Dr. Ilene Candreva

Ilene obtained her Doctorate as a Doctor of Social Work, from the University of Southern California on August 4, 2023. She started working at TUCCI in November 2014.

The topic of her capstone project was The Program to Improve the Employment Prospects of Autistic Adults, is slated to begin implementation In California this fall. It addresses stigma against autistic individuals/employees at the community/employer level.

“I have always dreamed of earning my doctorate since both my parents were PhDs in Organic Chemistry. However, when my first son came along, I chose to stay home and focus on raising my kids, a choice that I never regretted and would make again in a heartbeat. So when I actually walked across that stage — almost 65 years to the day from when my mother graduated from UCLA — it was a literal dream come true. I was crying when they hooded me and I cried until we left the graduation. 32 years is a long time to wait for a dream but it happened! It came true.

I couldn’t have done it without the support of my husband, who has always said yes to any crazy idea that I have ever had (including this one). My two older boys provided academic support (my son the PhD in Economics did my statistics for me) and emotional shoves to get me through the program. And I chose the project that I did because of Liviu, so I could create a rising tide that lifts all boats instead of just hauling him upwards.

I am also so indebted to my many co-workers who joined my focus groups and tabletop exercises on the way to creating my capstone project. They never failed to supply me with a wink and a nudge when I thought that I couldn’t finish; most of them probably don’t even know that they did that but still, that consistent support made it possible for me to work AND go to school AND finish my dissertation!

My next steps? I will be shifting my work to focus more and more on adults. After all, we only spend 18-22 years as a child but we spend 40+ years as an adult. Those decades deserve to be as rich and as well supported as the first two decades of life but we lack the programs to make that happen. I will specialize in community inclusion and integrated work for adults with autism and intellectual disability in a variety of ways. I’ll still be at TUCCI (at least as long as they will have me) but my focus will shift to our older clients and their unique needs.” – Ilene

Congratulations llene for achieving this important goal for yourself. Team TUCCI is excited to see what the future holds for you.


1 Comment

  1. Such an inspiration. I am attempting to return to college/university to get an Ed.D with your same story line. This is a dream come true and a tribute to my older brother, now passed on, and my parents who trusted me to be an effective steward of education. They also are not here to see this but I am holding out to complete the task late in life.

    Thanks for your story

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