Monday, December 19, 2011
Namkee Choi credits her grandmother for her career as a social work professor and for her focus on older adults.
Choi, a professor in the School of Social Work at The University of Texas at Austin, grew up in a South Korean village in the years after the Korean War combat ended.“We saw a lot of poverty,” she says, “especially in the wintertime. Peasants would run out of food and my grandmother would feed them. People who could not heat their homes would come live with us.”
Her grandmother’s benevolence made a mark on Choi.
“I look back and still marvel about how she did this,” she says. “At the time I didn’t know what that was. It was social work, right?”
Choi’s rapport with her grandmother instilled a deep appreciation for her elders.
In the Getting Started series, Further Findings highlights the paths some researchers at The University of Texas at Austin took to the laboratory, the library, the field—wherever they do their work.
Choi teaches aging population in Social Work and social work practice with older adults. Her research focuses on the lives of older adults.
When she lived in Portland. Ore., she found a refuge in the company of older adults, even when she took the bus.
The job she moved to Portland for was not what she thought it would be. Her son had just left home. And she didn’t know anyone there.
But when she got on the bus, things changed.
“I automatically went to sit with the older adults,” she said. “We always talked and we were laughing and laughing. Even the transit police would come and listen to our conversations.”
The reason behind her career direction is not uncommon among social work students who want to work with older adults.
When she teaches an aging-related course, Choi asks the students why they want to work with older adults.
“They always say the same thing,” she says, ” ‘I had a great relationship with my grandparents.’ ”