Amanda Hiltz '13 found her niche as a social worker focused on policy.

by Ela Schwartz

“I feel [that] the B.S.W. and M.S.W. are the most versatile degrees.”—Amanda Hiltz

Amanda Hiltz’s experience shows there’s nothing lost by using your college years to explore, question yourself and change direction. In fact, it can be a winning strategy.

Ms. Hiltz initially left Long Island for her freshman year to attend a small private college in Boston. “It was a nightmare,” she said, explaining that both the school and her major, psychology, just weren’t the right fit. “I couldn’t get into the [psychology] courses,” she said, “and I couldn’t understand why because I’d wanted to be a therapist my entire life.”

Ms. Hiltz came home and enrolled in Suffolk Community College. On a whim, she took a human-services course and immediately knew she wanted to become a social worker. She applied to Adelphi and shortly thereafter received a phone call from Sergio Argueta, director of undergraduate social work, who invited her to come in to discuss the B.S.W. program.

“I was reluctant at first,” she said. “I thought he would try to sell me on the school. But I came in, and right away I fell in love with the gorgeous campus and the course selection. I clicked with Sergio—I realized he wasn’t interested in selling me on the school; he was offering me an amazing opportunity.”

She also was intrigued by Mr. Argueta’s background in advocacy and community organizing. “I thought I wanted to do clinical therapy, and now I realized that I was leaning toward policy.” In fact, she became known as the “policy person” in her class, she said.

Ms. Hiltz did her fieldwork in a variety of placements, including Creedmoor Psychiatric Center, where she worked with  middle-aged men suffering from addiction, and Pride for Youth, an organization that provides services and advocacy for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth. In 2013 she participated in the first cohort of a new community engagement initiative: Philanthropic Action for Challenging Times (PACT), in which a select group of junior and senior students determine which grassroots organizations in Nassau County will receive funding. The students chose four organizations, one of which was the Herstory Writers Workshop.

During finals week of Ms. Hiltz’s senior year, Erika Duncan, founder and artistic director of the Herstory Writers Workshop, asked Mr. Argueta if he knew of a perfect entry-level person he could recommend. Mr. Argueta replied that he did, and Ms. Hiltz was hired as the Herstory Youth and Justice program associate. She now cofacilitates writing workshops with women incarcerated on Long Island and advocates for policy change focusing on the Raise the Age campaign. Ms. Hiltz also works with an intern from the School of Social Work and attended Herstory workshops held at Adelphi during the Fall 2013 semester.

She credits Adelphi’s respected social work program for preparing her to become a professional social worker. “In my two years at Adelphi, I feel like I’ve matured exponentially, more than I had in my previous years of life. Through my internships, course work and the relationships I developed with staff and professors, I was gaining all these tools to put into my ‘social work toolbox,’ as my professors called it. I was able to get a job right after graduation, where many of my classmates [in other programs] haven’t.”

For now, she’s experiencing life as a working B.S.W. before going back to school for her M.S.W. And what if she changes her mind about being a social worker? “I feel like the B.S.W. and M.S.W. are the most versatile degrees,” she said. “You can work in an organization like Herstory, or an agency, or teach at a university, or go into human resources or even work in the White House.”

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