Pursuing a Master’s of Social Work as a HEOP Student

Elizabeth Redekop is pursuing her Master of Social Work (MSW) at Nyack College in New York City. She spoke to us about the community, diversity, and beauty she’s found at Nyack College—as well as the tuition assistance that made it all possible.


Can you share a little bit about where you grew up and what brought you to Nyack College?

Well, I was actually born in Nyack. My father was attending [Alliance Theological Seminary], and I lived in [the school’s] Hillside Apartments for the first six months of my life. When I was six months old, he graduated and we moved to Syracuse, New York, where he pastored for twelve years. Then [we moved] to Brooklyn. So I actually came to Nyack from Brooklyn. Nyack had been on my radar for a long time. I visited when I was a junior in high school, and I got accepted. I also got invited to be in HEOP at Nyack College, so I decided to attend. HEOP is the Higher Education Opportunity Program. Ninety percent of my tuition was covered through HEOP. Another big reason why I went to Nyack College is because I wanted a smaller community and I wanted a Christian community. Those are big draws.

What are the things you most value about Nyack College as a school?

Definitely the intentionality in mentorship. My sophomore year, I joined the Student Activities team. My last year, I was an RA—resident assistant. Through that time, there were significant people in my life who were my superiors. I’ve gotten to know some of them really well, and they’ve all been really intentional—reaching out, meeting up with me, [asking] “how can I help you and support you? What are your challenges?” Sarah Samson was one of them. Dean Velez has been very instrumental in my life. They were definitely supporting me and pushing me towards God and supporting my walk with God. That’s been really significant to me. Also, I’ve been challenged a lot to step out of my comfort zone through those leadership opportunities, and it’s been significant to feel comfortable to step out of my comfort zone and know that I’m in a safe community where if I fail, I’m not failing by myself and it’s okay. It’s really okay to fail, to not always have a great event, but how do we learn and change in the future to do better? So those are a few things that I definitely valued.


I also did track and field. I threw shot put and discus. That was pretty out of my comfort zone, but it was a fun experience. I built good friendships through that. [At Nyack College, there are] definitely a lot of opportunities—different things I could do—different ways to serve.


Has being a student at Nyack College affected or changed you in any way?

Yes. I will definitely say that through my college undergrad experience, I was able to form a lot of my personal beliefs and values. I was challenged to think about why [certain things are] a priority to me. Why do I really believe this? Why do I feel this way on certain topics? And so, classes, mentorships, friends, and all my different experiences really helped to shape me into who I am now. It has helped me to chisel down to the important things. And it has really given me a lot of confidence in who I am and what I believe—knowing what I believe, valuing who I am as a person, valuing my strengths, and knowing my weaknesses. Those have been some significant takeaways from my college time.


When you think about Nyack College, what words come to mind?

Diverse. I think of community. I think of lots of laughter—a lot of joy. I think of tight bonds. Those are things that come to my mind. I think of beauty because, honestly, Nyack is a beautiful place. I love coming for my Saturday morning class, sitting in the classroom at the end of the hall, and the beautiful view over the river. Yeah, I love that.

Are there any events or traditions at Nyack College that are particularly meaningful or special to you?

It’s hard to name just one, but I definitely like how much Nyack values creating spaces for students to come together and to celebrate different things—to experience different things. Being on Student Activities, we planned and coordinated all those events. It was definitely exciting when we could plan things that we knew the student body wanted and would see a good turnout—see people really enjoy it and get positive feedback.


What is the best part of being a student at Nyack College?

The best part of being a student here is knowing that there is a lot of like-mindedness already. Even with people you don’t necessarily know, you know you must have at least a few things in common to be here besides just education, but also spiritually and values and beliefs.


Is there anything you feel like you’ve gained or learned from your classmates at Nyack College?

Yeah, I definitely, definitely appreciate the diversity in the background, not just racially, but socioeconomically and regionally. I appreciate that diversity because I’ve been able to learn from my colleagues from other countries and other parts of the United States. It’s opened my eyes to things. You don’t know what you don’t know sometimes. And so I’ve definitely appreciated just learning about other people and other places in that way.


Are there any experiences you’ve had through Nyack College that have really inspired you or excited you about your future or where you see yourself professionally?

Yeah. I will say that I really appreciated having one-on-one meetings with Doctor Assur in undergrad. She’s the main reason why I ended up going straight into getting my degree for Master of Social Work. When I would talk to her about my desires for the future and what I wanted to do professionally, she is the one who highly recommended social work. I really appreciated that. Also, my current internship, which I was connected to through Nyack College, has also helped me to gain new experiences and to realize things I do like and don’t like for the future or for my career.