At heart, Kathryn Procknal ’14 ’21 has always been a social worker.
“I recently looked back at my old yearbook from the fourth grade and for the question, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’” Procknal said, “I actually wrote, ‘social worker.’”
“I grew up being told it was my calling to help people because I was often the voice for others when they didn’t feel comfortable speaking up for themselves. Helping people and listening to them has always been important to me, so I really grew into that personality,” she explained.
With her clear passion in mind, it was only natural she pursued a career in social work. “It truly is the right fit for me,” she said.
Procknal, who earned her bachelor’s in social work from Daemen in 2014, is now an assistant professor in the college’s Department of Social Work and Sociology.
“I’ve sort of always been a part of the Daemen community,” she said. “I developed my professional upbringing here.”
After earning her degree at Daemen, Procknal dove deeper into the field, earning her master’s from the University of Albany.
Her first professional job was working at New York Start, which is still running locally in Buffalo. There she dedicated herself to working with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, focusing on crisis prevention and intervention.
Procknal’s journey then took her to Philadelphia, where she worked at a residential treatment facility for young adults.
“At that point, I really started to jump into more individual and family therapy, and gained clinical experience in what’s called dialectical behavior therapy (DBT),” she said. “It’s an evidence-based practice focusing on those who struggle with emotional sensitivity—or what used to be called borderline personality disorder.”
Procknal provided critical support and aid to those suffering from suicidality, self harm, and other life-threatening circumstances. She helped her patients gain their inner strength, and “develop the skills they need to reach what we call, ‘life worth living goals,’ ” she explained.
Eventually, Procknal had a calling to move back to Buffalo with her partner to put down roots.
“DBT is very behavior focused,” Procknal explained. “I felt ABA was the next step for my education, and ultimately my career. It is an important, emerging program and there is a huge need for people with training in ABA. The relationship between ABA and social work has so much potential for growth, and I’m excited to be a part of that at Daemen.”
After graduating from the ABA program, Procknal continued to provide outpatient therapy at Best Self Behavior Health. She served as the western division chair for the National Association of Social Workers (NASW).
She then worked for Hillside Family Agencies as a behavior specialist in a group home setting, focusing on a combination of ABA and social work.
She became the presenting chair for their human rights committee, which she still serves as today.
Now, in her faculty position at Daemen, Procknal said, “Daemen has always felt like home to me. I met so many friends and colleagues that I’m still in contact with today.”
She added, “I love that it’s a smaller college, with a focus on liberal arts and critical thinking. The ability to see the world from multiple viewpoints is so necessary in any field, and Daemen does a really great job connecting with students and honing critical thought.”
Outside of work, Procknal and her partner enjoy camping and experiencing self-care through nature.