Master in Social Work
Kristin Surdej, L.M.S.W., C.M.C.
Geriatric Care Manager at Laping, Surdej Associates, LLC
Kristin Surdej became interested in working with seniors as a teenager. She earned an undergraduate degree in the area of gerontology in 1994, after which she was hired as an administrative assistant with a manufacturing company. While working there she kept in contact with a place she had an internship, waiting for an opportunity in the geriatrics field. In 1995, she began working as a geriatric care manager at Toby Laping Associates, an organization dedicated to the care of seniors. Toby Laping, her employer, encouraged her to go back to school and earn her master’s degree. In 1997, she enrolled at State University of New York at Buffalo, and earned her Master in Social Work three years later from their part-time program. She continued to work at Toby Laping Associates, and in 2008, bought the company, making it Laping, Surdej Associates, LLC.
Why did you chose to major in social work?
I’ve been interested in working with and helping seniors since I was a teenager, and Toby Laping encouraged me to pursue a master’s degree, so both of these were an influence. Also, I wanted to major in social work — not only to benefit my career, but also to benefit me as a person, a wife, and a mother.
What is something you liked about the major?
The program required a certain number of internships. I really enjoyed learning in the field, making contacts, networking, and building relationships, many of which I maintain to this day.
What impact has your degree had on your career?
The biggest impact is that it enabled me to become a business owner. I never considered owning a business before, and I know I couldn’t have done it without my degree.
What are some of the skills you acquired through your major that you are able to use today?
I learned how to take in and interpret situations. Also, I learned how to remain neutral while working with clients and to offer them guidance and help them find their way without telling them what to do.
What advice do you have for future social work majors?
I think it’s important to take a short break between undergraduate and graduate school, and spend that time working in the field to make sure it’s what you want to do for the rest of your life. Make sure social work is the right path for you.