Meet Our Leaders – Dr. Bruce Friedman – “Take the Road Less Traveled”
In this series, the College of Health Sciences shares the personal stories of the leadership of our academic departments and programs, including their transition into higher education and lessons learned along their educational pathway.
Dr. Bruce Friedman is the Leavell Endowed Fellow in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, and professor and chair of the Department of Social Work. Dr. Friedman completed his PhD in Social Welfare at Case Western University and his MSW at Washington University’s George Warren Brown School of Social Work.
Are you a first-generation college graduate?
Both my parents were college graduates, so in my family, it was not an issue of were we going to college but rather, where.
Did your parents/family discuss higher education within your home? If not, please share how you were inspired to pursue a college degree and go on to graduate school.
As previously mentioned, college was routinely discussed, and the expectation was that we would all go to college. Interestingly, it was not just college, but there was an emphasis to pursue graduate education as well, and even though my parents each only had a bachelor’s degree, all of the children went on and pursued higher education degrees. I am the only one with a PhD, but my brother has his JD, my sister her MSW, and my youngest brother his MBA.
Did you receive financial aid and/or scholarships to assist with tuition expenses?
None of us could have afforded college without financial aid. I did have scholarships and loans, and I also worked my way through college. I found myself working a variety of jobs, everything from youth leader to teaching swimming and life guarding to working in bakeries. During my undergraduate education, I was an apprentice bread baker, and for my master’s, I was an apprentice cake baker. I was able to earn full union wages when I was working on my doctorate.
What do you recall about your first day in college?
My mother had insisted that attending college also involved having a campus experience. I am the oldest child in the family, and my leaving home was hard but a good role model for my siblings. Thus, I recall driving to college with both Mom and Dad in the car and everything I would need to begin. I got to the dorm and my roommate (Neil Linzer) was from New York City. He was sleeping with his head set on and playing Jethro Tull on his stereo. Once we unpacked, we walked around campus to get a sense of the campus and where things were. My parents left and there was that feeling of truly being independent.
Please share one of the greatest challenges you experienced while in school and what you did to overcome it.
Probably the biggest challenge of being in school was balancing school and work experiences. My roommate was a night person and was not very serious about school; he dropped out after freshman year. He also had a van and was pretty mobile, going off campus often while I tried to focus on doing well during the adjustment to being on campus. I picked up some work as a dishwasher at the meal program to help cover some costs and worked on my swimming practice schedule. College athletics was not the same as high school, and the coach allowed us to work out individually since the emphasis was to be there for an education rather than for the athletics. Thus, practices were a little lonely. Fortunately, there was another swimmer on the floor below and we tried to work out a few times a week together. Probably the biggest challenge was learning how to manage the independence and creating a structure for myself that allowed me to try to get everything done.
What is your favorite memory of your time in college?
I can easily say that the best memories are the friends I made in college. Some of those friends have continued to be friends for years. One friend became the chief psychiatrist for the Federal Aviation Administration while another was an engineer making landing gears for a Boeing contractor. College is not only about the knowledge, but also about the people who helped you through the process.
If you could go back in time to deliver a message to your younger self, what would you say?
Knowing what I know now and reflecting back, it is hard to say what you will become. Many times, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves pursuing paths that may not be the intended path for us. One of my high school classmates actually committed suicide from the pressures of college. Thus, the message I would tell myself is to look at college as a lesson about life and self-discovery. It is an opportunity to try new things and pursue those opportunities that are afforded to you. For example, I had an opportunity to do a Junior Year abroad and did not pursue it, which in retrospect might have been very beneficial. Thus, college can be like the Frost poem and taking the road less traveled. Just do not be afraid to have those experiences.
For more information about the Department of Social Work, please visit: www.utep.edu/chs/sw.