News

Dr. Cristina Mogro-Wilson Named Editor-in-Chief of Families in Society Journal

SOCIAL CURRENT® ANNOUNCES APPOINTMENT OF DR. CRISTINA MOGRO-WILSON OF UCONN SCHOOL OF SOCIAL WORK AS EDITOR-IN-CHIEF FOR FAMILIES IN SOCIETY JOURNAL

Dr. Mogro-Wilson to Succeed Dr. Sondra Fogel, Who Helmed FIS For the Past Seven Years

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Social Current, formerly the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities and the Council onFaculty member Cristina Wilson Accreditation, today announced the selection of Dr. Cristina Mogro-Wilson to serve as Editor-in-Chief of the Families in Society (FIS) journal, which was previously led by Dr. Sondra Fogel, who served as Editor-In-Chief for the past seven years.

Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services has been a core journal in social work research for over 100 years. Launched in 1920 by Mary E. Richmond, a pioneer in the field and the founder of social casework, the journal built a knowledge base for the first systematized approaches to the practice of social work and has been stewarded over the years by the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities. Families in Society is published in partnership with SAGE Publishing.

“We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Mogro-Wilson, whose work as a recognized Latina scholar and expert in health disparities and culturally-responsive practice and education in racial minority populations will greatly inform the future direction of FIS,” noted Dr. Jody Levison-Johnson, president and CEO of Social Current. “Addressing the challenges that families face today, including socio-economic disparities, racism, substance misuse and behavioral health disorders, requires an evidence-informed approach that is grounded in social change through the lens of advancing equity. Dr. Mogro-Wilson’s body of work is uniquely attuned to addressing these vital issues and aligns closely with Social Current’s commitment to advancing equitable solutions to society’s toughest challenges through collaboration, innovation, policy and practice excellence.”

“As a Latina social worker, I value social justice and am committed to advancing equity,” noted Dr. Mogro-Wilson. “I look forward to working with the FIS team of scholars to increase the vitality and relevance of FIS though diverse representation in advisory board members, peer reviewers, manuscript authors, and – importantly - the readership. The art, science, and practice of social work are such important elements of the discipline because they can strengthen families and communities and help all people achieve their full potential. That’s why inclusiveness, transparency, and authenticity in FIS scholarship will help advance transformational research and practice, which in turn supports efforts to ensure everyone experiences well-being and opportunity.”

Dr. Mogro-Wilson received her MSW from the University of Michigan, with a focus on practice with children, youth, and families in 2003, followed by her PhD from the University at Albany, School of Social Welfare in 2007. Most recently, she has served as Assistant Professor in Residence at the UCONN Health Center in the School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics from 2007-2009, transitioning to the School of Social Work (SSW) tenure-related tracks, achieving tenure in 2015 as an Associate Professor in SSW. As of August 2022, Dr. Mogro-Wilson will be a full Professor at SSW.

She served as the director for the Puerto Rican and Latin@ Studies Project (PRLSP) from 2015-2017, leading them to sustainable achievements in the acquisition of research grants and the development of a bilingual/bicultural MSW program. The PRLSP has been referenced and used as a model in various arenas such as the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and different social work programs throughout the nation.

From 2019-2022, she served as research director for the University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) with a focus on supporting design and implementation of applied qualitative and quantitative research projects; the development of research proposals to secure private, state, and federal funding to sustain and grow the UCEDD's research and evaluation agenda; and the development of policy analysis related to programs demonstrating the full inclusion of people with disabilities in education, work, and community life.

Dr. Mogro-Wilson’s publishing experience includes serving as an editorial advisory board member and more recently as an associate editor for Families and Society and Journal of Social Work Education (JSWE), which is the flagship journal for CSWE. She co-edited a special issue of JSWE on Teaching, Field Instruction and Administration in the Time of Pandemic or Natural Disaster, with Danielle Parrish and Nalini Negi during the COVID pandemic, co-authoring an editorial on the hidden cost of caregiving during the pandemic. As a Graduate Faulty Representative and member of the National Nominating Committee and Council on Publications for CSWE from 2018-2021, she also worked to ensure anti-racist and diverse representative content in CSWE publications.

“We are confident that Dr. Mogro-Wilson will build on the legacy launched by FIS founder Mary E. Richmond and the many who have helmed the journal since,” added Dr. Levison-Johnson. “A special thank you goes out to Dr. Sondra Fogel who has stewarded FIS for the past seven years, mentoring Dr. Mogro-Wilson and other scholars in the pursuit of academic excellence in the field of social work practice, policy, and research.”

For more information on a subscription to Families in Society, please contact Kirstin Anderson at kanderson@social-current.org.

Alumni Awards and Annual Meeting 2022

On May 7, 2022, the School of Social Work celebrated its inaugural Alumni Awards during its annual meeting. The details and awards winners are described below. Congratulations to our amazing alumni winners!

Alumni Award Winners 2022

2022 Winners

Emerging Social Worker Leader

Nary Rath, MSW ‘19, California Program Manager at SEARAC

This award honors an alumnus social worker who is at the beginning phase of their career and who has demonstrated outstanding leadership as a developing professional.

