A Journey Towards a Dynamic Social Work Career

We were thrilled to welcome back alumna Ashleigh Washington ’09, Senior Director of Learning and Staff Development at Safe Horizon, to discuss how she shaped her social work career, from providing direct services and managing programs to leading trainings for a national organization!

Attendees had the opportunity to gain a number of takeaways, including:

  • Taking the time to reflect on your experiences and assessing the activities in which you excel, the issues and causes that drive you, and the environments in which you enjoy working and thrive;
  • Embracing every opportunity as a learning opportunity; and
  • Owning your own career journey, including actively seeking ways to grow, build skills and expertise, and contribute

Thank you, Ashleigh, for sharing your inspiring story and these useful tips on building a fulfilling career!

Did you miss the talk? The captioned recordings for this and Dr. Joy Ippolito’s talk are now available in Career Connect’s Document Library within the Workshops / Webinars / Presentations Folder. (UNI login required.)

Students Gain Insight into Social Impact Investing

We were thrilled to welcome Dr. Joy Ippolito, a social work-trained Social Impact Investment Director, and her team members, Amber Porter, Venture Capital Associate, and Chaarvi Badani, Fall VC Associate and current Columbia SIPA student, for a talk about their work at the American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact last Wednesday!

Dr. Ippolito, Amber, and Chaarvi shared their varied paths to social impact investing and the ways in which they have brought their unique experiences and skill sets to this work. A few highlights from the discussion include the importance of:

  • Defining how you want to help people and make a difference in terms of concrete skills and expertise;
  • Taking the time to build the necessary content knowledge by working with different organizations and communities both on the ground and on a macro-level; and
  • Understanding and effectively communicating the value of these experiences and perspectives in advocating for meaningful and sustainable social change.

We are grateful to Dr. Ippolito, Amber, and Chaarvi, American Family Insurance, as well as Dr. Desmond Patton for making this event possible!

*If you missed the talk, a recorded and captioned video will be made available to students within the Document Library in the next few weeks. A copy of the presentation slides that provides an overview of AmFam’s mission and investment focus areas has already been posted and made available in the Library.

Career Talk with Ashleigh Washington ’09 | Wednesday, December 4

Join us for an intimate conversation with Ashleigh Washington ’09, Senior Director of Learning and Staff Development at Safe Horizon, on how her talent for innovation and strategic leadership has driven her experiences in social work and nonprofit management.

Career Talk with Ashleigh Washington
Wednesday, December 4, 12:30 – 1:30 PM
CSSW Room C05
Live-stream available; registration required.

Register here

About Ashleigh

Ashleigh Washington is currently the Senior Director of Learning and Staff Development at Safe Horizon, the nation’s leading victims services agency. She leads training and professional development for the agency’s 900+ employees.

Her talent for innovation and strategic leadership has driven her experiences in the field of social work over the last 13 years. Ashleigh has also worked in the fields of substance abuse, public education, healthcare, and supportive housing, providing both direct practice and management in the non-profit sector.

Ashleigh holds a bachelor’s degree in social work from Prairie View A&M University in Texas, and a master’s in social work from Columbia University. She is currently a Ph.D. student in social welfare at the City University of New York.

She is also the founder of HumanizEd Learning, an online professional and career development company for social service professionals. Visit ashleighwashington.com to sign up for a free online course.

Getting Started with the Job Search Process

Whether you plan to apply for a summer internship or post-grad opportunity, there are steps you can take now to prepare, including drafting a target list of employers. You can begin this process by:

  • Researching organizations you want to work for based on their mission and impact. Not sure where to start? Check out the links in the Employer Research folder within the Document Library of Career Connect.
  • Identifying opportunities within these organizations that align with your knowledge, skills, and interests.
  • Making connections and conducting informational interviews with people working at these organizations in roles that you hope to attain.

Learn more at our Job Search Workshop on Tuesday, October 27 from 1:00 to 1:50 PM in Room C06! There will be another workshop for those seeking summer opportunities on Thursday, November 14.

Career Talk with Dr. Joy Ippolito | Wednesday, November 20

UPDATE: The talk will also feature Amber Porter, Venture Capital Associate, and Chaarvi Badani, Fall VC Associate and current Columbia SIPA student.

Join us for an intimate conversation with Dr. Joy Ippolito, Social Impact Investment Director at American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact, on how she uses her social work background and 18+ years of experience in social impact policy and research to guide venture capital investments for health youth development.

Career Talk with Dr. Joy Ippolito
Wednesday, November 20, 12:30 – 1:30 PM
CSSW Room C05

Register here

About Dr. Joy Ippolito

Dr. Joy Ippolito is a Social Impact Investment Director  or the newly launched American Family Insurance Institute for Corporate and Social Impact. She has more than 18 years of policy, research, and graduate teaching experience in urban education, child welfare, juvenile justice, mental health, and supporting healthy families and communities. She uses this knowledge to guide venture capital investments she makes in healthy youth development. Prior to joining the Institute, Joy was a state policy executive and the first Anti-Human Trafficking Coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families. She previously taught human development at the Urban Education Institute and conducted implementation and evaluation research at Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, where she was the project manager for the federal evaluation of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative (TPPI) for Chicago Public Schools.

