Supporting Student Development
Alumna and Prof. Deborah Blumenthal aims to create transformative field experiences for online MSW students
Whether working with youth in juvenile detention or with veterans who have PTSD, alumna Deborah Blumenthal, MSW ’02, LCSW, has always applied a social justice focus to her clinical work. “How do folks end up where they are, and what is the larger context that contributed to who they are and their identities in this moment?” she wondered.
She explored those linkages as an MSW student at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW) and now guides student learning as a new assistant professor of the practice.
Although she’s a new member of the full-time clinical faculty, Blumenthal isn’t new to GSSW. She has been an adjunct instructor and worked in the school’s Field Education program for nearly a decade as a field liaison, off-site field instructor, a liaison supervisor, and full-time clinical field manager. In her new role, Blumenthal will supervise field liaisons for GSSW’s online MSW program, MSW@Denver, which matches students with field opportunities in their own communities nationwide. She’ll also serve as faculty lead for the online MSW concentration seminar.
Blumenthal’s first clinical position was an undergraduate internship in a therapeutic nursery in Philadelphia, where she worked with children who had experienced abuse, neglect and parental addiction. Blumenthal grew up and attended college in rural Michigan, and the position took her out of her comfort zone. But, she says, she discovered she loved working with kids. The experience “resonated with who I was. It didn’t feel like work — it felt like me.” She went on to work in child welfare and youth residential care, where she had the opportunity to supervise students. “That’s where I got reconnected to my passion of contributing to the growth and development of students and training well-rounded and effective social workers,” Blumenthal says.
Today, she continues to work part time as a therapist at Maria Droste Counseling Center and has also developed a deep passion for teaching. “GSSW is such an invigorating environment — it’s so exciting,” she says, noting that she’s looking forward to becoming more involved in shaping GSSW’s culture and student experience, “enhancing the student experience so we can create the best social workers we can.”
When it comes to field placements, Blumenthal advises students to “approach everything as a learning experience, even when it’s not exactly what you think it’s going to be. The most influential learning moments I’ve had are a result of discomfort and being in new environments that I didn’t anticipate — these were huge teaching moments and led to growth opportunities,” she says. “Stay open minded and approach everything with a learning lens.”
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anticipate — these huge growth opportunities,” she says. “Stay open minded and approach everything with a learning lens.”