Nary Rath is a first-generation college graduate and the daughter of Cambodian refugees. She received her Master of Social Work from the UConn School of Social Work in 2019. She was an advanced standing student in the policy practice concentration and performed her internship at Hartford City Council. Since graduating, she was selected by the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS) as a Congressional Fellow and relocated to Washington, DC where she fulfilled a 9-month fellowship in the office of Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV). In the Senate, she handled the Senator's human trafficking portfolio and had the opportunity to advocate for robust federal funding for services for survivors of trafficking. She also had the once in a lifetime opportunity to witness the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. Following her fellowship, she began working as the immigration policy advocate for the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) where she advocated for progressive immigration reform for the Southeast Asian immigrant and refugee community.

Still with SEARAC, Nary is now their California Program Manager and has relocated to San Jose, California. She leads SEARAC's state-level programming through event planning, campaigns, trainings, coalition management, and support with community engagement and organizing. She fosters strong relationships with California partners, including through coalitions and partnerships on immigrant and refugee rights, health and mental health, education, and racial justice. Nary is also a published author and co-authored the book, "I Am Asian". Her passage explores her family's personal experience with the unjust immigration system in America and dealing with the mental health stigma within the Cambodian Community.

The Trailblazer Award

Dean Jones, MSW ‘15, Director of Peacebuilders at COMPASS

This award honors social work alumni who have graduated in the last 10 years and who have had significant impact within their profession, contributed to their community, and show promise of continued success.

As the Director of Peacebuilders, Dean is responsible for conceptualizing, developing, and facilitating the implementation of programming for the youth COMPASS serves. Any time of the day or night, you can find Dean on the streets of Hartford, working to build a community where youth feel safe, live peacefully, and could reach their full potential. Dean’s passion for working with high-risk youth is rooted in his personal experiences. As a young man, Dean faced many of the obstacles the youth he serves face. He knows what life on the streets is all about, and he knows what serving time in prison means.

Dean often says he is using his second chance to give youth their first chance. Dean was released from prison in 2005. He went back to school and received a bachelor’s degree, and in May 2015, his MSW from UCONN School of Social Work. Since his release from prison, Dean has been a tireless advocate for the youth in his community. Young people recognize Dean on the street and know they can trust him. Dean builds trusting relationships with youth to help them transform their lives. To say Dean has touched the lives of hundreds of Hartford’s highest-risk youth would not be an exaggeration. Whether meeting them on the basketball court or in the streets, Dean reaches young people in trouble and helps them build peace in their lives.

Outstanding Social Worker Award

Dr. Traci LaLiberte, MSW ‘97, Executive Director at Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare, Minnesota Child Welfare Training Academy – University of Minnesota School of Social Work

This award honors alumni whose accomplishments, affiliations, and careers have made an outstanding impact and/or have been recognized within their field relevant to community/society in the present-day.

Dr. Traci LaLiberte is the Executive Director of the Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare (CASCW), in the School of Social Work at the University of Minnesota. Dr. LaLiberte manages this large research and training center while focusing her research on child welfare practice and policy with particular interest in child and parent disabilities. She has served as principal investigator (PI) on studies examining the intersection of child welfare and disability, child welfare and educational experiences of high risk youth, comprehensive assessment, evidence-based practice in treatment foster care settings, and the child welfare workforce. Dr. LaLiberte is the PI on a multi-year, federal child welfare education grant and a ten year, multi-million dollar State-University child welfare training academy. She provides broad oversight to the statewide longitudinal integrated data project, Minnesota Linking Information for Kids (Minn-LInK) and in recent years has worked with local counties to evaluate practice, including the implementation of the Children’s Bureau Comprehensive Family Assessment Guidelines, a federally funded, five-year demonstration project.

Dr. LaLiberte has worked as a practitioner in the fields of child welfare and developmental disabilities for more than 30 years. She has developed curriculum and facilitated local, national, and international level training on a wide variety of topics related to child welfare and disability. In addition to her consultation and her talks at conferences, Dr. LaLiberte has numerous publications in peer-reviewed research journals. She received her M.S.W. from the University of Connecticut and her doctorate from the University of Minnesota.

Jo Ann Simons

Outstanding Social Worker Award

JoAnn Simons, MSW ‘77, Chief Executive Officer at Northeast Arc

This award honors alumni whose accomplishments, affiliations, and careers have made an outstanding impact and/or have been recognized within their field relevant to community/society in the present-day.

Jo Ann Simons has over 40 years of experience in the intellectual and developmental disabilities field. Her progressive initiatives have included the creation of the ArcTank to fund innovative ideas to positively disrupt disability services, closing several sheltered workshops and transitioning the focus from sheltered employment to community job placement, innovative school to work programs, inclusive community living, movement from community residences to shared living models, and creating new environments to serve people using retail malls.

