Human Services Faculty
my positive difference
Kari manages all of this, while teaching social work and addiction recovery classes at the College and running a private practice. She is passionate about helping people, and in doing so, she teaches them how to help others, too.
Kari started out at BCC as a student in the nursing program, but pivoted into the counseling field.
"I really loved talking to people – I wanted to feel like I was making a positive difference and helping others," Kari said. "But you know, I think what I learned at BCC was I didn't want to necessarily help others from the medical perspective – but in building relationships and helping them through talking and getting to know them."After BCC, Kari went to UMASS Amherst and interned at the Rape Crisis Center (now the Elizabeth Freeman Center). She also worked part time at Family Planning Center (now called Tapestry Health) in Pittsfield. During this time, Kari became more interested in social advocacy and earned her Master's in Social Work (MSW) degree.
"Your MSW is a really versatile degree," Kari said. "There's a lot you can do with it, and you can earn a very good salary. Whether you want to start your own private practice or be a guidance counselor, a mediator, a clinician, a teacher, or even an agency administrator. You can go anywhere with an MSW degree – which I try to urge my students to keep going and achieve."
Kari would eventually work in the school system for 18 years before getting her Doctorate degree in Social Work at SUNY Albany. She wrote her dissertation on the mentoring program she had developed at Herberg Middle school, where she had also been a guidance counselor.
Kari, an alum of the College, as were her husband and sister, eventually became a part of the faculty at BCC. "I loved my experiences at BCC as a student. After receiving a firm foundation from such a supportive and excellent educational institution, I was well prepared to go all the way to my Doctorate degree."
"Out of all of my education experiences" Kari adds, "BCC was my favorite."
As a member of the faculty, Kari oversees a number of initiatives and is excited by a range of new opportunities in the social work field. There's a new certificate option for Addiction Recovery that Kari founded in response to the opioid epidemic affecting the region. The certificate will help students learn about addiction counseling, community resources for addiction recovery, and find placement at one of 30 field work sites throughout the county.
Kari states that "A lot of the students in our Addiction Recovery Certificate program are drawn to this work because they may be in addiction recovery themselves, or have seen first-hand the negative impact of addiction on their family and friends. These students are passionate about making a positive difference in the addiction recovery field."
Another exciting option for students at BCC, is the Elms Bachelor's of Social Work program located on the BCC campus. Students can receive their BSW in 20 months by attending the Elms College Saturday program. In the near future, Elms College will also be offering an on-line Master's in Social Work as well.
Kari also oversees the Human Services club on campus, which meets every other week. The purpose of this club is to provide an opportunity for human services students to support each other, and to also make a positive difference on campus and in the local community. The club participates in a variety of volunteer activities throughout the year such as: Provide holiday gifts for two families at the Elizabeth Freeman Center; volunteer at the Berkshire County Benevolent Association for the Blind; deliver Thanksgiving meals for the Christian Center; and volunteer at the South Congregational Church food pantry. The club has also donated funds for students in need and also to organizations such as the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI). The club has also donated books to TRIO, donated food to the BCC food pantry and members have volunteered at the Wellness Fair on campus. Kari adds. "This club is all about helping our students make a positive difference in areas that they feel passionate about."
For Kari, she helps her students to feel like there's an endless range of possibilities ahead of them. "I always tell my students to break big down into small," Kari said. "Don't become overwhelmed – it's really key to build relationships and help our students seek help, which helps them see that their dreams aren't so impossible."
This is why Kari thinks mentoring is so important, and is excited to launch her Make Dreams Real mentoring initiative on campus. This program will match any student on campus with staff and faculty mentors to help those students succeed through guidance and support. The program will meet one hour, every other week between a student and a mentor match to create meaningful relationships and help the mentee succeed or feel that they can go to their mentor for help.
"This isn't tutoring or advising," Kari said. "This is for a range of students, from those with straight As to those who are struggling, to make connections with people on campus who they can trust and go to for help – and more importantly – who they can create that meaningful relationship with that will ultimately help them succeed."
Kari is moving from the development phase of this program and into the launch phase, and is excited to share this opportunity for faculty and staff to make connections with students and help them on their path to a better future.
"I find my work very meaningful," Kari said. "I love meeting and getting to know a variety of students and I know I can make a positive difference with my work here."
She adds: "I just got a call from one of my students from five years ago who now lives three thousand miles from BCC. He was asking me for a reference for a doctoral program in Social Work – so these relationships we build here are important – and will last for a very long time."