Nancy Erdman Coffey, MSW

Thinking back to my experience in the MSW program brings a kaleidoscope of thoughts and feelings about my life and the culture of our country at that time. I married in September of 1971, the country was in the throes of Vietnam, marijuana seemed to be ubiquitous, and music of that time seemed to speak to my soul. Meanwhile, every MSW graduate class I took held the promise of preparation for an exciting and daunting future in Social Work. I had never met a social worker until I entered the MSW program. I was trying to discern what the field was like from the professionals and instructors I met, and from other students who were attempting to also acquire the skills necessary to support individuals, families, and systems. The field had such a broad reach and such extraordinary breadth of focus, it was like putting a huge array of food on a tiny little dessert plate. My first year field placement was a research placement, analyzing data dealing with health variables. My second year field placement was working with families in which a child was experiencing significant emotional issues. A primary focus was on the discrete behaviors of family members to effect positive change. Collaboration across a panoply of service areas was critical to the services — and taught me some essential truths that served me well throughout my career. The UW School of Social Work offered me a broad range of foundational skills that prepared me to problem solve in a wide range of professional environments. My first social work employment was at the Central Wisconsin Center for the Developmentally Disabled in Madison. My final professional focus before retirement two years ago was constructing a county program to support kinship families in Virginia, including caregivers as well as children. I suspect that I received much more from these courageous families than I ever gave. The immense privilege I had to serve and support people in need were based on the values and ethics that were inherent in my education at the UW Department of Social Work. It served me well, across a variety of practice areas in various parts of the world, and prompted me to be a field work supervisor on multiple occasions for a local school of social work in the State is Virginia. I’m grateful to the School is SW for this amazing, 50 year journey.