Author: Jackson, Abigail

Gabrielle Mitchell

Student Spotlight


  1. SSW Concentration:  Individuals, Groups and Families
  2. Expected Grad Year: Spring 2022
  3. Tell me about your leadership involvement at the SSW: I am a co-chair for the Organization of Black Social Work Students (OBSWS). Myself and the other co-chair planned a Yoga for BLM event last semester, we are hosting a Black History Month Sip and Paint, and have a virtual hip hop game show planned for April 2021. We also have collaborated with BH365 on their efforts and I hosted the BLM Facts vs. Myths event last semester, as well as assisting in planning other events such as the upcoming panel discussion on black maternal health in April 2021. OBSWS also collaborated with Just Community on 2/5/21 and hosted a solidarity hour on the topic of “Black Joy”.
  4. Any leadership involvement outside of SSW? Outside of the UCONN SSW, I am a trainer on Implicit Bias within DCF, I also am a part of the racial justice and diversity action team. I recently began to organize marches and protests with my other colleagues and classmates over the summer of 2020 and I plan to continue advocacy efforts.
  5. What’s your motivation for becoming a social worker? My motivation for becoming a social worker came to me in high school when I had an innate desire to help underrepresented populations. I put myself in positions of employment to gain experience and also spent a lot of time attending different trainings to keep current with trends and new developments within the social work field. I believe everyone deserves a fair shot at life and my empathetic nature allows me to develop rapport with the families I serve and give them the tools they need to succeed so they can get to the next stage of their lives in a  safe and healthy way. Currently I am a DCF social worker and after I earn my MSW I plan to get licensed and go into holistic social work incorporating reiki and energy healing and/or working with juvenile offenders. I also will continue to engage the community and be hands on with children and families in some capacity.


Loan Nguyen, CLAS ’06 MSW ’08

Loan T. Nguyen holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Connecticut; a Masters in Social Work from the University of Connecticut School of Social Work; and maintains licensure in the State of Connecticut.  She has over 10+ years clinical experience working within an outpatient mental health treatment setting.  She has extensive training and experience in individual, group, and family psychotherapy.  In addition, she is competent in utilizing best practice methods to include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.

Ms. Nguyen is also a Captain within the CT Army National Guard and has over 18+ years of military experience.  She currently serves as a Behavioral Health Officer and promotes all aspects of mental health.  She regularly counsels service members to help control combat/non-combat stress through implementation of resiliency policies and programs.

Further, Ms. Nguyen’s commitment to the community is longstanding and evident through participation in various volunteer programs, including Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Asian Mental Health Collective.  Both mentorship programs were developed to match mentees with role models who can leave a positive, lasting impact through friendship and continued guidance.  Ms. Nguyen has also served on the American Savings Foundation Scholarship Committee for the past five years and was recently elected to join their Board of Directors.

As a proud two-time UConn alumna, Ms. Nguyen is equally excited to have been newly elected to join the UConn School of Social Work Alumni Board of Champions.  She is enthusiastic about her new role and is looking forward to advancing UConn SSW’s mission through advocacy, philanthropic investment, and community involvement.

Ms. Nguyen currently lives with her husband Thien in Avon, CT.  She is an avid baker and CrossFit enthusiast.

