Discovering Degrees in Behavioral Sciences: Dutkowski Applies Nonprofit Experience to a Familiar Field
From Community Partner’s Mental Health in Dover, New Hampshire, to the YMCA in Chicago, Illinois, and then to the Salvation Army’s Kroc Center in South Bend, Indiana, Sharon Dutkowski has 25+ years working in nonprofit organizations that have fueled her passion for preparing youth for their careers. After starting at Grace in January 2022 as an adjunct professor in the School of Behavioral Sciences, Sharon is now a full-time faculty member and the school’s director of internships for those getting degrees in behavioral sciences.
Get to know a little more about Professor Dutkowski!
1. What is your educational background?
I graduated with my BS in business administration and psychology from American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts. Then, I earned an MS degree in human services with a concentration in organizational management from Springfield College in Massachusetts.
2. As a New Englander, what brought you to the Midwest?
I lived in New England for 37 years. My husband worked as a guidance counselor for Portsmouth Christian Academy near our house in Dover, New Hampshire, and I never thought we’d move. A few years after Bill started working there, the school’s principal took the position of Headmaster at Christian Heritage Academy in the northern suburbs of Chicago, and two years later, asked my husband to join him and help build a new school. We initially said no. But every time we came up with a reason to stay, God knocked it down. For example, we didn’t have the money at the time to physically relocate our family of six halfway across the country. We brought it before God, and within ten minutes, we received a phone call from the school; a donor had heard about our situation and donated the exact amount of money we needed to move. So we moved to Northbrook, Illinois, and I started working at the YMCA.
3. Tell us about your experience at the Kroc Center and how that position translates to teaching.
While I was working at the YMCA, Kroc Centers were opening all over the place. My husband and I knew people in the Salvation Army, and so I applied for the position in South Bend. They were just starting from the ground up, so there were a lot of ways to get involved there.
I held many positions, but my last role was Director of Operations. Together with the Salvation Army officers, we worked to get the mission of the Kroc Center at the forefront – which is all about Jesus – and tying that into leadership development. We hired a lot of people right out of college who didn’t have much experience, so we worked to teach them management skills, and leadership skills filtered through the love of Christ. We wanted our young people coming in to grow, but also our staff to be growing as leaders.
4. How did you end up working in human services?
I started as an international business major, then an economics major, and then a business major – I was all over the place. I just wanted to travel and do business, not considering any degrees in behavioral sciences. But then I did an internship in Washington D.C. where I was placed in the human service field. I was at the Office of Personal Management and Affirmative Recruiting, which is a federal program that benefits people with disabilities. That summer really changed my life. So when I went back to school, I added psychology and graduated as a business and psychology double major.
5. How did you first start teaching at Grace?
I’ve always been interested in teaching young adults. It’s what I’ve been doing the last thirty years. I’m really passionate about growing people and helping them achieve things they never thought they could. Before Grace, I was talking to a friend of mine about the next chapter of my life. I told her that I’d love to teach at the college level. Her husband graduated from Grace, and she recommended I talk to someone there. So I did! I started with just one class at first, Essentials of Behavior Science, and loved it. So I taught a couple more classes for students completing degrees in behavioral sciences, and it’s just grown from there.
6. What do you love most about teaching at Grace?
One thing I love about teaching at Grace is that every class has its own personality and unique purpose for being offered. I just love seeing students’ eyes open when they understand issues, they’ve probably heard many times before, from a different perspective and how they are going to use their degrees in behavioral sciences to impact the world around them.
7. What courses are you teaching this year?
I’m teaching Life Span, Senior Seminar for Criminal Justice, Social Problems, Gender Race and Violence, Substance Use and Abuse and Grief and Loss for those getting degrees in behavioral sciences. I really enjoy teaching each of these classes for different reasons. We discuss topics that are relevant in everyday life but are rarely discussed. I enjoy students from other disciplines in the behavioral science classes, when students realize they can utilize the knowledge they learn and how to apply it to their field of study.
8. You also oversee internships for students in the School of Behavioral Sciences. What do you enjoy about that role?
I love seeing the growth the students have from the beginning to the end of their internships. Even if a student’s experience is not exactly what they thought it was going to be, it is important to have those experiences when you’re looking for a position in your career path. I tell my students, “This is the time to learn the most. You’re here to learn, absorb, and try new things. This is the time to take the knowledge you have in classrooms and apply it.”
One question I have my students answer is, “Who do you want to emulate in your internship?” It’s important to think through those aspects of the position and how to bring your Christ-likeness into what you’re doing. A lot of employers will not allow you to talk openly about faith, but you can live it out. Therefore, teaching students how to do that in their internships is really important.
9. What’s a little-known fact about you?
I’m a Revelation Wellness (RW) fitness instructor. RW is a faith-based group fitness class that integrates biblical truths into the workout. I was certified in 2020, but I’ve been following the ministry for about eleven years.
10. What are you most proud of?
There have many times in my life where I have achieved a milestone, and the outcome has been one that was beneficial to the people I was serving; however, the most significant achievement that I hang my hat on is being able to balance my family and my professional life. I am a wife and a mother of four wonderful children, and the professional appointments I have held have required a lot of my time and attention. I am very thankful that God has been at the center of it leading and guiding me through all of my life’s transitions and keeping me grounded through it all.
Are you interested in degrees in behavioral sciences? Explore your options in Grace College’s Behavioral Science Department.