Alumni Newsletter

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.

 

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

Cassandra Marrero, CLAS ’15, MSW ’18

Cassandra Marrero is a passionate and dedicated Social Worker that prides herself in serving the Hartford community. As a Hartford native and Latina woman, Ms. Marrero feels it is imperative for the community to see a representation of people that look like them in social services and academia.

 

Ms. Marrero is currently an outpatient clinician who provides Trauma Focused- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to children and families in the Hartford community. She has been able to develop strong relationships with her clients due to her ability to relate to families and the empathy she carries into each of her sessions. Ms. Marrero has extensive experience collaborating with community providers, working in outpatient settings and in the Hartford Public School System.

 

Ms. Marrero graduated with her MSW from the University of Connecticut School of Social Work in 2018. During her graduate career, she served as secretary for the Graduate Student Organization during her first year in the program. She was also the recipient of the 2017 Dr. Julio Morales Jr. Scholarship. Ms. Marrero has earned her License Masters in Social Work and is currently in the process of earning her License in Clinical Social Work and certification for Trauma Focused- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for the State of Connecticut.

George A. Leboeuf III, CLAS ’13, CCS ’18, MSW ’18

To be a social worker has not just become the profession in which I find myself, but rather a personal adjective that I am proud to append at the end of my name. An adjective which elicits as much pride in me, as being a father, husband and foody. However, my path to the social work profession conveniently mirrors my progressive journey to becoming a functioning human. They have both been non-traditional and wrought with incredible uncertainty, excitement and happenstance.

Because the guiding philosophy of my life is that educating ourselves and others is the key to enriching our communities, of course I would accept the privilege of serving on the UConn SSW Alumni Board of Champions.  I endeavor to pay homage to my alma mater by assisting my fellow journeymen on their quest to change the world. I want to aid the institution which vows to support their students curiosity through scholarship, mentorship, community engagement and academic excellence.

Barbie Nadal-Cristofaro, MSW ’16

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’ 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 sits at the board of directors as an ambassador for Interval House, the largest shelter in the state for victims of domestic violence. Mrs. Cristofaro was once a resident there and being a part of the development committee provides her with the opportunity of giving back to the community.

Mrs. Cristofaro is humbled to volunteer and work towards a more equitable society that advocates and creates awareness on the social issues that hinder growth.

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.

Brandon J. Burke, MSW ’15

Brandon Burke has been working in the field of social work since 2012. Mr. Burke’s skill set ranges from conducting quantitative social research to providing professional training on cultural issues. After graduating with his Masters Degree of Social Work in 2015 from the University of Connecticut, he went onto work as a Therapeutic Foster Care Worker for The Village for Families and Children. Inc. in Hartford, CT and concurrently as a Consulting Clinician for Radiance Innovative Services, also in Hartford. Once becoming a Licensed Master Social Worker in 2016, Mr. Burke went onto fully transition into clinical therapy providing intensive therapy to youth and families through the The Village for Families and Children’s Extended Day Treatment Program. Mr. Burke also created and chaired Project Pride for The Village for Families and Children, a staff engagement committee aimed at promoting psychoeducation about the LGBTQ+ community. This opportunity led to him becoming a Continuing Education Credit (CEC) Trainer with an emphasis on Cultural Considerations when working with LGBTQ Youth. Currently, Mr. Burke works as a Medical Social Worker for DaVita Healthcare in New Haven, CT and an Outpatient Clinician with Alonzo Watts and Associates, LLC in Hamden, CT.

In the community, Mr. Burke is a graduate member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and coordinates an extracurricular skills academy named Alpha Academy for youth in 7th grade martriculating through high school in New Haven, CT. Previously, Mr. Burke has assisted as a community educator for the Wilson Gray YMCA Y-Achievers Program in Hartford and currently, as a Prep Mentor for an SAT Preparation Course with Higher Heights Youth Empowerment Programs in Waterbury, CT. Mr. Burke is also a proud alumnus of Hampton University and past president of the Connecticut Chapter of the National Hampton Alumni Association, Inc.

Mr. Burke has one public presentation, Community Support for Families: How A Different Response Can Help, in conjunction with the Connecticut Department of Children and Families and the former UConn Performance Improvement Center and; one public article, How the Thought of Marriage Equality Made Us a Weaker, But Wiser, Generation: My generation opts to embrace change., published on Blavity.com.

Tianna Hill, MSW ’14

Tianna L. Hill is a Communications Associate and a Project Coordinator for the Connecticut School-Based Diversion Initiative (SBDI) at the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut, Inc. She has extensive knowledge in mental health and juvenile justice, as well as trauma-informed care, adolescent development, and research methods. Tianna’s other experiences have included therapeutic support for children in the custody of the Connecticut Department of Children and Families, care coordination for adults with co-occurring disorders and supervision of juveniles involved with the Department of Juvenile Justice.

She received her Master’s in Social Work from UConn and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Goucher College. She has varied board experience and her current board membership includes the AHEC Urban Service Track Alumni Advisory Committee and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI CT).

Kia N. Levey-Burden, MSW ’12

Kia Levey-Burden, MSW, is the president and founder of Launch Consulting, LLC. She is a passionate leader and dedicated advocate who is deeply committed to igniting the passion in others  and magnifying the voice of communities who are often silenced and ignored. Mothering a 14 year-old Black son, further fuels Kia’s work to address and expose biases and racism hiding in plain sight. Some of Kia’s work includes managing a Juvenile Justice initiative  that  coordinates statewide community stakeholders focused on building restorative justice practices in the deep end of the juvenile justice system,  supporting local charter schools efforts to develop strategies for more inclusive and diverse practices in their school communities and supporting the capacity of community and philanthropic organizations focused on greater equity practices.  Kia is also an adjunct professor of  Social Work at Southern CT State University where she enjoys inspiring, equipping and empowering future Social Workers to be full of compassion and ready to lead.

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.