Jo Ann was named the CEO of the Northeast Arc in January 2016. The Northeast Arc has an operating budget of $300 million, with 1,100 employees and supports over 15,000 individuals in nearly 200 communities across Massachusetts. Northeast Arc’s latest initiative embodies Jo Ann’s spirit of bold invention. Under her leadership, Northeast Arc is creating a new resource—the Center for Linking Lives—in 26,000 square feet of highly visible retail space in the heart of the Liberty Tree Mall in Danvers, Mass.  The Center serves as a vibrant gathering place, where individuals with disabilities can reach their full potential, and learn to lead fulfilling lives alongside their peers.  This is an exciting turning point for the communities Northeast Arc serves. And importantly it represents a scalable idea—with powerful implications far beyond Danvers and Boston’s North Shore.

Currently a member of the Governor’s Commission on Persons with I/DD and the Autism Commission, Jo Ann also served on Governor Charlie Baker’s Transition Committee on Health Care. She is past Chair of the National Down Syndrome Society and past President of the National Down Syndrome Congress. She is the former Chair of LIFE, Inc. of Cape Cod, she is also a Director of Century Bank and The Tufts Health Plan Foundation. She is the author of the Down Syndrome Transition Handbook (Woodbine House 2010). In addition, she created Footprints for the Future, a personal planning tool that provides a place for families and professionals to record specific and personal information as part of their future and estate planning.

Jo Ann has a BA from Wheaton College of Massachusetts and a MSW from the University of Connecticut. Her speaking engagements include presentations to professionals and parents and siblings of children with intellectual disabilities throughout the United States. Her international presentations include Dublin, Belfast, Guatemala City, and Nagano, Japan.

Outstanding Field Advisor Award

Dr. Catalina Caban-Owen, PhD ‘09, Adjunct Faculty and The University of Connecticut

This award honors a field advisor for their contributions and service to the UConn School of Social Work and its students.

Dr. Caban-Owen is very active in her community and is on many organizations and boards. She currently sits on the Windham Board of Education and works tirelessly on community campaigns providing Spanish speaking explanations and directions to those who attend and need interpretation making sure that everyone is able to participate.

Dr. Caban-Owen was a longtime school social worker in the Windham Public School system where she supported and mentor numerous students and families (1992-2018). She has been a faculty advisor and part-time adjunct faculty for UConn SSW from 2002 to present. She has served a faculty advisor to both Macro Social work students and clinical students. She is known for her tough but fair and supportive work with students. She is a faculty advisor and faculty member who will go above and beyond for her students as she considers her work with students and families a labor of love.

Dr. Caban-Owen takes on many social work advisees each year. She works with each student and providing both academic and field support and mentorship. When she was a school social worker, she always took students for field instruction providing them with the opportunity to observe and shadow her work and later to work individually under her guidance. She has mentored many students this way over the years. She also steps up and provides field instruction for agencies in Windham that do not staff a social worker, liked the Windham Regional Community Council, Inc. Windham Youth Services Bureau.

Barbie Nadal-Cristofaro

Outstanding Volunteer Award

Barbie Nadal-Cristofaro, MSW ‘16, Founder at Ends2Meet LLC

This award honors alumni for their dedication to the advancement of the UConn SSW Alumni Office’s strategic goals.

Barbie Nadal-Cristofaro is from New York City and is a graduate of the University of Connecticut School of Social Work, class of 2016. Most recently, completed the Educational Leadership Program at Sacred Heart University in 2020. Mrs. Cristofaro continues to grow through one of her passions which is outreach. She is the founder and owner of Ends2meet LLC, creating awareness on social justice issues, providing resources, and counseling services in English and Spanish. Mrs. Cristofaro is a graduate of Hartford Public Schools and has dedicated her adult years to education. She has worked for Hartford Public Schools since 2008 and is currently employed as a school social worker with the district. She has a special place in her heart for English learners and recalls how difficult it was to manage her native language in Spanish while learning English. In addition to the many years in the Hartford school system, she has many years of experience working in the community, namely in Hartford with outreach, community engagements and collaboration with community-based organizations while working in education. She extends her knowledge to interns from the Springfield College of Social Work as well as for the University of Connecticut’s School of Social Work.

Mrs. Cristofaro resides in Rocky Hill, CT with her husband Victor, who is also in education and a graduate of the University of Connecticut. Together they are raising the two youngest children at home. They enjoy traveling outside of the United States, photography, enjoy new vegan recipes, friendships, and family time.

Charlotte Kinlock

Lifetime Achievement Award

Charlotte Kinlock, CLAS '75, MSW '81, Founder at Kinlock & Company

This award honors an alumni social worker who has made significant contributions or developed model programs that have been replicated and has been in the field for at least 25 years.

Charlotte Kinlock received her MSW from the UCONN School of Social Work in 1981, with a major in Community Organizing. During her time as a student, Charlotte organized the first “lesbian and gay” field placement in the school’s history. Because she listed this placement on her resume, she faced very direct, explicit discrimination as she searched for a job after graduation. She took on a few low-paying service sector jobs to pay the bills and eventually was awarded a Title XX grant to train nonprofit agencies focused on mental health and addiction services about how to be more sensitive when working with their lesbian and gay clients. This Title XX grant was the first federal grant in Connecticut focused on lesbian and gay issues.

Charlotte went on to serve as the Executive Director of the CT Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Education Director of the CT Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF), and spent a decade as the principal of a training company focused on sexual harassment prevention and workforce diversity. For over ten years, Charlotte served as an adjunct professor at the UCONN School of Social Work, teaching both Macro Practice Foundation and Political Advocacy classes.

