Matt Mundy M.S.S. '22
“My guiding light was wanting to help people, and as hard as things can get in graduate school, I just focused on my ‘why’: wanting to help others.”
They say timing is everything—and in the case of Matt Mundy’s journey to becoming a social worker, that sentiment rings entirely true.
It was Valentine’s Day, 2020—just before the world shut down for the pandemic—and Mundy was out to dinner with friends. He told them he was planning to pivot from his career in the federal government, working in the Department of Defense, to pursue a degree in social work. “As a child, I’d gone to a school that specialized in helping kids with learning disabilities, and I always felt compelled to help other people like I’d been helped,” he says. Sure, working for the federal government was stable and stimulating, but it wasn’t fulfilling in the way Mundy longed for.
To get a degree in social work, he figured he’d attend his undergrad alma mater, a large, affordable urban university he’d loved. Then, a friend suggested he consider Bryn Mawr.
“Growing up in Philadelphia, I always knew of Bryn Mawr as a women’s college, but I didn’t know they offered graduate degrees,” Mundy says. While at that dinner with friends, he clicked over to the Bryn Mawr website and—as timing would have it—the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research (GSSWSR) was holding a career-changers open house the very next morning.
“I woke up on Saturday, February 15th, grabbed a cup of coffee and headed there, without so much as having RSVP’d,” he says. What he discovered on campus felt like kismet. “I listened to Sheila Gillin, Bryn Mawr’s director of graduate admissions, talk and I was hooked,” Mundy says. He was particularly drawn to GSSWSR’s small class size and support services, ranging from writing and resume coaching to career placement. A month after that initial event, he attended another career-changers workshop, and then sent off his application. He was admitted for the fall of 2020.
Starting a new academic program in the middle of the pandemic came with challenges, Mundy says, but he and his peers overcame the hurdles of Zoom and became a community. “From the start, Bryn Mawr and GSSWSR really cared about us. They wanted us to do well.”.
While at GSSWSR, Mundy completed his second-year internship in the oncology unit at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He felt an immediate connection to the work. “I’d had family members who went through cancer, and I knew what hospice care looked like,” he says. “Working in a hospital setting, you see a full range of patients—those who are newly diagnosed, patients approaching end of life, those in hospice care, and patients coming in for chemotherapy.”
Now, he works at New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City as a social worker for patients with lymphoma and myeloma, supporting them and their families.
“Bryn Mawr taught me to get to know my patients, and to be as empathetic as possible. Because you never really know what someone else is going through, even if they seem like they’re fine,” Mundy says. He’s particularly grateful for GSSWSR’s course in trauma-informed care, with its focus on building safety, trustworthiness, and transparency and its attention to cultural, historical, and gender issues. “Working in New York, I see an incredibly diverse population. And just as my professors taught me, I always try to get to know patients as a whole person.”
As for his decision to change careers? “I was in a very comfortable job. I could have stayed and had a good salary and benefits. But I don't think I would have been happy. My guiding light was wanting to help people, and as hard as things can get in graduate school, I just focused on my ‘why’: wanting to help others.”