MSW classes changed my life’s trajectory

By Natasha Josefowitz, Ph.D.

Natasha Josefowitz

LA JOLLA, California –Columbia University recently sent out a letter asking their alumni to write about the impact of the classes at Columbia on their lives after graduation. I wrote the following as a response to their request and thought it might also be interesting as a column:

At my graduation from Columbia University in 1965, I was 40 years old—the oldest member of my class. A week later I was leaving the United States with my brand new MSW, my husband, and two teenage children to start a new life in Switzerland.

We landed in Lausanne, where my husband had grown up. My children went to the same school he had attended, L’Ecole Nouvelle. I got a job as an instructor at the local school of social work as I was equally fluent in French. (I was born in Paris and came to America as a war refugee.)

It so happened that I was the first to teach case work there. I taught from the class notes I had brought with me and translated into French to give to my students as handouts. I also started an internship program where my students could see clients. At the same time I worked at L’Office Medico Pedagogique de Lausanne, a child guidance clinic, as part of a team with psychologists and psychiatrists. My clients were the parents of the children brought to the clinic.

Through the clinic, I met a visiting professor from the U.S., Dr. Herman Gadon,  sent by Harvard to start a satellite graduate business school, having started such schools in Calcutta, Teheran, and Amsterdam before the one in Lausanne. He asked me to join him to work on problems of turnover at a local hospital. I also joined him in his consulting work with IBM International in Geneva. We became a successful team working together for a year and a half in a variety of settings as consultants in Switzerland and France. We ended up falling in love.

In 1974, he returned to the States to help start a business school at the University of New Hampshire. He asked me to join him as a faculty member of the Whittemore School of Business. The business courses were being taught using the Harvard Case method; since I was familiar with teaching using cases, I was hired as an assistant professor of management. He helped me with the course work. I went on to teach organizational behavior, conflict management, organizational development, as well as interpersonal and group dynamics. I was a closet social worker teaching my management students to be case workers, which is what good managers should be anyway.

As the only female professor in the college of business in 1976, I petitioned and received permission to teach a course for women in management. It turned out to be one of the first such courses in the U.S. I taught it chronologically from resume writing to interviewing techniques to the first day on the job to middle management and finally to CEO of a company, all the while dealing with issues of harassment, discrimination, and dual-career conflicts that pertained only to women and minorities.

A representative from Addison-Wesley publishing house was talking to my secretary and was shown my curriculum. I got a contract for a book I was not writing; it turned into Paths to Power: A Woman’s Guide from First Job to Top Executive (1980). It became a best seller and was translated into a half-dozen languages. I had the first and only book at the time helping women successfully enter male-dominated organizations. I was interviewed by a variety of newspapers as well as profit and non-profit organizations and appeared on Larry King Live, Dr. Ruth, and countless TV and radio programs. I became a consultant to government organizations as well as major corporations.

From this experience, I wrote my second book, You’re the Boss! A Guide to Managing a Diverse Work Force with Understanding and Effectiveness (Warner Books, 1985), followed by Fitting In: How to Get a Good Start in Your New Job (Addison-Wesley, 1988) co-authored with Herman Gadon. I have also written poetry books. My latest and 20th book is Living Without the One You Cannot Live Without, written after the death of my husband Herman.

Today I am retired from teaching in the MBA program at San Diego State University. I write a bi-monthly column for the La Jolla Village News and am a regular blogger on Huffington Post. It’s truly amazing to look back and see how the course of my life was deeply impacted by a few classes on case work I took back at Columbia University School of Social Work.

© Natasha Josefowitz. This article appeared initially in the La Jolla Village News. You may comment to [email protected]

 

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