Julie Dancziger, M.S.W. ’11, is a mother, grandmother, entrepreneur and now a licensed social worker, specializing in geriatric care. She said that getting her graduate degree was “something I had always wanted to do,” butshe had to wait until her five children were “on their way.” Her youngest is now 20 years old; her oldest is 29, and two of her children have children of their own.
The events of 9/11 and their profound effect on her and her clients propelled Ms. Dancziger toward an M.S.W. At the time, she was working as a social services coordinator for the United Jewish Council/Bialystoker Houses, a residence for low-income elderly on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Witnessing her clients’ frightened reaction to 9/11 made her realize how vulnerable the senior population is. “You were able to see it from our windows, and a lot of them [the residents] are Holocaust survivors,” Ms. Dancziger said. “The smell was like a crematorium, and it was really bringing back their memories of the Holocaust.”
Ms. Dancziger was accepted to all four social work programs she applied to and chose Adelphi because, she said, “I was very impressed with the caliber of the professors and the program, as well as the diversity and opportunities that Adelphi offered.”
Once enrolled, she found great mentors among the approachable faculty members. Having been out of school for more than 20 years, she had to relearn how to learn. “I didn’t even know how to use a computer when I started,” she said. She caught on quickly, though, and earned nearly a 4.0 GPA. Last spring, Adelphi successfully nominated her for the Student of the Year Award from the New York Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. “It actually took me by surprise,” she said about the honor.
Ms. Dancziger feels that her Adelphi experience deepened her commitment to serving the senior population. “I find it really quite fascinating to be able to learn from people who have the ability to reflect upon decades of experience,” she said. “They are a vulnerable population, and they don’t have a voice. They need someone that can advocate for them.”
Advocating for and helping seniors was far from Ms. Dancziger’s agenda when she went to college and started working. She studied business as an undergraduate and later started what she said was a successful children’s clothing boutique. While remunerative, running her business in a dog-eatdog environment was spiritually draining.
“I just felt like something in me was lacking,” she said. “I knew that I had to switch gears.” She then worked in a doctor’s office in the early days of managed care and said she was struck by how many people were denied “what they really rightfully deserved.
“My sense of justice and advocacy led me into social work.”
Ms. Dancziger said that if she could change one thing today, it would be the way society defines aging. “The perception of a senior is very much affecting how people treat them, and I think it’s a great misnomer because seniors today are much younger, more viable [and] living longer, and people fail to realize what productive members of the community they are and can still be,” she said.
From the 2012 issue of the Manhattan Center Newsletter