I loved the social work program. I liked how Bridgewater is and was part of the community.
Nicole Long, G’07, studied social work with a simple yet important goal in mind: to help people. She never imagined her career would lead to the top of a major social services organization in Southeastern Massachusetts.
Whether mentoring employees as CEO of Old Colony Elder Services or working with a client, Long praises her Bridgewater State education for showing her the way.
“I loved the social work program,” said Long, who pursued her graduate degree while working for Old Colony, a nonprofit with offices in Brockton and Plymouth. “I liked how Bridgewater is and was part of the community.”
Long, who received a 40 Under 40 award from Cape & Plymouth Business magazine, rose through the ranks at Old Colony. She was first tasked with working with caregivers, who are often family and friends of elderly and disabled residents. She connected them with resources they need to effectively care for their loved ones and themselves. Long advanced into other roles, helping the organization achieve its mission of supporting independence and dignity of the elderly and disabled.
She remains inspired to help people live at home as long as possible, reducing the need for hospitalization and nursing home care. And, Long still works directly with some of the 22,500 clients Old Colony assists annually.
“The services and programs we offered were and continue to be always evolving and dynamic,” Long said. “We don’t fit people to us, we fit our services to people.”
Bridgewater professors emphasized asking questions in order to understand a client and never making an assumption, an approach that works equally well with employees. Long also left Bridgewater understanding the importance of having a macro-level perspective, another skill she uses regularly as CEO.
“You have to understand the big picture to understand how you can make a difference,” she said.
Long exemplifies what social work faculty hope to see in graduates, said Dr. Arnaa Alcon, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and a former professor in the field.
“She has an incredible leadership role in that organization and she does it with this social work lens,” said Alcon, who stayed in touch with Long. “You could see that spark in her.”
Long’s career has come full circle as she makes an impression on the next generation of social workers by speaking to Bridgewater students. Old Colony accepts BSU students as interns, and many work for the organization after graduating.
Current students can learn from Long’s unexpected path to a rewarding career.
“Always keep an open mind,” she said. “Say ‘yes,’ to opportunities that come your way and make sure you engage in self-care so you don’t get burned out. You need a fresh mind to be creative and think outside the box.”
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