MSW student overcomes challenges to pursue her dream career

Nov 03, 2023
Crystal Khan holds baby Noah with Newman Univeristy logos in the background.

Crystal Khan’s journey over the past several months has been anything but easy. But it’s reminded her why she wants to pursue the field of social work. 

Khan, who’s a student in Newman University’s Master of Social Work program, gave birth to her son, Noah, on July 19. He was born at 33 weeks, weighing just under 3 pounds, due to Khan’s preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome diagnosis. Immediately after being born, Noah needed specialized care in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. 

Khan shared that Noah’s journey to health and strength taught her how precious life is. 

Khan holds baby Noah in the NICU. (Courtesy photo)
Khan holds Noah in the NICU. (Courtesy photo)

“Being at the NICU for a grueling 93 days, where we tirelessly monitored Noah’s progress, was a challenging and emotional journey that humbled me greatly,” she said. “My heart wasn’t in the right place if I wasn’t near my baby; it was tough to separate myself from him.”

Khan added that her responsibilities as a parent to a fragile NICU newborn, her field practicum at the Therapeutic Alliance Group, and keeping up with assignments while going to the hospital and still trying to care for her own health were extraordinarily challenging tests of resilience.

“There were days when I was emotionally unable to eat and get out of bed, and I had to advocate for myself and find the strength to get up every day and push through some of my darkest moments,” she said. “However, this experience has reinforced my commitment to my studies and passion for social work despite the difficulties. It has reminded me of the importance of empathy, support and understanding — qualities I hope to bring to my future career.”

Thankfully, baby Noah recently graduated from the NICU at 92 days old and got to go home. 

Khan’s desire to enter the field of social work is deeply rooted in her passion for breaking generational curses and advocating for those who may not have a voice. 

“Every person has a unique story to tell, and creating a space where they feel validated and heard is essential,” she said. “I want to meet individuals where they are in their journey, recognizing their struggles and strengths.” 

The Khan family leaves the NICU with baby Noah at just 92 days old. (Courtesy photo)
The Khan family leaves the NICU with Noah at just 92 days old. (Courtesy photo)

Growing up, Khan witnessed the impact of unaddressed social issues within her own family and community. 

“I saw how these challenges perpetuated from generation to generation, and I became determined to break this cycle,” she said. “I realized that by pursuing a career in social work, I could actively work toward creating positive change for myself and countless others.”

Khan shared that all her experiences throughout life have taught her the importance of empathy and compassion. She wants to use these skills to support individuals facing adversity, offering them the tools and resources to overcome obstacles and lead fulfilling lives. 

“I’m driven by the belief that every person deserves a chance to share their story and receive the help and understanding they need,” she said. 

For Khan, being a Newman student has been nothing but remarkable. 

“I feel immensely blessed by the love and support surrounding me,” she said. “The professors at Newman are not just educators but incredible mentors and friends. Their dedication to our success is unparalleled, and I’m constantly in awe of the generosity and compassion they show me daily.” 

The professors’ dedication to our success is unparalleled, and I’m constantly in awe of the generosity and compassion they show me daily.

Crystal Khan

She also feels her experience at Newman has been “transformative, thanks to the incredible professors with the biggest hearts I have ever known.”

“Their guidance and support have been instrumental in shaping my academic and professional journey, and for that, I feel truly blessed and grateful,” she said. 

Vanessa Rials, instructor of social work and director of field education, shared that she’s in awe of all Khan has pushed through to get where she is today.

Nurses work with baby Noah in the NICU. (Courtesy photo)
Nurses work with Noah in the NICU. (Courtesy photo)

“We talk about students transforming society, and she is definitely one who is and is going to continue to do so,” Rials said. “Her positive attitude, faith and determination is truly inspiring. I think it’s also great that her field instructor [Angel Coleman] is a Newman graduate who wants to give back to Newman because of all her great experiences here. Being a social worker requires the type of service we talk about here at Newman.” 

Looking to the future, Khan hopes to pursue her social worker license and continue working at the organization where she’s doing her field practicum. 

“My heart is undoubtedly at the Therapeutic Alliance Group, and it’s been a place of incredible personal and professional growth,” she said. “The positive energy and supportive atmosphere have made it a truly fulfilling experience.”

When she graduates from Newman in May, Khan knows she’ll be filled with big emotions. 

“[It] will mean the world to me,” she said. “It’s not just a diploma; it’s a symbol of my journey, growth and determination. As I walk across that stage and receive my diploma, I’ll be filled with an immense sense of pride and accomplishment. It represents the culmination of years of hard work, dedication and countless challenges I’ve overcome. I’m immensely proud of myself and excited to see where this diploma will lead me in my continued journey of self-discovery and making a difference in the world.”

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