In 1985, Charlotte became the first co-director of the all-volunteer CT Coalition for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights, the lead grassroots organization behind the passage of the state’s “Gay Right’s Law,” which prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in areas of employment, housing, credit and public accommodations. The passage of that bill in 1991, after 18 years of being introduced and seven long years of intensive grassroots organizing, brought Charlotte full circle. After being told in 1981—upon graduation from the UCONN School of Social Work—that she was not going to be hired because she was a lesbian, to helping to lead the effort to pass legislation that explicitly prohibited that kind of discrimination, was incredibly satisfying. And the skills she learned as a Community Organizing student at UCONN were invaluable.

Charlotte lives in Avon with Anne Stanback, her wife of nearly 40 years, and their two pups, Dash and Nugget.

Alumni Spotlight: Lady Mendoza

Name, Profession Title and Employer (agency, organization, institution, etc., if applicable), SSW Class & Concentration

Lady Mendoza, Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of Mayor Luke A. Bronin, City of Hartford, Class of 2017, Policy Practice

Lady Mendoza

 

  1. Brief description about your career path (how you ended up where you are). 

I originally wanted to become an elementary school teacher. After a few years in the field I realized I wanted to pursue a career in helping others more broadly which is why I started looking at social work programs. My first glimpse into politics was through my job at the Hartford Mayor’s office, I started off doing constituent work and was given an opportunity to assist on legislative matters during the legislative session. I found the work challenging but interesting and knew then that I wanted policy practice to be my concentration. I interned at the Humphreys institute my first year and sought out an internship at the office of policy and management my second year. Through my internship, I got an in depth look at legislative work from the state perspective and was later offered a full time job with Governor Malloy’s office in 2018. I went on to continue this work with Governor Lamont’s administration and am now back with the City of Hartford.

 

  1. Why did you choose social work as a profession?

I chose to pursue a social work education to gain a better understanding of macro social work in the context of policy making.

 

  1. What is your favorite memory from your time interning at the Humphreys Institute?

My favorite memory of my time interning at the Humphreys Institute was planning and executing the campaign school. It was a lot of work in the weeks leading up to the event but it was also rewarding to see how many folks who had an interest in political social work attended the campaign school from different schools.

I’m most proud of the legislation I worked on with my colleagues that have now become law. From changes to treatment of incarcerated persons, to offshore wind, every piece of legislation takes an incredible amount of effort to make it to the finish line but seeing a bill you’ve worked on become a public act is an accomplishment I will always remember and cherish.

 

  1. What impact has your UConn social work education had on your life?

I’ve gained amazing friendships and connections through the UConn School of Social work which have not only added to my professional life but to my personal life as well.

 

Celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. Nancy A. Humphreys (1938-2019)

Nancy A. Humphreys will always be remembered as a pioneering social work educator and leader. She initiated a national effort to modernize the social work profession, helping to establish a new vision of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) emphasizing the role of social work in policy and politics. She supported and encouraged generations of social workers and women to be leaders in organizations and elected office.

Nancy earned an MSW from the University of Southern California, while working for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services, where she rose from a direct services worker to assistant program deputy and staff development administrator. After completing a DSW from UCLA (1975) she taught at USC, UCLA, California State University, LA, and California Polytechnic University, Pomona.

While still in California she played a crucial role in bringing 16 chapters of California NASW together into one statewide chapter, then served as its first president. She was elected the second woman and youngest person as president of the national NASW, and led the initiative to revise the Code of Ethics and to end discrimination against LGBT communities.

Despite women being the majority of NASW’s membership, men had dominated leadership positions. Humphreys advocated for equality and making gender a permanent part of the organization’s affirmative action plan. She appointed the first female editor of Social Work journal, created the first women’s conference in social work, and was appointed by President Jimmy Carter as a member of his National Advisory Committee on Women’s Issues, the only social worker.

After leaving California she taught at Rutgers University Graduate School of Social Work and became an Associate Dean, then moved to Michigan State University School of Social Work to assume the Directorship. While there she began to teach a course on women’s issues at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work, in Washington University. In 1987 she became the Dean of the University of Connecticut School of Social Work where she worked until she stepped down and established the Institute for Political Social Work Practice, later renamed as the Nancy A. Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work. While dean she helped spearhead the establishment of social work in the country of Armenia.

As the director of the Institute, she worked tirelessly to promote social workers becoming central to the political arena and establishing Political Social Work as a legitimate practice specialty. She also created the first social work campaign school, and encouraged students to strive for leadership positions in all aspects of politics and policy.

Nancy Humphreys was appointed to numerous statewide and national boards throughout her career. While in New Jersey she was appointed by the Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court as one of the three public members to the court’s committee on Professional Legal Ethics. The Governor of Michigan appointed her as a member of the Blue-Ribbon Committee on Welfare Reform, as well as having served as a gubernatorial appointee and elected Chair of the Michigan Department of Social Services Advisory Council.

