Social Work Has Strong Appeal For Career Changers

Sometimes life itself sparks radical career change. That certainly was the case for Ossining resident Cynthia Kamajian-Duncan, whose pivot from being a Wall Street compliance officer to overseeing her terminally ill mother’s care launched a serious personal goal reassessment.

Nearing her 25th year of work—first for the New York Stock Exchange and later for private firms— Kamajian-Duncan gave up her significant income and prestigious positions to become the ”point person” for all aspects of her mother’s treatment. En route she realized that, like her mother, every patient coping with a life-threatening disease needs more than proper care: They also require an advocate who can deal with doctors and medical providers, health facilities, and mountains of paperwork these situations generate.

The experience of caring for her mother through hospice made Kamajian-Duncan realize such advocacy would become her second career. “The hospice program and people were amazing, and I learned how to care for someone and keep her not just alive but enjoying the best possible quality of life,” she says, adding, “it was an amazing learning curve that convinced me that someone had to do the medication, call emergency services, and handle the paperwork. That required a dedicated advocate. After my mother died, I decided to change careers and become such an advocate.”

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Cynthia Kamajian-Duncan

Exploring three graduate schools that would enable her to do this professionally, in September 2012, she chose to begin studies at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Service in West Harrison. Kamajian-Duncan earned her masters degree in social work—a required 66 credits plus fieldwork and an internship—in three and a half years. While the degree can be completed in two years of full time studies and work, she opted to spread out her efforts. She was pleased that Fordham’s schedule flexibility, “and the warmth and understanding I encountered there” convinced her she was in the right place.

Other Westchester career changers pursuing Fordham graduate social work degrees include Lisa Laudico who worked for Hillary Clinton when she was a New York senator, and with Michael Bloomberg during his tenure as New York City’s mayor. She now wants to get involved in mental health programs. Also, Melissa Ronan, a corporate lawyer with decades of experience who decided to use her skills to provide legal services to a much broader range of people and causes.

Ready to celebrate its hundredth anniversary, Fordham Westchester’s Graduate School of Social Service is home to some 400 students. According to Assistant Dean Linda White-Ryan, the school welcomes “lots of adults who’ve enjoyed long and prestigious careers but who now want to do something more meaningful in terms of helping other people.”

Noting that the course is very demanding, Ms. White-Ryan said that being able to pursue the degrees during various timeframes ”lets students determine if this course of study is really for them.”

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