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Alumni Updates

Kathleen Auberger

Kathleen Auberger

My office is filled with a variety of items such as awards, pictures, memorabilia, my Social Work License and diplomas, including a “BSW” diploma from Nazareth College, which represents one of the most significant achievements of my career. It has been hung with pride in every office I have occupied in the past 30 years. Graduation was such a proud day as I felt confident and well prepared to begin a career in professional Social Work.

As a young girl, my parents instilled strong values that began to shape an early desire to give to others, eventually leading to a goal of working in a field where I could impact people’s lives in a positive way. I entered Nazareth’s BSW program because of its reputation for developing strong Social Workers and who were successful in finding Social Work positions in the community. I also heard the program was “fun” in that there were field trips and internships. No other program compared. The program was a perfect fit and helped form the foundation of my practice.

Since leaving Nazareth, I obtained a Masters Degree in Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University. I returned to Rochester NY providing direct clinical services as a professional Social Worker at DePaul Mental Health Services, Rochester Psychiatric Center and for the past 22 years at Unity Health System, Department of Behavioral Health. I started out in a Coordinator role and was later promoted to management positions in several different mental health and addiction programs. Currently I am the Director for Acute Psychiatric Services and Case Management programs, reporting directly to the Vice President for Behavioral Health. I truly believe that the core values and ethics learned at Nazareth were instrumental in allowing me to achieve current level of leadership that I hold at Unity Health System. Volunteering on a variety of community boards at NAMI, Lakeview Mental Health and Spiritus Christi further enriched my experiences and knowledge. I have had the pleasure of returning to Nazareth as a guest lecturer on occasion and have served as faculty liaison and adjunct professor with the GRC MSW program.

I learned a lot about people, social work and life from the wonderful faculty and rich program at Nazareth. Fond memories and lessons learned have helped me through successes and challenges in my career and life, and I will always be grateful.

Whenever asked what “do you do?” My response is always: “I am a Social Worker”! And I am a NAZ grad!


Heather Starks

Heather Starks:

I obtained my BSW from NAZ in ’98 and went on to obtain my MSW from UB in ’99.  I took advantage of the diversity of opportunities afforded to me through internship placements. My career began in ‘99 as a clinician working with dually diagnosed youth in an elementary day treatment program; providing individual, family, group and crisis therapy.  Next I was able to be part of a new initiative of the New York State Office of Mental Health as they sought to develop appropriate community networks of support to youth who were living in Residential Treatment Facilities.  I learned a great deal about a good portion of communities and resources for youth and families in Western New York.  From there I became the clinical supervisor of a day treatment program and provided clinical supervision along with administrative oversight to the overall program. I always kept at least one toe “in the pool” of providing direct clinical work throughout this time. In these experiences I learned the value of a multidisciplinary team.    My next step was to the Monroe County Office of Mental Health where I was overseeing the publically funded children’s mental health system.  I served as an administrator for cross funded county programs, provided clinical consultation, and worked to further develop the Monroe County System of Care.  As of writing this I am now at the Monroe County Children’s Center working with justice involved youth and their families. 

Over the course of my 14 year career, I have encountered a significant amount of diversity in client populations, adversity at times in my role as an advocate, and have learned a tremendous amount about life through the eyes of the residents of our community.  I have attended graduations, marriages, births and funerals of those I have had the blessing of working with. I have been afforded ongoing training and professional development opportunities and have worked with internationally known trainers and consultants.  One thing that I know for sure is that the foundation in generalist social work practice from Nazareth has served me well in my career as I have learned that first and foremost one must meet the person where they are at, whether it be via direct service delivery or in clinical supervision.  I have learned that each person has a set of strengths, needs and challenges and that they are of value and often need the opportunity of having someone else look at life through their eyes to help them make changes.

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