She served on the American Public Welfare Association, National Conference of Social Welfare, and was a past Vice President of the Council of Social Work Education. She was a member of the board of the Journal of Women and Aging.

After moving to Connecticut, she served as a board member of the Connecticut Association of Human Services, the Capital Area United Way, The statewide United Way Strategic Planning Committee and a member of the Simsbury Human Rights Committee. She was a “next friend” of one of the children in the Juan F. v. O’Neill lawsuit which resulted in the Department of Children and Families Consent Decree.

She also served as the spokesperson for the Connecticut Coalition for Children, and was appointed by the Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court and elected as the founding chair of the Parenting Education Advisory Committee. She chaired NASW’s Political Action Committee, and NASW’s National Committee on Legislation and Government Relations.

In 2003, she was given a Lifetime Achievement Award from NASW. This recognition was added to many awards, and certificates of recognition for her service to the profession and those populations social workers serve including New Jersey’s Social Worker of the Year (1981), Distinguished Alumnus from USC Graduate School of Social Work, Distinguished Social Worker by the Connecticut Chapter of NASW (1992) and was a awarded an honorary Doctorate from Yerevan State University of Armenia. She was later inducted into the California Social Work Hall of Distinction in 2015.

Student Spotlight: Sarah Miller

 

 

  1. Name, SSW Class & Concentration

Sarah Miller, MSW Class of 2022, Concentration in Policy Practice

 

 

  1. Which came first – your interest in politics or interest in social work? In other words, did a desire to be involved in politics inspire you to pursue a degree in social work or did your pursuit of a social work degree inspire you to get involved in politics?

Social work practice and politics are inextricably linked for me. I have always been involved in efforts to improve my community and learned to work on political campaigns and lobby elected officials as integral components of this process. If we are honest about root causes and determined to find systemic solutions rather than solely treat symptoms, politics is necessary. So while I was politically involved long before deciding to pursue a social work degree, I found my way into politics as a tool for advancing social work goals.Sarah Miller headshot

  1. What made you decide to run for office?

My district in New Haven has high needs and struggled with representation for over a decade. Four prior alders either resigned mid-term or were largely absent. As an engaged community member, I saw the impact of this absence accrue in the form of missed funding, misdrawn maps, and diminished power. For years, I was encouraged to run but resisted taking on the time commitment and diverting focus from my specific interests to broader citywide concerns. Yet at the moment, we have a few major, time-sensitive projects that need political support to make it over the finish line, including a critical redevelopment project on our main street, the distribution of ARPA dollars, and redistricting. I decided to run now so as not to risk letting these opportunities slip by, as has occurred in the past.

 

  1. What are your future career aspirations?

I edited academic books at Yale University Press for fifteen years before making a career shift in the summer of 2020. During those years, my volunteer community work slowly took on a large role in my life. Perhaps because of the organic way in which I came into social work, I have clear aspirations for my practice but not career goals per se. All of my community work is directed toward cultivating a holistic system of support for young people in our city. In addition to serving on the New Haven Board of Alders, I work as the Manager of Strategy and Planning for Clifford Beers, which is the oldest outpatient mental health clinic in the United States and provides wraparound services for children and families. This professional role lives on the same continuum as my political work and pursuit of a social work degree; and I’ll continue to pursue political and professional opportunities to position my efforts for maximum impact.

 

  1. Do you feel serving in public office will help you in the social work profession or vice versa (or both)?

Public office is a social work profession, utilizing both micro and macro skills. There is an enormous amount of 1:1 work with constituents, advocates, and officials. Ideally, public office is about translating those conversations into policy that resolves problems, rights inequities, and expands opportunities.

 

  1. What is the accomplishment you are most proud of in your time at UConn School of Social Work?

During my first year field placement with Connecticut Voices for Children, I authored the 2021 State of Early Childhood, a survey report that the organization published periodically for nearly twenty years, and which I previously studied and admired. It took on special importance amidst the historic disruption to Connecticut’s system of early care and education due to COVID-19, and was especially relevant to me as I navigated these challenges with my own two children while writing.

Student Spotlight: Madison González

Madison's headshot

 

 

  1. Name, SSW Class & Concentration

Madison González, I am on the two-year track – set to graduate by May 2023, my concentration is IGFP.

 

  1. Which came first – your interest in politics or interest in social work? In other words, did a desire to be involved in politics inspire you to pursue a degree in social work or did your pursuit of a social work degree inspire you to get involved in politics?

For me, the two thought processes were different! I was interested in running for local office during the pandemic, but a few months prior I decided to pursue social work. I wasn’t sure what my career path would look like yet, but I liked working with children as much as I liked advocating in my community. I would say I decided both almost around the same time. The decisions haven’t influenced each other but the outcomes of both have been important to my development as a student and social worker.

 

  1. What made you decide to run for office?

During summer of 2020, I was motivated to organize Black Lives Matter rallies and marches in my town. Several surrounding towns were showing support, and I felt as though South Windsor needed to show the same solidarity. I worked with young residents and graduates from the school system to raise awareness about the injustices happening outside of our small community. I was able to work very closely with our mayor and was interested in the opportunity to work on the policy side of some of these issues. One of the items we focused on in our advocacy was education and curriculum in our schools. I was particularly attracted to the Board of Education for this reason. After some inquiring and following up with my local Democratic Town Committee, I was able to be nominated and voted to run on a slate by caucus!

