“I’m passionate about mentoring students and helping them become my peers,” explains Essie Rochman, MSW’71, director of student affairs at the Brown School. A Brown School staff member for the past 18 years, she serves as an advisor for all incoming Master of Social Work students, guiding them in choosing classes, helping them network, and providing resources for addressing personal challenges. But her support doesn’t stop there.
Rochman’s passion for helping students also inspires her to donate to the Brown School. A Master of Social Work graduate herself, she is grateful for the education she received from Washington University 40 years ago. “Alumni always have an obligation to give back,” she says. “My education set my career, and I want to support students who want to enter the same profession.”
Rochman says that the rising costs of education have made it more challenging to pursue a graduate degree than it was for students in her own class. “I see how difficult it is for today’s students,” says Rochman. “They budget very carefully, but if, for example, their car breaks down or they have to travel to attend a funeral, there’s nothing extra for that.”
Rochman and her husband, Andrew, have been members of the William Greenleaf Eliot Society since 1998 and Eliot Fellows since 2005, sponsoring an annual practicum scholarship. Rochman, who was a practicum instructor for 17 years, describes the practicum program as “my first love.” Practicum provides an opportunity for social work students to apply their classroom instruction to hands-on work with a variety of nonprofits, government agencies, and, occasionally, international aid organizations. Students’ efforts are typically extensive and, without a practicum scholarship, would be unpaid.
According to Rochman, it is natural for someone in a position such as hers to support the university, in great part because she witnesses firsthand students’ needs—and their abilities. “Not only does the university support me and what I do,” she explains, “but also I see how we’re educating the next generation. If we want successful leaders in our fields, we need to support that effort financially. We have to make sure the building space is there, the programs are there, and the opportunities are there to prepare the students who will lead our communities and our world.”
Rochman says the best part of her job is working with Brown School students, all of whom have this high potential. “I love what I do,” she says simply. “I just love what I do.”