Changing Public Policy to Keep Those in Need Warm and in the Light
Patricia J. Wrice, MSW ’89
Patricia J. Wrice is the Executive Director of Operation Fuel, Inc., a non-profit statewide energy assistance organization whose mission is to partner with communities, businesses, government and individuals to ensure people in need have access to year-round energy state and national, and represents Operation Fuel, Inc. on low-income energy related boards and committees.
What other leadership positions do you currently hold or have you held in the past?
I’ve have been working in the area for years and have over 30 years experience in the human services and community organizing field. I held previous positions as an organizer for the New England Health Care Employees Union District 1199, Executive Director of the Human Resources Agency of New Britain, Program Director for the Connecticut Housing Coalition, Director of Social Services for Center City Churches and Executive Director of the CHILD Council. In the latter position, I created The Building Parent Power organizing project, which provided parents a vehicle for addressing health issues affecting the lives of their children. I have been an adjunct professor at the University of Connecticut and Capital State Technical College since 1990.
What inspired you to become a social worker?
Even as a child, I’d been committed to social justice work. I didn’t know that my path would lead me to the field of social work. I’ve always had the values of social work but wanted to go to law school and work on public policy. I returned to school to get my undergraduate degree at the age of thirty and worked in a human services organization while attending school. I later went on to become the executive director.
How has your education at the UConn SSW prepared you for your career? Was there one person or learning experience that had an impact on you?
The UConn SSW exposed me to the field of macro social work, community organization and all of its possibilities. Our classes were small and very close knit. At that time, we were considered the radicals of social work students.
Two people were a tremendous influence on me while I was at the school. Thomas Connelly was my advisor and mentor, and Dr Julio Morales, my professor, who pushed me and made me stretch and also served as a sounding board when I needed someone to bounce issues off of. Both still are part of my professional and personal life.
What has been your most rewarding accomplishment as a leader?
My most rewarding accomplishment has been the job I currently hold because I have been able to take a good organization that provides basic needs to a place where we actually have been able to influence public policy.