 

  1. What are your future career aspirations?

I love the clinical work that I do; at this point I am pursuing a career as a school social worker. My goal is to also advocate for equitable policy that will impact the children and families I work with.

 

  1. Do you feel serving in public office will help you in the social work profession or vice versa (or both)?

I certainly believe that my work in the field will be impacting the way I serve as a public official. My field placement this year is in an alternative education program in Hartford, and it has been interesting to see the differences between districts. I also like to hear from administration and teachers. While I can’t assume that each situation is the same, I do recognize the extreme stress school staff is under during the pandemic, and especially with new variants emerging frequently.

 

  1. What is the accomplishment you are most proud of in your time at UConn School of Social Work?

My first semester of grad school I worked to run and win a campaign. I was entering a higher level of education, while starting an internship, working, and reaching out to the community. Everyone was so supportive, and I was able to finish my semester with straight As. It was an incredibly stressful yet rewarding experience.

 

Alumni Spotlight: Ayesha R. Clarke

 

  1. Name, Profession Title, SSW Class & Concentration

Ayesha R. Clarke, Deputy Director at Health Equity Solutions, c/o 2018, Policy Practice

 

  1. Brief description about your current career path 

After I graduated, I was hired by COMPASS Youth Collaborative and assumed the role as Vice President of Operations. I utilized the skills I learned about program planning and policies to understand my role and how to push accountability for programming. After two years, I was able to transition to the Deputy Director at Health Equity Solutions, where I am no longer involved in programming, but able to handle all of the organization’s operational needs. The School of Social Work allowed me to understand functional requirements and to ensure that policies are in place to help everyone understand their roles, responsibilities and expectations.

 

  1. What are your favorite hobbies?

I enjoy traveling, reading, and spending time with my family and friends.

 

  1. What was your favorite moment at UConn SSW?

My favorite moments are the times I spent building relationships with my policy cohort. We learned and supported each other so much during the course of our time at UConn SSW. It’s been three years since we graduated and we still keep in touch to discuss our work and the latest policies.

 

  1. What is something you learned at UConn SSW that still applies to your work today?

The Nancy Humphrey Institute has helped me tremendously. I was able to apply so much of what I learned to my own campaign when I ran for a board member position. The institute helped me understand how to be an elected official and the process of running successful campaigns. Logic models are important! (LOL).

During my time at UConn SSW, I didn’t fully understand the importance of logic models and why we needed to have them. Since then, I’ve discovered that having a proper understanding of these models has allowed me to support change management in my current roles.

 

I have also learned how policies affect people’s daily lives. It is essential to understand who a policy impacts, who is on your side and against you, what to look for in policy decision making, and when policies can be implemented. The process recordings were also beneficial and helped me remember conversations and understand my feelings. More importantly, the school taught me how to use empathy to support, promote and help shift policies.

 

 

 

SSW Alumni Spotlight: Barbie Nadal-Cristofaro, MSW

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Name, Profession Title, SSW Class & Concentration.

Barbie Nadal-Cristofaro MSW, 092 (pending), 2016 – Administration and Case Work

  1. Briefly describe your current career path.

I have been fortunate to continue doing community work around many social issues. Currently, my role as Vice-Chair for Interval House Connecticut allows me to create awareness on domestic violence and intimate partner violence issues; it is the largest safe house in the state. I am proud to serve my community and give back to the very agency that I once resided in. I am also a school social worker for Hartford Public Schools and I run a small business, ‘Ends2meet LLC’, which creates awareness on poverty and provides people with basic needs including counseling. Additionally, I am the Co-owner of ‘2AssureUS’ LLC, which will be providing consultation services for mental health startups and offer therapeutic services as well as parenting programs.

  1. What are your favorite hobbies?

No hard work goes without some fun! Family and good friends are priorities. I make time to enjoy traveling, working with photography and hosting events.

  1. What was your favorite moment at UConn SSW?

Some of my favorite moments were making lifelong friends even though I came in as an adult learner. Additionally, I was fortunate to meet inspiring professors who demonstrated trust in my abilities and even donated to my then cause, End2meet.

  1. What is something you learned at UConn SSW that still applies to your work today?

I learned to be a better leader and not to give up, especially when the moments are challenging! It is in these areas where our strength is found. I learned that our gut feeling is more important than the credit it gets. Most importantly, I learned more about advocacy and today most of my work revolves around it, whether I am speaking up for a student’s needs, joining a cause, speaking at events, creating awareness, building equity and hope all comes from knowing the importance of advocacy.

 

Congratulations, Grads!

Hats off to our 2021 graduates!

