Working in the Interest of Others

schmitt shoots!!
Katherine Crosby, a senior in the School of Social Work, received a national award to conduct research on students' opinions of the Social Security system.

School of Social Work senior Katherine Crosby is decades away from retirement, but she’s already thinking about the future of the Social Security system. And, as she found out through an independent research project in her junior year, she’s not alone among SU students in her concerns. “I was curious about Social Security and what other students thought about it,” she says. “The aging population is growing so rapidly, and I wondered what the implications would be for my generation when we’re in the work world and are supporting the elderly population.”
      Crosby’s research was funded by a prestigious Andrus Foundation undergraduate scholarship. The $5,000 scholarship, awarded to only eight students nationwide by the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education, required recipients to do independent research on aging and finance. Crosby received an additional $1,000 to present her results at the Gerontological Society of America conference in San Francisco in November 1999. “It’s a major national recognition,” says Professor William McPeak, director of undergraduate programs at the School of Social Work. “It represents us well as a department and a university, and it represents Katherine well as an individual student. We’re very proud of her.”
      Crosby’s work ethic hasn’t gone unnoticed at SU. As a freshman, she received a Chancellor’s Award for Public Service for Student Leadership. She’s also a member of the University 100, an elite group of undergraduates who meet with prospective SU students and their families. “She’s one of those students who stood out from the beginning,” McPeak says. “She’s well-spoken, mature, bright, responsible, and thoughtful.”
      Crosby first became interested in Social Security through policy courses she took with social work professor Eric Kingson, a national expert on Social Security who provided Crosby with feedback on her research. “She took on a huge subject, produced a nice piece of work, and got some good experience at the conference,” Kingson says. “It’s great to see a hard-working student like Katherine get interested in an area, grow, and then do really excellent work. She also cares a great deal about people.”
      Crosby, whose research was titled “Retirement Finances and Social Security According to Syracuse University Students: Attitudes and Opinions,” questioned 72 women students in a survey group of freshmen and seniors from the School of Social Work and School of Management, believing these groups would reflect different political and social ideologies. Although the students expressed some skepticism about the system, Crosby believes it will endure and remain crucial. “Basically, the students were supportive of the system, but they think it needs reform,” she says. “Most believe they need to begin saving now for their own retirement.”
      When Crosby arrived at SU, she immersed herself in community service, working with the Boys & Girls Club of Syracuse and participating in other volunteer activities. As a sophomore, she was student program director at the Alibrandi Catholic Center, organizing such activities as dinners and service projects, and was also involved in a fund-raising banquet for Oxfam, an organization dedicated to eliminating poverty worldwide. “Every student on this campus is fortunate to be here and needs to recognize that and be grateful for it,” she says. “In being grateful, we need to help others who aren’t so fortunate.”
      Crosby, who grew up in North Carolina, was first drawn to social work as a high school student working at a crisis agency. “Helping someone is like no other experience,” she says. “It fulfills a need of mine—I want to help people because I’ve been helped along the way.”
      This year, through her required field placement, Crosby is interning at Hiscock Legal Aid, studying the role of social workers in the legal system. She’s learning to work with clients and gathering experience in such services as drug treatment programs, temporary shelters, and mental health options. She’s also observing the court system. “I’m learning a lot,” she says. “This is my chance to implement skills I’ve acquired in the past three years, and to find out what it’s really like out there.”
      In the fall, Crosby plans to attend law school, seeing it as an opportunity to expand her knowledge and ultimately pursue a career where she can continue to make a difference in others’ lives. “I don’t want to lose the mind-set of trying to help other people, because that’s what drew me to this university, to social work, and to the idea of law school,” she says. “I definitely have an interest in maintaining equality and justice.”
                                                                                                                                                                          —JAY COX

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