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Justin Beach

Former DU adjunct professor earns doctorate in social work



Ann Obermann

Some college students reward themselves for graduation, whether it be a car, trip or some well-deserved time off. But if you’re Ann Obermann (PhD ’17), you keep it simple by getting a cat.

Obermann, who is earning her doctorate in social work from the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW), calls the cat a “triumph” as she and her 8-year-old son, Eli, have wanted one for quite some time. With classes and a dissertation behind her, she can focus on the little things — for now.

It’s not like Obermann, a DU adjunct professor from 2009–13, has much time to reward herself in any other way. She’s already gearing up for her next gig in academia as an assistant professor in the Department of Social Work at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

As she prepares to move on to the next chapter in her life, which includes walking during summer commencement on Aug. 19, Obermann reflects on the last four years and what her time at DU has meant. It was rigorous, she says, but well worth it.

“It has just been really good. I feel like classes were accessible,” says Obermann, who spent time working with the Butler Institute at GSSW. “I always got the classes I wanted, and faculty reviewed my papers. They would take time to do that and encourage me to do what I wanted to do. They really would look out for your best interest, but also really challenge you. ”

For Obermann, who always has been interested in the field of social work, having that kind of support is crucial, especially for someone who loves teaching and has a passion for helping others.

“I really love people. We’re so complex in how we interact with one another and other systems,” Obermann says. “I just love working with kids and families, especially at-risk youth.”

Even though she will spend most of her time teaching, Obermann says she would love to partner with community agencies around staff training and workforce development so that they are able to do the best work they can.

Obermann sees herself teaching for awhile. She says the practice helps keep her motivated, but she also enjoys supervising and leading people. She says there is a strong need for leaders, whether that be in the community or in academia, and that GSSW is ensuring that it produces those types of leaders.

“I think the collective, dedicated energy that is in the Graduate School of Social Work is really going to make a difference in our community,” Obermann says. “People are doing such intentional work. There is so much going on that I feel that the energy and everything that comes out of here will benefit our community at DU and the community at large.”

Obermann, 42, will now take that energy into the classroom as she prepares the next generation of social workers to face the challenges ahead. Having worked and taught in the field, she’s a good source of advice for others who are going back to school.

“Hold on to the reasons that motivated you to come back. I loved teaching and supervising clinicians, so I really wanted to get that PhD so that I could do that more effectively,” she says. “Make sure you have a large and committed support system, whether that’s your family or your community.”