You did it! While the past year has been like no other, our BSW, MSW, and Ph.D. students met the challenges they faced and came through stronger and with new skills and more empathy. We salute our grads for a job well done and are thrilled for you all to enter the social work profession or continue your studies to make the world a more just and inclusive place. Read on for messages from School of Social Work faculty and staff, wishing you well as you embark on your next chapter.

graduation mortarboard decorated with "change the world"

Congratulations on your accomplishment and welcome to the noble profession of social work! My wishes for satisfying and successful careers.
Alex

Alex Gitterman, Professor

To the Class of 2021: While the once-in-a-century pandemic affected your time here in unprecedented ways, you persevered. We are so proud of you. Here you are today, about to launch and advance your careers. I hope all of you take a moment to pause and congratulate yourselves and each other. There has never been a more urgent time for social work, and for you as professional social workers. The world, the nation, our state and our communities need you. You have answered the call for a vocation that centers respect for the well-being of individuals and communities; the need for diversity; the commitment to racial, social, and economic justice. You are ready. I could not be prouder of each of you, and I am particularly proud to have you join this profession that I have loved for decades. I hope you will find this calling, this vocation, as rewarding as I have. Congratulations!

— Nina Rovinelli-Heller, Dean

Congratulations on graduating from UConn School of Social Work! You are a cohort full of resilience! You have spent the majority of your Social Work education learning through not one but two pandemics. I can’t say how this will affect you later in your careers but I can say that it will and already has. First, learning about racism and White supremacy within the context of the deaths of so many at the hand of police, then within moments that you witnessed justice being served by the guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin another murder of a young Black woman occurred raising the same cries for police accountability. You have also experienced firsthand being separated from friends and family by something beyond your control. Fear, desperation, and longing, combined with loss and grief, for many of you has informed your understanding of the clients you were serving at your field placements. The connections made with faculty, staff and your fellow students are crucial future supports, keep them close. Felizidades!

— Lisa Werkmeister Rozas, BSW Program Director

Congratulations, Class of 2021! I hope you feel a tremendous sense of pride in what you have accomplished by earning your social work degree. You are the future of social work, and I am confident you will help move us all towards a more just and equitable world.

Kelsi Carolan, Assistant Professor

Congratulations on making it to graduation! You've worked so hard for this moment and now it's time to savor every minute of it. Best wishes on your next adventure and the one after that. Never forget your strength and that you're capable of greatness. The SSW Alumni community welcomes you all!

Abigail G. Jackson, Assistant Director of Alumni Relations

A group of graduates in caps and gowns celebrates in the stands of a stadium
BSW graduates celebrate before their in-person ceremony.

You've all worked hard! Time to go out and change the world. Best wishes for a long and fruitful life.

Pete Papallo, Assistant Extension Professor

To all of the BSW and MSW students who worked so hard under such trying circumstances, congratulations and good luck in your social work professions!

Kim Campbell, Assistant Extension Professor

For the 2021 MSW graduates:
Congratulations all!! Getting an MSW is always challenging, but add to that the novel coronavirus pandemic and the centuries-old systemic racism epidemic, and you have a UConn Master of Social Work education and degree without precedent. Hearts have been broken by losses and souls have been challenged by injustices, and yet you prevailed. There is hope for there are people like all of you who have been preparing to take on these challenges – whether that be as a clinical, community organizing, or policy practice social worker. Now it is time for you to spread your wings and fly, maybe somewhat cautiously initially, but fly nonetheless. On occasion, do come back and share your story, but now it’s time to go! The city, the state, the country, and the world sorely need you. Go and make a difference!

— Brenda Kurz, MSW Program Director

Dear Graduates,
At the end of the semester, I talked with you all about the idea of vicarious resilience — the positive meaning-making and growth that we may experience through witnessing the resilience of our clients. I encouraged you to attend to your clients' strengths with as much consideration as you give to their challenges, both because it will be helpful to them and because it will provide you with the energy and inspiration you will need to continue doing this work.
Now, as you prepare to move on from the UConn School of Social Work, I want you to know about the vicarious resilience that I've experienced watching you navigate your education in the midst of a pandemic. Though I have known many of you only through a computer screen, I have been so inspired by your engagement in your learning. You are entering the profession at a time of extraordinary need. I hope that this next chapter brings much fulfillment, growth, and time to rest and rejuvenate.
Best wishes,
Ellen

— Ellen Smith, Associate Extension Professor

A group of graduates pose in caps, gowns, and masks
MSW graduates pose for a group selfie before their in-person commencement ceremony.

Wishing the graduating classes - BSW, MSW and PhD - all the best on their journeys as practitioners and educators. Congratulations!

Kathryn Libal, Associate Professor

Congratulations Class of 2021! You have made it to the finish line despite COVID-19. While this past year brought many challenges, you are no strangers to adversity. You should be proud of all that you have endured and all you have accomplished. In the words of Maya Angelou, “We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.” Remember these words as you embark on your social work journey to helping the many people and communities in need and fighting the injustices that exist. I wish you the best of luck with your future endeavors and look forward to you being my fellow social work colleague.

Milagros Marrero-Johnson, Director of Strategic Programming

Hey grads — you rock! You give me confidence that a better world can be built. I hope to cross paths with you in the community and see all the good work you will each be doing. Keep pushing for social justice!
Louise

Louise Simmons, Professor

Congratulations, graduates!! Your intelligence, tenacity, and dedication to social work have paid off!! You have endured one of the most tumultuous years in recent history and shown us and the world what you are made of. I couldn't be more proud of you!! Please stay in touch and keep us posted on all the amazing things you do in your careers.

