October 17, 2017


Hackettstown, N.J., October 17, 2017 – Centenary University’s Social Welfare Policy course has turned out to be a game changer for so many people. Every spring semester, Terri Klemm, Associate Professor of Social Work, works with students in Centenary’s Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) Program to find and learn about state and national legislative proposals that are of interest to them. Each student writes a policy analysis about the bill that they have chosen. The group as a whole then decides on one bill to advocate for or against.

Last semester, the class decided to advocate for Peggy’s Law. Named after Peggy Marzolla, an Alzheimer’s patient who died after enduring abuse at an elder-care facility in 2010, the law requires that police are notified whenever there is reasonable cause to suspect that an institutionalized elderly person is being abused. Peggy’s daughter, Dr. Maureen J. Persi, had been lobbying tirelessly for the bill’s passage ever since her mother’s death. She credits the social work students with finally turning things around by generating more than 300 letters, emails and phone calls to NJ legislators.

“The students from Centenary University were angels that came out of nowhere,” says Dr. Persi. “It was amazing that I received this help from strangers. They were able to move this project along after seven years and now no other institutionalized elder in New Jersey ever has to endure what my mother went through.”

The student who chose Peggy’s Law for her policy analysis assignment admits that she never expected to have much interest in the policy course, but she now describes the experience as one of the highlights of her college career. She was especially moved by how enthusiastically her classmates rallied to advocate for Peggy’s Law. Samantha Mauro, from Washington, N.J. is one of many students in the class who worked hard on this initiative. “I am overwhelmed with joy that I got to play such a huge part in advocating for something so important,” says Mauro. “It was a project that I wish we could do again and again. It is an accomplishment that I will remember for the rest of my life.”

“It’s pretty common for students to enter the BSW Program thinking that they have little interest in policy, so it’s always a thrill for me to see how passionate many of them become once they learn more about it,” reports Klemm. “We incorporate a real-world experiential learning throughout the social work curriculum, and this policy project has turned out to be a powerful lesson about how working together to advocate for change can have a tremendous impact. All of the students in this class should be really proud of what they accomplished, before they’ve even graduated! I can’t wait to see the good work they’ll go on to do throughout their professional lives.”

Founded in 1867 by the Newark Conference of the United Methodist Church, Centenary University’s academic program integrates a solid liberal arts foundation with a strong career orientation. This mix is designed to provide an educational experience that prepares students to succeed in the increasingly global and interdependent world.

Centenary University’s main campus is located in Hackettstown, N.J., with its equestrian facility in Washington Township (Morris County). The Centenary School of Professional Studies offers degree programs online and in two locations: Parsippany and Edison, online, as well as corporate sites throughout New Jersey.

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