One of the eldest children in a blended family of 12 siblings, Liz Guzman-Arredondo, M.S.W., L.S.W., still remembers the moment she realized she wanted to be a professional helper. Growing up, she had the extra responsibility of caring for her many younger siblings. In truth, she said, she was forced to grow up a little before her time. One day, a social worker came to speak with a young family member who had had a baby. The impact the social worker’s guidance had on the young woman’s stress did not escape Guzman-Arredondo’s notice.
“She just lightened up. When her family wasn’t there for her, she [the social worker] was,” she said.
That was the moment she knew. From there, Guzman-Arredondo worked hard to reach her goal of becoming a social worker. Her parents, particularly her father, pushed her to succeed, and she became the first of her 12 siblings to attend college. The college she chose became as dear to her as her pursuit—Calumet College of St. Joseph (CCSJ).
“When I got to CCSJ, it felt so very warm,” she said. “I thought, ‘This is a place where I can grow.’”
And grow she did. Today, Guzman-Arredondo serves as program director of CCSJ’s Human Services Program, as well as professor of ethics and human services.
“It’s a wonderful full-circle feeling,” she said. “As a licensed professional social worker, I especially love teaching students that have a calling to help people. I try to inspire them, instill them with knowledge, and give them the context to understand their calling.”
She’s doing something right, because she recently received the Brother Gerard Von Hagel Alumni Award, an honor given each year to alumni who exemplify the values of respect and understanding, and the spirit of stewardship and service taught at Calumet College of St. Joseph.
“I was totally surprised by the award!” she said. “Blame my Catholic upbringing, which instilled in me that you just do what you have to do, not for trophies. Of course, I’m very honored to be a recipient.”
Upbringing aside, Guzman-Arredondo achieved countless milestones that prove her deservedness for recognition. After completing her undergraduate degree at CCSJ, she pursued her masters degree in social work at Loyola University. During that time, she was entrusted to oversee the entire oncology floor of a teaching hospital where she was interning.
“When I was viewed as part of the team, as a colleague, I knew then that I had hit my stride in helping people,” she said.
Guzman-Arredondo assisted the floors of many hospitals and psych wards, seasoning herself in the art of professional helping. For 17 years, she threw herself into her calling. With a specialty in child welfare, she worked as an ongoing case manager throughout the Region and managed St. Monica Home in Dyer, a faction of the Franciscan Health Foundation that offers a safe home for unwed teens expecting a child.
In 1991, she started teaching as an adjunct professor at CCSJ.
“I saw a need in the education field to teach students to be better professional helpers—to be insightful, compassionate, and to harness that sense of responsibility toward community, families, and self,” she said. “Many students have that sense, but don’t don’t know where to plant and grow it.”
Along with the practical teachings of the subject, Guzman-Arredondo stresses to her students the importance of professionalism, timeliness and deadlines, research, and introspection.
“When you take on the commitment of helping others, all of those qualities are as much at the root of your work as your calling,” she said. “You have to take it all seriously, because if you don’t, what does that say about you? How are you equipped to serve others?”
She also teaches the importance of self-care in the field.
“This work is not easy and often very heavy,” she said. “I encourage my students to do things for themselves, too.”
She stepped in as program director after the former director stepped down. A lot of encouragement on the former director’s part and praying on Guzman-Arredondo’s part assured her it was a positive decision, although the transition to teaching full-time was a big one. After essentially being on-call 24/7 for so many years, Guzman-Arredondo found that she missed her cases and trained to be a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA).
“It keeps me fresh and it keeps me busy!” she said.
In addition, she remains heavily involved in Indiana University Northwest’s Annual Forum on Child Abuse and Neglect, and worked closely with other family service professionals in Northwest Indiana to create the Lake County Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Plan, parts of which were adopted by the entire state.
“I’m very proud to be a part of this charge, to be able to collaborate, educate, and reform with like-minded individuals,” she said.
Her calling brought her personal happiness, as well. When she was still a case manager and visiting a case family’s home, she met her husband, then a Child Protective Services agent. She laughed as she recalled him trying to diaper a fussy baby. The pair married in 1992, ten years after she had graduated from CCSJ.
“He is a big part of who I am,” she said.
Guzman-Arredondo’s rich history in the field pushes her to arm her students with the belief that they, too, can succeed. Early memories of her father beaming at her bringing home armfuls of textbooks inspire her to give her students the same support.
“A lot of students in our unique program live at home and do everything in their power to make it work. I want to show them that it can be done, they just have to keep going,” she said. “I tell them, ‘The world needs you, and it’s ready for you.’”
For more information on the programs offered at Calumet College of St. Joseph, visit their website.