S. Kim Somaroo-Rodriguez, MSW ’01

S. Kimberly Somaroo-Rodriguez has been with the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) for over 21 years. This includes direct Child Protective Services, Mental health and Voluntary services specialist. Mrs. Somaroo-Rodriguez was also a supervisor in the bureau of Quality Improvement Division and instrumental in the implementation of the agency’s compliance with the court mandated 22 Outcome measures set forth in the Juan F. Consent Decree.  Mrs. Somaroo-Rodriguez has been a Program Supervisor since 2006.  She provides managerial oversight of the statewide Supportive Housing for Families Program (SHF).  This nationally recognized program provides child welfare reunification/preservation services with permanent housing solutions.  Mrs. Somaroo-Rodriguez has developed new partnerships with several non-profit housing advocacy groups such as is the Reaching Home Campaign, Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness and the Corporation for Supportive Housing. Mrs. Somaroo-Rodriguez is a longtime member of the Reaching Home Campaign’s Youth and Young Adult Homelessness Workgroup, Prevention, and Coordinating Committees. She is the DCF representative along with six other state agencies on the State’s Inter-Agency Committee on Supportive Housing Next Steps Initiative which provides funding to Permanent Supportive Housing Developments across the state for homeless adults, youth and families. In October 2009, she established the CT Family Unification Program (FUP) Voucher Taskforce to apply and receive federal housing vouchers for DCF families and youth aging out of foster care, which resulted in over 200 new FUP vouchers equaling $5 million dollars in federal housing assistance. In 2012, Mrs. Somaroo-Rodriguez was the Principal Investigator five-year federal grant initiative for DCF involved homeless families. Mrs. Somaroo-Rodriguez work has also included program oversight of Child First an in-home program that heals families from the effects of trauma and adversity. She is also the Chairperson of the Parents with Differing Cognitive Abilities Workgroup, a state-wide partnership among private and public agencies to advocate, educate, and provide resources to professionals working with parents of all types of cognitive abilities.



Z. Riki Brodey, MSW ’85


Born in Hartford and a third generation Hartfordite.  My father’s parents lived in North Hartford, owned a grocery store and some apartments.  My mother’s parents owned a fur store in the city, where grandma, a poet/entertainer entertained her patrons.  My father put himself through Yale and Columbia Business school.  My mother graduated from Dean  Junior College.  Education, cultural arts and civic duty were values I learned from family.

I graduated from Conard High School, class of 1958, attended Wheaton College, Norton, MA. for two years. During the summer I attended Harvard Summer School, where I met a young man who convinced me to transfer to Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois, where I graduated in 1962.  He was the man who later became my husband.  We lived in Philadelphia where I taught junior high school.  Teaching wasn’t for me. I then wrote a grant and received money to unite two neighborhoods, a Black community and an Italian community through an after-school tutorial program.  The success of this program excited me.  When we moved to New Haven, CT. I attended Southern Connecticut State University and received a Masters degree in Urban Studies.  Next I worked at CHIF, Connecticut Housing Invest Fund, a nonprofit whose mission was to counsel first time home owners in the Asylum Hill neighborhood.


By this time, I had two children. My husband, a psychiatrist, saw that I enjoyed counseling people and convinced me to get my MSW.  This was one of the best choices I have made.  I graduated from UCONN School of Social Work in 1985, followed by 6 years at Wheeler Clinic counseling individuals and families as well as helping corporations with their EAP programs.

Presently I supervise third year psychiatric residents at the IOL, Hartford Hospital.  My experiences have provided me with in-depth knowledge of people from many backgrounds as well as a solid knowledge of greater Hartford.

I am enthusiastic about serving on the board of the School of Social  Work.  It is my way to give back.

Amos Smith, MSW ’79

Amos Smith is the President and CEO at the Community Action Agency of New Haven, Inc., since May 2006. He manages a budget that serves approximately 25,000 individuals covering 5 towns across the New Haven regions. Mr. Smith currently serves as the 1st Vice President of the Connecticut Association for Community Action, a member of the Community Research Engagement Steering Committee at Yale, the Community Advisory Committee at Southern Connecticut State University School of Social Work, the Board of Advocates to the Dean of Social Work at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work, former member of Governor Malloy’ Health and Human Services Committee, and lead connector to a new initiative between Smillow Cancer Center at Yale & Community Action Agency of New Haven’s commitment to explore ways to collaborate, serve, support, treat, educate and  improve community engagement.

Amos has served on the boards of Friends Center for Children in New Haven. Institutes for Community Research in Hartford, and the first man, to Chair the Board of Planned Parenthood of Connecticut. Amos was appointed to serve on by the Connecticut Department of Public Health – Human Investigations Committee as a non-medical Advocate and Community Representative.

