Aimee Barr, GSS ’06, is driven by her profound belief that people learn best from one another. It’s a lesson she learned early in life.

When Barr was just 13, she was diagnosed with perceptual problems. “Even to this day I sometimes have a challenging time with spatial relations—it’s a form of dyslexia,” she says.

After the diagnosis, the New Jersey native was moved out of her eighth-grade classroom and into a resource room. “They thought it would be kinder to me, that it would make things easier. But I didn’t want things to be easier,” Barr says. “And I just felt really strongly that it wasn’t the right place for me, that I learn really well when I’m around a variety of other people.”

With support from her parents, Barr fought the decision and eventually rejoined her classmates. But the experience is something that has stayed with her.

Her decision to pursue a master’s degree in social work at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus was fueled by the feeling that, unlike other psychological professions, “social work is focused on the advocacy piece as well as the clinical realm,” Barr explains. “The advocacy piece teaches people how to advocate on their own behalf and how they can make their life better.”

As a licensed clinical social worker, Barr has a private practice in Brooklyn and also works with adolescents through the educational consulting group Forster-Thomas and the Center Against Domestic Violence in New York City.

“It’s a really inspiring group to work with,” she says. “It’s amazing to see the resilience they have, to see their creativity, to see the dreams they want to achieve. Witnessing their growth is very inspiring to me.”

Barr’s interest in working with adolescents “definitely stems from things that I went through,” she says. “I do feel that, if you successfully work your way through a crisis or trauma at a younger age, you have those problem-solving skills for life.”

Barr also hosts workshops for various groups, giving them an opportunity to learn not only from her but also from each other, “in a collective environment among their peers.” She has focused on topics from bullying and relationship abuse prevention to career advancement and stress management.

Barr particularly enjoys speaking at Fordham, where she has led workshops focused on career exploration, professional transitions, and having difficult conversations in the workplace.

“The students are always excited to be there and are very curious,” she says. “There is a culture of learners at Fordham and a culture of people who are really committed to doing good, to wanting to see social change.”

In her upcoming Fordham workshop, Predicting Happiness, she’ll be talking about the key factors she believes influence the decisions people make in their personal and professional lives.

“Happiness is a very trendy concept right now, but it’s also a really timely and important [one],” Barr says. “I think that we have, as a society, fallen into a trend where we look externally for our happiness. We need to recognize that much of our happiness is an internal job.”

That kind of self-discovery is an ongoing process, she adds. “But I do believe that, if you go after your dreams, and you put in the work and the time, you could do well. It takes creativity, it takes entrepreneurial skills, but people can achieve really extraordinary things.”

Alby Tello, director of career development at Fordham’s Graduate School of Social Service, helped Barr organize her first workshops at Fordham.

“Aimee started offering workshops at Fordham because she wanted to get involved and give back,” Tello says. “She’s so easy to engage and easy for the students to relate to. She took her MSW and got creative with it. She opened her own practice but also does works through other organizations and centers—she really shows students what you can do with your degree.”

Barr particularly wants to inspire students and alumni who find that their passions lie in fields that are typically considered unprofitable, such as social work.

“I just feel really lucky because I love what I do. And I believe you do the best job in things you enjoy and find interesting. I get to do work that’s meaningful and make a difference but I also get paid well,” she says. “I want to show people that that’s possible.”


Alexandra Loizzo-Desai can be reached at [email protected] or 212-636-6536.