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Cathy Orzolek-Kronner ’86, Ph.D.

A Social Work professor who leads by example, teaching students to be collaborative and compassionate.

Lively | Invested | Empathetic
Cathy Orzolek-Kronner teaches courses like Human Behavior and the Social Environment, and she leads seminars for students pursuing Social Work field placements. Although she never wanted to leave McDaniel when she was an undergraduate at the college, she went on to earn master’s degrees in Social Work and Administration, and a Ph.D. in Social Work before she returned to the college as a faculty member. Her pedagogy is informed by over a decade of social work experience and a focus on authenticity and collaboration.
What’s your background? Where were you before McDaniel and when did you start here?
I’m a proud ’80s alum, and I earned my B.A. in Social Work from then Western Maryland College. My mom always believed that I saw the word “social” but did not see “work,” and hence here I am. I went directly to the University of Maryland School of Social Work for my master’s, then worked with individuals who had sustained traumatic brain injuries. I then had an existential crisis at which time I thought I needed to leave my short career in social work. So, I earned a master’s in Administration from Johns Hopkins University. Having no idea what to do next, I lived with three extraordinary nuns for almost a year, and they helped me discern my life direction. After 10 years of social work practice, I earned my Ph.D. in Social Work from Smith College. I started at McDaniel in 1997 and started a tenure-track position in 2001.
Why did you choose McDaniel as a place to work? What inspired you to become part of the Hill?
I actually never wanted to leave McDaniel. It was my dream to return to the Hill, but I never imagined that it would be as a college professor. Pardon the cliché, but McDaniel changed my life in every way for the better. I was mentored by Dr. Mary Ellen Elwell, founder of the Social Work program. Like Mary Ellen, my students have become my lifelong friends, colleagues, and sometimes even my mentors.
What have you enjoyed most during your time at McDaniel?
I enjoy spending time in most any context with the students and all of my colleagues across divisions. I am always engaged in learning, which enriches my life in every way. I love to be around the optimism, energy, and innovation of my students. They keep me young in spirit and hopeful to see them strive to make the world a better place.
What do you hope students take away from your courses?
I hope students take away the same thing I took from Dr. Elwell’s classes: View the world and the people in it from a strengths perspective. We can find something positive within all people and events, even when we think it’s not possible. I hope I lend promise to my students through my own example. I have struggled with losing my vision since my adolescence, and needless to say, academic success has been a challenge since the 7th grade when I could no longer read the chalkboard.
It would be difficult for me to get through a class without some assistance from students, especially with technology. I am always struck and delighted by the ways in which the class works together to make learning collaborative, informative, and lots of fun. I think I do a good job of allowing myself to be vulnerable and thus giving permission to others to do the same. It is through our genuineness that great things happen.

About Prof. Orzolek-Kronner

Professor of Social Work
Subject: Youth Therapies, Equine Therapy, Disability Resiliency
Department: Social Work