David Rochman was a teacher at William Jefferson Clinton Middle School near the University Park Campus when he first enrolled in graduate classes at USC three years ago to study education. He valued the rewarding opportunity to help impact the lives of children as an educator, but he thought he could do more outside the classroom.
Three master’s degrees later, Rochman is pursuing his doctorate in social work — with the same goal of reforming the educational system. But now he plans to do it with a career in research. And social work. A move he owes in part to a field placement with the USC Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging.
Originally inspired by the USC School of Social Work’s Community Organization, Planning and Administration concentration, Rochman thought brushing up on his advocacy, community organizing and leadership skills would complement his master’s degree in teaching, helping him bring about change in education policy.
“In my first year of taking MSW [Master of Social Work] courses — getting more into the literature and understanding what social work was about — I realized I wanted to do research,” said Rochman, who ultimately earned advanced degrees in teaching, social work and public administration.
After completing his first year at the School of Social Work, Rochman MSW/MPA ’13 had a choice of where to do his field placement for the upcoming year. The curriculum requires all students to complete 1,000 hours of field work in professional settings, where they participate in supervised learning opportunities that integrate classroom theory with actual practice experience.
On a list of more than 100 options was the Roybal Institute, which was described as an internship for students interested in careers in research.
“Research is what I wanted to do, so I zeroed in on that placement,” Rochman said.
The experience gave him a greater appreciation for research in general. But it also unexpectedly spurred an interest in aging issues.
“When I started at the Roybal Institute, my plan was to get research experience,” he said. “Working with Dr. [Maria] Aranda, Dr. [William] Vega and the rest of the Roybal Institute, I’ve definitely developed a taste for studying aging.”
Fortuitously, that choice also resulted in a scholarship from the Lucille and Edward R. Roybal Foundation, which funded the field placement opportunity. Rochman was one of four MSW students awarded a stipend this past year to pursue a health-related career serving older adults.
“We had very strong feelings about the selected [MSW students],” said Vega, Provost Professor and executive director of the USC Roybal Institute. “We hope their motivation will carry on through their lives of service to the community.”
Rochman studied intergenerational aging in his second-year MSW coursework and incorporated it in his statement of purpose for his PhD application to The Ohio State University, where he is now enrolled.
“I want to thank everyone at the Roybal Foundation,” Rochman said. “Had I not won the award, I would probably have been working more, and it would probably have been impossible to have time to submit PhD applications.”
Rochman plans to study education reform and community organizing in his doctoral program, with aging as a secondary focus.
Or something else he has yet to explore.
“I’ve learned to never limit myself to any one perspective,” he added. “I’ve evolved so much since coming to USC in my career path that I would never rule anything out.”
The Roybal Foundation was founded by the late Rep. Edward Roybal and his wife, Lucille Beserra-Roybal. The congressman, who was a champion of health and aging services for vulnerable populations during his time in office, co-founded the U.S. House Select Committee on Aging. The foundation has awarded more than $600,000 in scholarships to date.
The USC Roybal Institute on Aging was also named for the congressman. Its mission is to advance research with the goal to enhance optimal aging for persons in minority and low-income communities.