ServiceNet’s Seth Dunn on Finding Purpose Through Meaningful Work
Seth Dunn has worn many hats in his 23 years with ServiceNet, including serving as a mental health clinician, grant writer, and Director of Quality Assurance. Early on, Seth—an idealist with an insatiable curiosity—was influenced by the social and political engagement of the 1960s and inspired to go into human services.
In Seth’s first job after college, he worked at the Institute of Living as a Psychiatric Aid with seriously mentally ill males helping them to recover within the structure of a psychiatric hospital. He pursued his master’s in social work at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and upon graduation, he took a position doing case management and outreach for the Department of Mental Health’s services for developmentally disabled youth and their families. A year later, he transitioned to work in a day treatment program in Westfield at the former Carson Center working with individuals with severe and persistent mental health issues. From there Seth worked for the next 19 years as a clinician and clinical director doing outpatient work with children, families, and couples at the former Child and Family Services in Springfield.
Since coming to ServiceNet 23 years ago, Seth has maintained clinical work and supervision along with his administrative and grant writing roles. Seth credits the synergy between the two types of work as the key to professional growth and continuing motivation to help others.
“Much of my current work at ServiceNet is around understanding state and federal policy that drives funding and how that guides program development and grant writing,” Seth says. “But it is essential I keep myself involved clinically. I could not write these grants unless I had the experiential knowledge, passion, and understanding for the work on such a personal level.”
Seth’s love of learning extends beyond ServiceNet to the next generation of social workers. Seth teaches various graduate-level courses at Smith College School for Social Work and Westfield State University.
“What I love about teaching and how that combines with my work at ServiceNet is that I can bring my experiences into the classroom and help give students the theory and practice context,” Seth says. “And I can bring the theory to my work, and it helps me stays fresh as I implement solutions in new and innovative ways.”
For Seth, all the elements feed into that curiosity and idealism that set him down his professional path all those years ago.
“I enjoy asking questions and finding creative solutions to serve the community’s needs. I feel satisfied knowing I have put my soul into the grants I write and in helping guide programs in meaningful ways,” Seth says. “In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl talks about purpose and meaning as two key reasons for being. How do you get purpose and meaning in life? You do not get it just by thinking about it. You get it through work, relationships, activities, and being a part of a community. That is what I have focused on all these years. And what I continue to wake up excited to be a part of here at ServiceNet.”
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