Helping people has always been Michelle Gaffney’s passion. Since she was young, Michelle has been the go-to person for her friends when they needed to discuss their problems. Her family has experienced their share of sadness, too; Michelle’s sister died in a car accident and her father is currently battling cancer. Living through these tragedies have strengthened Michelle’s desire to help and comfort people, and when entering Rutgers-Camden as a first-year student, she had her eye on one goal: to become a social worker.
When deciding on her future plans after her graduation from Clearview High School in Mullica Hill, Michelle knew she wanted to go to a school that was close to her home, and had initially intended to attend Gloucester County College. Upon visiting Rutgers-Camden, she fell in love with the school. In particular, she liked the school’s small size and how the tree-lined campus felt like an oasis in the middle of the city.
The Honors College student enrolled at Rutgers-Camden with plans to major in social work. However, when deciding on her courses for the second semester of her first year, she found herself to be excited and interested by the offerings of the psychology department. She wanted to examine the science behind why people do what they do, feel what they feel. She promptly declared a major in psychology. Taking Psychology of Personality with Dr. Christopher Nave, Assistant Professor of Psychology, made it clear to Michelle that she had picked the right major. She so enjoyed her class with Dr. Nave that she became a research assistant in his lab, spending three semesters coding videos for behaviors to determine personality traits.
In addition to studying psychology, Michelle also declared a minor in childhood studies. Working with children has always been something she enjoys, so the study of children and childhood was a natural fit for her interests. Recently, Michelle marked her five year anniversary as a Daycare Supervisor at the Little Wonders Academy in West Deptford, where she oversees the care of 15-25 children, ranging in age from five months old to nine years of age. Her interest in working with youth prompted Michelle to seek and obtain an upcoming internship as a school social worker with the Deptford Township School District. This opportunity will allow Michelle to assist her supervisor with overseeing Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and counseling students dealing with illnesses such as depression and bipolar disorder.
Michelle’s ultimate ambition remains the same: to enroll in Rutgers’ School of Social Work to obtain her master’s degree in social work (MSW). The application to the school has a community service component, and Michelle was researching different opportunities when her mother stumbled upon an ad for CONTACT Community Helplines of Burlington County that would greatly affect Michelle’s life. CONTACT was seeking volunteers to man the multiple crisis telephone hotlines that their center provides. Michelle answered the ad and after intense training, which included attending classes, being evaluated by a psychologist, and monitoring the crisis hotline, she became one of CONTACT’s most valued volunteers. Recently, Michelle was honored with the 2013 CONTACT Scholarship Award for her service to the organization. In order to be considered for the award, Michelle wrote an essay explaining that being a CONTACT volunteer changed her life for the better. “It’s good to know that you are there for people in need, who might not have anyone else to talk to.”
As Michelle prepares for her last semester as an undergraduate at Rutgers-Camden, she reflects on her time here, and on the people who proved so helpful in creating a positive experience for her. She lights up when discussing the Honors College, saying, “being part of the Honors College has been my favorite part of Rutgers!” She praises both the former and current faculty and staff of the Honors College – Dr. Allen Woll, Dr. Robert Emmons, Dr. Timothy Martin, and Ms. Laura Goins – for helping her through everything and establishing such a close group within Rutgers-Camden’s already tight-knit community, which Michelle describes as a safe, happy environment. “They tell you when you are looking at colleges that you are supposed to go on a campus and feel a certain feeling; I feel it here. I know I’m home.”
About Michelle Gaffney
Hometown: Mantua, NJ
Minor: Childhood Studies
Expected Camden College of Arts and Sciences Graduation Date: January 2014