Before joining Community Action, Mr. Smith served as Director of Health Grantmaking at The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven (TCF). In addition to his Grantmaking duties, he served as the Principal Investigator for the New Haven Healthy Start project, whose focus is to eliminate infant morality among African American women, improve Maternal and Child Health Outcomes in New Haven. He has frequently demonstrated the intellectual acuity and temperament for addressing uncommon, chaotic, and complicated programs and organizations. He has often worked on issues and challenges that are cross- disciplinary and highly levels of rigor and complexities. Mr. Smith has been a panelist at the first National Institutes of Health (NIH) Summit: The Science of Eliminating Health Disparities with a focus on Health Disparities among Men of Color (National Harbor, Maryland). It is in this area where he has published in The American Journal of Public Health, entitled “Health Policy and the Coloring of an American Male Crisis: A Perspective on Community-Based Health Services.” Amos is a former adjunct instructor at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work where he taught required courses entitled: Human Oppression from the African American and Puerto Rican Perspectives. Analysis of Social Welfare Policy and Social Services System.

Alumni Call to Action

Things will be unconventional this year for our SSW graduates, but we still want to shower them with love and welcome them as UConn SSW Alumni. We’re soliciting well wishes from the SSW community for our graduating class of 2020. If you’d like to submit content, please keep videos to under 1 minute and 30 seconds and text to under 250 characters. Content will be posted on the School of Social Work website, although we may not be able to use all the content submitted. You can use you phones to create the video and send pictures along with the text. Please send your well wishes to Abigail Jackson at by Friday, May 8th. If you have any questions, please reach out to Abigail directly.

Student Spotlight: Kelly Ha

Kelly Ha is a first year UConn Masters of Social Work student in the Individuals, Groups, and Family Practice concentration as well as a student in the Certificate in Foundations of Public Health program. She is the first one to attend college in her family, her advocacy work and want to address inter-generational trauma are an homage to her immigrant Vietnamese family sacrifices for her to have a better life. As an aspiring Medical Social Worker, Kelly will be doing her 2nd year placement at Connecticut Children’s. Kelly is incredibly involved as she chairs two positions in the Graduate Student Organization as the Social Media Specialist and PEERS Co-Chair. She is also involved with UConn Health’s Urban Service Track where she is able to work in an interdisciplinary team to serve under served communities.

As the Campaign Manager for #IAmNotAVirus, Kelly has helped branch the campaign worldwide to countries such as Brazil, Canada, and Vietnam. She leads the social media team and works to bring mental health into the mission. The campaign serves to bring awareness to the anti-Asian violence that has been rising due to COVID-19. As a healthcare worker, Kelly has already been working in the front lines to battle this virus. Now she is dedicating this battle to dispel racism and advocating for community. The mission of the campaign is for a world where compassion, kindness, and allyship prevails.

A Letter from Dean Heller

Dear SSW alumni colleagues,

I write to you from my home office where I am continuing to carry on the critical missions of the school. Like many of you, the SSW, our faculty, staff, and students are adjusting to a new normal in the wake of the COVID-19 public health crisis. I am happy to report that the migration of our courses to a fully online format, has gone reasonably well, with the support of many of the departments at UConn. We made the difficult decision to withdraw our students from field education settings, due to our concern for their safety. Fortunately, we require a higher number of field education hours than our accrediting body, which means all students will be able to graduate on time. I am enormously grateful to our faculty, staff, and students who have made this transition with grace and hard work, supporting each other as a virtual community. We are planning a virtual commemoration for graduating students and will look forward to welcoming the class of 2020 back to campus in the fall, as alumni, for a celebratory event.

That said, I am aware of the economic and health challenges for our community, all of you, and importantly, the communities and people you serve. Many of you are on the front lines of this epidemic and I reach out to you in appreciation of all you are doing, while trying to stem the tide of the primary and secondary effects of this disease. As you are all painfully aware, the health disparities for many of our communities are staggering. While we were all aware these exist, this current crisis has put these in bold relief. This presents a moment for social work – a call to action – as we continue to identify, study and advocate for sweeping structural changes. In the meantime, we must reach out to others with kindness, help and professional expertise.

I wish each of you and your loved ones, good health, resiliency and sustaining social supports. Social workers have a vital role to play in this national emergency and its aftermath. We need you. So, please take good care of yourselves and each other. We look forward to engaging with you as we emerge from this crisis.

Best wishes,