Ondrea Patzlaff is an alum of the University of Iowa Sioux City MSW program. She graduated from the part-time graduate program in 2008, and graduated with her MSW in May 2011. Currently, she is the Director of Residential Treatment with the Children’s Home Society of South Dakota.
UI School of Social Work: What is your focus or desired area of work within Social Work?
Patzlaff: My passion is client-centered work, individually and with families. For most of my career, I have worked with children and adolescents who have experienced trauma. I also really enjoy working with families, either helping birth families or connecting new foster or adoptive families to children in need of a home. I’m extremely passionate about foster care and adoption as well, as I’m an adoptive parent myself.
SSW: How has the Sioux City program helped you achieve your goals as a social worker?
Patzlaff: The Sioux City program gave me a solid foundation to start. At the time I was wavering between working with at-risk adults or children and families. I had already worked with both populations and wasn’t sure which career path to choose. I realized early on in my program, learning from professors and classmates from all walks of life, there isn’t just one career path with Social Work. An MSW opens up so many doors and opportunities. This was probably the most helpful to me as the program instilled a responsibility to never stop learning and growing, including assessing other opportunities within the field.
SSW: Where did you live when you were going to graduate school?
Ondrea Patzlaff: I am from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I lived in Sioux Falls during graduate school and continue to live and work in Sioux Falls. Since the cohort was located in Sioux City, as I got into my classes I almost always stayed locally with friends I met during graduate school so I didn’t have a two-day commute.
SSW: What is a social-work-related anecdote you recall from your time in the Sioux City MSW program?
Patzlaff: I have so many fun memories of my program, mostly about the people I got to know, but something that immediately comes to mind occurred during our research class or project. The professor really hit home about the responsibility of Social Workers being informed consumers of research but didn’t just give a directive, actually taught us how to read research, assess for validity, and look for bias. To this day, I use those tools when reading studies, polls, stats or when doing research on something I need to present to others.
SSW: Where do you work now, or what is your current job title?
Patzlaff: I’m currently the Director of Residential Treatment with the Children’s Home Society of South Dakota. I oversee our psychiatric residential treatment program which works with children ages 4-14 and their families. We have two campuses, one in Sioux Falls and one in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Prior to this position, I was a therapist at Children’s Home for children in residential treatment, working closely with their families and the child’s treatment team.
SSW: What would you say to students who might be considering an MSW?
Patzlaff: You will not regret it. The experiences and opportunities opened by an MSW are endless. I know so many classmates and friends with MSWs who have gone on to do some incredible work, in a variety of fields. Policy builders, politicians, community collaborators, therapists, directors of programs, and business owners. There are so many doors opened with an MSW. When talking with bachelor’s level students questioning the next steps, if they aren’t already in a BSW program, I always try to steer them toward Social Work.