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Fund created to honor former faculty member to support student scholarships for Satir institute

For more than 30 years, Deborah Vassar embraced the teachings of social worker Virginia Satir and considered her a guiding role model for her own social work career. For that reason, Vassar’s friends and family say that it is appropriate that a School of Social Work fund established in Vassar’s memory three years ago will now help to support student scholarships for a summer Satir workshop.

That session—the Satir Growth Model Training Program— is slated for July 24-July 30 at Extraordinary Ventures in Chapel Hill. The workshop offers participants the opportunity to learn more about Satir, considered a “pioneer of family therapy” and the practice model that she developed. The Satir method focuses on self-awareness and the discovery of inner strengths to help individuals, couples, and families better cope with stress and change and ways to create more positive relationships with others.

Vassar, who died in April 2013, admired Satir’s work because she, too, believed in treating people holistically and from a strengths-based perspective, explained Christine Howell, a former clinical assistant professor at the School and a long-time friend of Vassar, who served as a clinical instructor and education specialist with the School’s Center for Aging Research and Educational Services and with the Family and Children’s Resource Program.

“Deb just really embodied (Satir’s) beliefs and practices,” said Howell, now academic and engagement programs manager with the Institute for Nonprofits at N.C. State University. “Whenever she encountered someone who was challenging or difficult, she still always sought the positive in them. She would say, ‘Gosh they are difficult and they really love their kids or they have a great sense of humor.’ Or ‘Gosh, they’ve really been good to me or they really helped me out in this situation.’ She was human and just reminded all of us that we could be even more human in our relationships with others.”

The School of Social Work developed and launched the summer Satir institute last year after receiving a $100,000 private donation. Thanks to the Vassar fund, students who qualify for a scholarship to this summer’s program will receive $1,000 off the $1,500 workshop fee, said Stephanie Lind, Satir program coordinator.

Because of her respect for Satir’s work and because she was so passionate about leadership development, Vassar would have appreciated that in some small way, she is still helping others to grow professionally, Howell added.

“These scholarships will enable some students to have access to further educational development opportunities, and that would have been so important to her,” she said. “So I think she would just be so thrilled and excited and would wonder how in the world she could reach even more people.”

For more information on the student scholarships and to register for the summer institute, visit the Satir Growth Model Training Program website.