, or do I just think I am?' Use the self-care starter kit; just do the best you can to find balance.”

Kaufman goes on to explain her preferred types of self-care, “I am blessed to have a lot to do. I play roller derby, I paint, I play bass in a local band, I have two ridiculous German Shepherd dogs who I’m willing to run around with, spending time with family. I have a lot of opportunities, but it’s about finding what works. I’ve learned that sometimes I’ve over planned with fun things and I’ve had to learn to say no as a part of my self-care…because I need to have my breathing room for a minute.”

Kaufman offers the following advice for future students: “One thing I realized through this was that my colleagues, the people taking these classes with me were from every walk of life imaginable at every life stage imaginable. I think that’s really beautiful and inspiring to know that you can be right out of undergrad, barely 25 and hitting this field, and you can be in your 40's with adult children hitting this field. We all have really amazing things to bring to the table, so utilize your classmates.”