Margaret Lloyd Sieger, Assistant Professor

Congratulations, class of 2021!

Caitlin Elsaesser, Assistant Professor

Congratulations and best wishes to the Class of '21! You did it!

Natalie O'Connor, Program Assistant

Congratulations and Best of Luck to the Class of 2021!

Beth Sharkey, Educational Program Administrator

Policy Practice graduates celebrate graduation with Tanya Rhodes Smith and Rebecca Thomas.

To the Class of 2021! CONGRATULATIONS! SO very proud of you all! Sending you warm congratulations and wishing you the very best for the future. You have worked so hard and have endured many challenges, particularly this past academic year. I hope you can savor this great accomplishment and feel a sense of pride! May you always dare to do great things as you engage in social justice work!
Warmly,
Gio Iacono

Gio Iacono, Assistant Professor

Congratulations Class of 2021. This is it — the moment you have yearned for, shed many tears for, and dreamed of! You're an SSW GRAD! I am looking forward to your future successes, and wishing you all the best on your future endeavors!

Once a husky, always a husky! Stay in touch with the school — we are always here to support you!

Again, Congratulations — enjoy this moment, you deserve it!

Trisha Hawthorne-Noble, OSAS Coordinator

Congratulations, Class of 2021! It has been a long and difficult year, so be especially proud of yourselves for getting to this point. I wish you every success in your next chapter. Remember, you are the experts in the challenges and barriers our clients and communities face every day. Your voice and your perspective are needed in policy and politics. So be bold and brave in your practice and "speak your mind, even if your voice shakes." You are social workers who will change the world.

Tanya Rhodes Smith, Director, Nancy A. Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work

Dear Class of 2021 SSW graduates!

I am very excited for you as you graduate and launch the next phase of your social work career. You have demonstrated perseverance, flexibility, and creativity to be able to graduate during this pandemic. Those qualities will serve you well as you engage with challenges in the years ahead. I will look forward to hearing about your accomplishments in the years to come.

Best wishes,
Megan

Megan Berthold, Associate Professor and Director of Field Education

Dear graduating students,

 Congratulations! It has been wonderful to see your development throughout your time at the SSW.  Your creativity and perseverance in serving others and completing your program during the pandemic was impressive. As you embark on the next phase of your career, we wish you all the best.

Megan, Cheryl, Gina, and Nancy (The SSW Field Education Department)

Read more about and view photos of the 2021 Commencement ceremonies at UConn Today.

Letter from Dean Nina Heller

Dear Alumni Colleagues,

I am writing with news of your School of Social Work. First, I hope you are all well – this has been an enormously challenging year for so many of us and certainly for the people and communities we serve. If ever there were a time for social work, this is it. We’ve dealt with the twin pandemics of covid-19 and structural racism. The school has been addressing these issues in a number of ways.

As you know, the pandemic has disproportionately affected underserved communities. We quickly responded last summer with the development of several new field placements units that provide covid-related assistance to local agencies and their clients. We are working with the CT Department of Public Health to provide telephone outreach for contact tracing and outreach to older adults who are isolated due to covid related restrictions. We are also working closely with the Hartford Public Schools where we have placed more than 20 MSW students to work with students, families, and staff on covid related school access and inclusion efforts. In that setting, we also provide online training jointly to field instructors and students. These field units are a model that we will want to continue post-pandemic.

We have also developed a robust collection of anti-racism resources – trainings, webinars, readings, as we continue our efforts to address the history, legacy, and solutions to structural forms of racism. These are available on the SSW website.

The “classroom” has also been transformed. Nearly a year ago, we made a rapid pivot to online delivery of our curriculum. I commend our faculty and students for their patience, perseverance, and success in quickly adapting to the online environment. We have continued this modality through this academic year with only a handful of classes being delivered in person or in a hybrid model. The technologies allow faculty and students to learn through lectures, break out groups, and discussion boards. Here to, we have valuable lessons learned and will likely continue some of the more successful advances in emerging pedagogy.

We have recently embarked on the SSW Strategic Planning Process. We are focusing on several areas; diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism; field education; research and scholarship; emerging areas of need and focus; and the future of teaching and learning. We know that social work education is life-transformative and we want to continue to carry out our mission of excellence in producing innovative and committed practitioners and critical social work knowledge in research, both of which are enhanced by our robust collaborations with community and state agencies.

I am most appreciative to the increasing role that alumni have played in the life and energy of the school.  Our Alumni Director has recently formed the SSW Board of Champions, a group of committed and energetic faculty, representing over 40 years of classes. You will be hearing from this group as they have ideas about how to engage you all in the activities of the school and the many ways that you can support the SSW and we can reach out to you.

You, as alumni, are both the legacy and the future of the school of social work. Please feel free to reach out to us through alumni affairs, sign up for a continuing education program, or attend one of our public lectures or events. If you are considering advanced education, our PhD program is in its 19th year and is a great opportunity to prepare for faculty and research roles.

Sincerely,

Nina Rovinelli Heller PhD, Dean

Zachs Professor