Home Blog Alumni Spotlight: Rachel A. Minkoff—From MSW to PhD and a Fulfilling Career in Social Work

Alumni Spotlight: Rachel A. Minkoff—From MSW to PhD and a Fulfilling Career in Social Work

February 25, 2022
Rachel Minkoff, graduate of Wurzweiler School of Social Work, smiling proudly on graduation day

Holding a Master of Social Work (MSW) opens up a myriad of career opportunities in different areas. With so many paths to choose when it comes to careers in social work, learning more about the work of current social workers is helpful to expose yourself to different areas and career paths. Yeshiva University Wurzweiler School of Social Work alumna Rachel A. Minkoff, PhD, LMSW, shared her experience with Yeshiva University’s MSW program, why she chose to go on for her PhD and what she does in her current role.

Minkoff is an experienced social worker and case worker with a background working in non-profit organizations. She is skilled in program development and management, and works with individuals with developmental disabilities. Her MSW from the Wurzweiler School of Social Work was focused on child welfare, while her PhD, also from Wurzweiler, was focused on policies and practices related to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Why Social Work?

Many people choose social work as a career path out of a desire to help others. This rings true for Minkoff. “As cheesy as it sounds, I always knew that I wanted to help people. The only questions were who, how, and where. Wurzweiler helped me figure that out,” Minkoff said.

Minkoff currently works for Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services (Ohel Bais Ezra) in the New York City metro area managing two group homes for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

“I train and manage a team of staff, provide for the needs of the young men living in these homes, intervene in various crises and take care of the general needs of the programs,” Minkoff said. “I also institute agency policy and create site-specific policy. My interests in social work are to continue working with this population, advocating for their rights and treatment as well as advocating for policy that benefits them.”

Minkoff noted that her long-term career goals are to further research and policy for this population. She plans to use the skills she gained in the PhD program to continue doing research, publishing and ensuring the fair treatment of people with I/DD.

Helping the I/DD Population Through Publishing

Speaking of publishing, Minkoff teamed up with fellow Yeshiva University alumnus, Carlos E. Gerena, PhD, LMSW, to write an article for Police Chief Magazine. The article, “Interacting with Individuals Who Have Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities,” was published in late 2021 and broke down the challenges justice-involved individuals with disabilities face when interacting with law enforcement and the criminal justice system at large. You can read more about this article here.

Minkoff elaborated on the process of writing this piece. “Carlos Gerena and I met in the PhD program and quickly became writing buddies. At the time that we wrote this article, Carlos was working with justice-involved adults and I was in my current position. I came to him with the idea for this article on how we could blend our specialties and that is how this article was born.”

She continued, “Carlos, in his field, has come across people with I/DD involved in the criminal justice system and I, of course, have concerns about people with little to no knowledge of people with I/DD successfully working with this population and ensuring they are treated fairly. Our education gave us the skills to know how to write for publication, how to seek reputable publication and gave us the tools to work as a team in what quickly could have dissolved into an unsuccessful project.”

This publication is a first important step for Minkoff in her goal to publish to help this population, and to expose those less familiar with I/DD to the specifics of the population.

Why Yeshiva University for the MSW?

Minkoff attended Yeshiva University for her undergraduate degree. Knowing and understanding the university system made her feel more comfortable, but she also was impressed with what the Wurzweiler School of Social Work had to offer. “I learned about the variety of the courses, the diversity of the students, as well as the small class sizes and attention to the students and their career goals. This is what drew me to Wurzweiler for my MSW and brought me back for my PhD.

Overall, Minkoff notes the small class sizes, mentorship opportunities, the reputation of Yeshiva University and Wurzweiler School of Social work, access to a wide range of field work placements and knowing that her voice mattered to the faculty and the university as a whole as the top reasons she chose to stick with the university.

Minkoff noted that she continued on for her PhD after earning her MSW out of a desire to do research and make an impact in her field. “Unfortunately, working with people with disabilities is not a highly desired field and when it comes to the effects of policy, not well researched,” she said. “I knew the PhD program would give me the tools to add important research to this field through my dissertation and beyond.”

Advice for Those Seeking Careers in Social Work

“Be open to all opportunities,” Minkoff said. “Clinical practice is not the be-all and end-all of social work—although we need you, too! Speak to your professors, ask for and find a mentor, ask questions and find out what’s out there for social workers.”

She continued, “I love social work because it is by far the most diversified career I can think of. You can find a social worker pretty much anywhere. Where do you want to be?”

Minkoff further advises not to be shy of asking for what you want. “My life philosophy is: Worst case scenario, someone says no and you’re back where you started.”

Start Your Career in Social Work with Yeshiva University

Take your education to the next level and learn from the experts with the Master of Social Work (MSW) online program offered by Yeshiva University’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work. Get the clinical education and field-based knowledge to build lasting social change as the issues continue to change over time.

The CSWE-accredited curriculum and a variety of specializations to choose from is infused with ethics, tolerance and cultural receptivity. The online MSW program will boost your earning potential, broaden your social impact and help turn your passion into a successful professional practice. Learn more about where you can take your career in social work with our online degree program.

Ready to get started? Schedule a call to speak with one of our admissions advisors, or begin your application today.