When School of Social Work alumna Debra Gonzales Zauner, MSSW ’82, saw a note in the Alumni
Magazine Connections asking for help in identifying alums who are examples of outstanding social work practitioners, she thought of Janet Schirtzinger, MSSW, ’77. Debra wrote:
Janet is the clinical manager for Aurora Employee Assistance program in Wauwatosa, WI where she is currently supervising three generations of UW-Madison graduates. Her commitment to training and preparing the next generations of social workers and EAP (Employee Assistance Program) professionals is exemplary. Janet is one of those unsung heroes, quietly, humbly doing good work, everyday. She has made a difference for individuals, our social work profession, and our community.
Speaking with Janet, one senses the strong commitment she has to develop the skills, expertise, and passion in those she supervises. Over 20 years as a supervisor and mentor at Aurora, Janet combines individual supervision, peer-to-peer consultation, and more formal training opportunities to develop a well-rounded supportive work environment. As Debra explains, “Janet does more than ‘supervise,’ she cares about, guides, and educates the people she supervises, both employees and students.”
Janet is also passionate about the work she and her staff do as employee assistance professionals. On its most basic level she explains, “EAPs help people keep their jobs, and it’s well-documented how important employment is to individuals and families’ well-being.” Whether it’s providing counseling to vulnerable families and finding resources for those with child care, substance abuse, and other challenges, she and her staff strive to insure that those they work with are healthy, focused, and engaged while remaining productive on the job.
Janet speaks highly about her social work education.
I can’t say enough about the education I received at UW and the fine instructors I had both for grad and undergrad social work education. It created a base for my career and helped fuel my love of learning and continued joy in finding ways to improve services to clients. It sent me in the direction of marriage and family therapy and to now using those techniques to provide EAP-like services to employees and their families in 10 school districts.
Many School alumni will fondly remember late Professor Alfred Kadushin. In the 5th edition of his book (with Daniel Harkness) Supervision in Social Work he reminds us just how difficult providing excellent supervision is “in the real world of heavy caseloads, tight budgets, and increasingly difficult problems.” We’re confident Professor Kadushin would have been pleased that School alum Janet Schirtzinger has risen to the challenge and that her work benefits those who she supervises and their clients.