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FOR GSS GRADUATE, FAMILY STORY DRIVES CAREER AMBITIONS
Christine Shim got her first lesson in the importance of education at age six.
Photo by Janet Sassi
That's how old she was when her mother took Christine and her brother halfway around the world, from Korea to Queens, N.Y., so they would grow up in a society that offered more educational opportunities to women.
"She saw how my future would be limited if we continued living (in Korea),"said Shim, who graduated with a master's in social work from the Graduate School of Social Service (GSS '12).
But it wasn't an easy move. Shim's father stayed behind in Korea, so Shim's mother raised them on her own, working in a beauty salon in Flushing. She constantly drove home the importance of education, shaping her daughter's future in more ways than one.
Shim vigorously pursued her education, completing bachelor's and master's degrees in an unbroken five years while working multiple jobs to financially help her mother and brother, who is six years younger.
And now her career ambitions revolve around education as well. As an intern at the United Nations during the past semester, she found her calling: creating educational opportunities in parts of the world where they're scarce, like the part of Korea where she spent her early childhood.
"A lot of people take (schooling) for granted because there's public education systems here, unlike in Korea, where education was only open to those who could pay for it," she said. "In industrialized countries we get to choose, and we have a lot of options laid out for us, but in these developing countries...they don't really have any choice but to actually survive day by day."
This past semester, as a UN intern, she worked with Close the Gap International, a Brussels-based nongovernmental organization that helps Western companies donate their used computers to students in developing countries. Her job was "basically networking," she said - spreading the word about the organization and looking for opportunities to advance its work.
Today, she wants to become head of projects for an organization of this type. For her master's, she pursued a management track that's suited to international development and community-building around the globe. It's a less-known type of social work that calls for designing sustainable aid projects by gaining a keen understanding of a community's needs and wants, she said.
The needs of her own family have always figured prominently in her life. It was her family that drew her back to New York from Pennslyvania, where she attended Dickinson College for her first semester.
During her last year of high school, her father had joined the family in New York for the first time since she was six. When he died of cancer during her term at Dickinson, she transferred to Fordham to be close enough to give her family emotional and financial support.
It was a hard decision; she had to give up a full ROTC scholarship to Dickinson. And at Fordham, she has put in long hours commuting from Queens, and balancing paying jobs with her studies.
But her family's financial situation only reinforces her drive to excel. "I just want to do better," she said. "It gives me a reason to be successful."
- Article by Chris Gosier
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New York City Schools Chancellor
Back in 1977,Dennis Walcott, GSS '80, needed a job. He'd taught kindergarten and then founded a nonprofit to mentor urban youth, but fundraising for the group lagged, and Walcott had bills to pay. His career needed a serious relaunch. He learned that the Spence-Chapin adoption agency offered a work-study post for a studentat Fordham's Graduate School of Social Services. So Walcott enrolled at Fordham, got the job and earned his master's degree, beginning his journey through New York City's nonprofit world tothe heights of municipal government.
Today, as NewYork City schools chancellor, he runs the nation’s largest school district,with 1.1 million students, 1,754 schools and
“Fordham gave me the opportunity and Fordham got me going,” Walcott said recently at Department of Education headquarters in the old Tweed Courthouse on Chambers Street, across the street from City Hall.
That October morning, the soft-spoken Walcott had plenty on his plate. It was the last day of work for about 650 school aides, who had been laid off to save $35 million in the department’s $24 billion budget. That was a painful piece of a $184 million cost-savings plan under way this school year. Walcott said he needs to cut $600 million more for 2012–2013. Union leaders and disgruntled school employees gathered that day on the steps of Tweed to oppose the layoffs. Walcott told CBS News that his heart went out to the displaced workers, but he warned that more budget cuts are certain.
“I need to balance the reality in the schools with the reality in today’s society,” Walcott said. “There are just fewer dollars available.”
Read the rest of the article in Fordham Magazine. >>