For social work alumna, La Salle was ‘where I needed to be’

January 27, 2021

Image of Emily Kawski

Today, Emily Kawski, ’16, applies her training at the administrative level in a performance improvement role.

Emily Kawski’s career needed definition.

The Marple Township, Pa., native had left a four-year college in the city for myriad reasons, Kawski said, and she decided to enter the workforce. Surrounded by colleagues she described as “intelligent and supportive,” Kawski realized she couldn’t advance professionally without a requisite academic credential.

A routine Google search pointed her toward La Salle University—and changed her life.

“It’s the only place I applied. La Salle was 100-percent the right place for me. It’s where I needed to be,” said Kawski, ’16, who earned a Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree from La Salle. “I didn’t know anything about the fundamentals of social work. At orientation, the professors sold me.”

Today, Kawski serves as the performance improvement director at Friends Hospital in Northeast Philadelphia. In her role, she ensures the agency operates within state and federal standards and implements initiatives across the hospital to continuously improve patient experience.

“It’s a niche,” she said of performance improvement, that Kawski never anticipated exploring professionally. It’s never where she thought she would be. Then again, she never thought she would study at La Salle, either.

When considering colleges and universities, Kawski was certain of a few details: She knew she wanted to stay close to her home in Delaware County, and she knew she needed an accelerated BSW program.

La Salle’s program, she said, made for a perfect fit. Its hybrid modality, with half of its courses delivered online and half in an in-person, classroom setting, made the most sense for Kawski, who maintained her career while working toward her undergraduate degree.

La Salle also “ignited my passion for social justice,” she said.

“Now, I have a more fully formed view of what that means in a professional setting,” Kawski said. “In the social work field, we’re trying to adjust for all of the unequal circumstances that, in many cases, exacerbate or cause people’s struggle with mental illness or substance use disorder. It pains me to this day, because it’s not resolved, but we see the impact that socio-economic differences between communities have on a lot of people’s lives.”

Kawski maintains strong ties to La Salle. She serves as an advisory board member for the BSW program, for which she also taught as an adjunct instructor. She developed curriculum for a course on how to treat individuals with serious mental illness and substance abuse disorder. While she earned a master of social service degree from Bryn Mawr College, Kawski is enrolled in La Salle’s MBA program.

The format of La Salle’s BSW made it “infinitely more attractive,” said Kawski. The faculty and staff at La Salle made it “feel like home,” she added.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without La Salle,” Kawski said. “The faculty worked in the field. They are so dedicated to teaching and helping to raise the next generation of social workers.”

—Christopher A. Vito