Three Questions for a Social Work Leader, with Rachel Kaprielian

Rachel Kaprielian (center, wearing red) is Regional Director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Here she is pictured with BCSSW students and Professor Tiziana Dearing.

Rachel Kaprielian (center, wearing red) is Regional Director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Here she is pictured with BCSSW students and Professor Tiziana Dearing.

Rachel Kaprielian has devoted her life to public service, and has forged a positive reputation in the upper echelons of state and national government. This past week, she was named a Regional Director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; she has also served as Registrar of the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, and as Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development under Governor Deval Patrick. Throughout her career in public service, she has made solving social ills one of her top priorities, and has provided key leadership on issues such as tobacco cessation and prevention, early intervention and care for children, and improving job training and education for those who need it. 

On March 27, Kaprielian was invited to the Boston College School of Social Work to share her expertise with students as the latest featured guest in the school’s Leadership Speakers Luncheon Series. Here, Kaprielian speaks with BC Social Work about the critical importance of coordinating care, doing a job you care about, and not being afraid to ask questions.

What does it mean to be a social worker in 2015? 

Rachel Kaprielian: Social work is about developing a holistic view of a person, and today in 2015, we are better equipped to be able to do this than ever before. It’s our responsibility as experts and coordinators of care to look at the all the aspects of our clients’ lives and seek to understand the many factors that can lead to distress. It then behooves us to coordinate the best care possible with the input of other colleagues in our field. Being an effective social worker in 2015 is about working together in a coordinated and integrated way to help those who are in crisis.

Tell us about the most important lesson you’ve learned as a leader in the field. 

RK: Whatever job you choose, do it with passion and if you have a great idea, go for it! If you don’t feel like you are making contributions in a way that matters to you, figure out a new way to make change happen. Maybe that’s not possible in your current position, or in working with the population you currently serve, if so, don’t be afraid to look for something new, so that you can best utilize your gifts.

What recommendations do you have for those who aspire to be social work leaders in the future?

RK: Ask questions of your leaders. Often, it’s easy to make assumptions about how and why an individual came to a certain decision. You can learn a lot if you inquire, productively, of your bosses and your peers about those processes and the thinking that went into it.

A social worker’s job is to help others to find themselves, and give them the tools to succeed. Good leaders in the field display these traits, not only in how they work with their clients, but also in how they lead their colleagues.

“Three Questions for a Social Work Leader” is a recurring column at Innovate@BCSW, designed to share some of the knowledge imparted to the Boston College community by social work professionals from beyond our campus walls. 

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