She holds a doctorate in human development and master’s degree in prevention science and practice from Harvard University, a master’s degree in clinical social work from the University of Chicago, and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Loyola University Chicago.

Strategies for Successful Student-Alumni Networking

Networking and informational interviewing are critical tools for career success, whether you are a student or seasoned professional.

Specifically, they can help you:

  • Learn about different careers and industries
  • Gain insider knowledge about specific positions or organizations
  • Discover “hidden” opportunities
  • Build a network of contacts for information-sharing, mentorship, and partnerships
  • Gain visibility in the field

Student-Alumni Networking Events are particularly valuable because they provide students an opportunity to connect with alumni who have an interest in sharing their insights and advice and can relate to their educational experience.

Whether you are networking in a formal or informal setting, consider the following strategies:

  1. Keep the goal in mind. The objective of networking or informational interviewing is to gather informationnot to ask for a job. If done effectively, it can lead to valuable contacts and information regarding potential opportunities.
  2. Conduct a self-assessment of your goals and interests. It’s okay if you’re not exactly sure what you want to do; however, you should have a general sense of your skills, goals, and interests so that you can ask targeted questions that can help you move forward.
  3. Prepare an introduction. How you introduce yourself will influence how you’ll be remembered. To make a strong first impression, be ready to share a quick introduction on who you are, what you do or have done, and what you hope to learn. Be sure to bring business cards if you have them.
  4. Do your research. Learn as much as you can about your prospective new contacts using online resources such as LinkedIn. They have invested time out of their schedule to meet with you; invest time to learn as much as you can about them.
  5. Develop a list of questions. Conversations will be more productive if you prepare a list of relevant questions in advance. Examples:
    • How did you market your social work skills and experience to land your current role?
    • What classes were most valuable for the work you’re leading? 
    • What recommendations do you have for those interested in following your career path?
  6. If you’re in a group setting, provide opportunities for others to engage. You can learn a great deal from listening to and showing interest in others. It is also the courteous thing to do!
  7. Follow up. Make sure to send a thank you note to the contacts you made and stay in touch with any updates, especially if they provided specific advice or leads that were helpful. Go a step further and offer to serve as a resource for them in the future. Ultimately, meaningful networking is about cultivating a mutually beneficial relationship.

Career Talk with Angelie Singla ’06 | Wednesday, September 18

Learn about one of many careers you can pursue as a social worker at this first in the series of a number of career talks led by alumni and professionals in the field.

This month, we will be featuring Angelie Singla ’06, who will be discussing her career path in the field of development.

Career Talk with Angelie Singla ’06
Wednesday, September 18, 12:30 – 1:30 PM
CSSW Room C06

Register here

Angelie Singla is currently the Director, Corporate, Foundation & Government Relations at South Nassau Communities Hospital.  Previously she was the Vice President of Philanthropy at Big Brothers Big Sisters of NYC. Prior to that, as the Assistant Director of Program and Resource Development at the Fund for Public Health in NY she submitted several successful government, foundation and corporate grant applications ranging from $40K to $15.5M.  Prior to graduate school, she was a Site Director at the Queens Community House, where she facilitated programs for students and parents.

In addition to her professional experience, Angelie has taught continuing education courses, graduate social work courses and has given presentations at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Social Service, Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, Columbia University’s School of Social Work, Stony Brook University’s School of Social Welfare and the Network for Social Work Management Annual Conference. She is the Co-Chair, Scholarship Committee of the NYC Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. She has been a Selection Committee member for the NYCT Nonprofit Excellence Awards, has been a volunteer mentor for the Network for Social Work Management, and a volunteer Career Coach for Women in Development. She has served on the Board of Directors of Community Mediation Services and as a Team Leader for the Grants Advisory Committee of the New York Women’s Foundation.

Student Spotlight: Joshua Binag ’21

This past summer, Joshua Binag ‘21 participated in the Paris Summer School of Social Work, a study abroad program that blends formal and out-of-class cultural learning. Students are given the opportunity to learn about current societal issues faced in France and Europe through lectures, field visits, and placements. The program culminates with a social intervention project. 

Joshua was the only delegate from Columbia University among a cohort comprising of students from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Germany this past July.

What made you pursue the opportunity?

During my undergraduate years, I was a double major in Psychology and French Studies. I also had the opportunity to study abroad for one semester during my junior year in Aix-en-Provence, a city outside of Marseille in southern France. After graduation, I was really trying to find a way to integrate my studies in both psychology and French into a career that was truly in the service of others. Through supervision from my previous supervisors and other colleagues I met along the way, I eventually found social work and began working towards my MSW here at Columbia.

Last semester, I received an email from the Office of Career Services and Leadership Management about the program. I knew I wanted to return to France, and I saw it as a great opportunity to see France in a different light and to apply what I learned from my undergraduate studies and at CSSW.

What did you learn through the experience?

I learned that despite their differences, the United States and France face very similar issues. During the program, we attended various lectures on the state of social work issues in France, such as child welfare, mental health, addiction, social policy, social enterprise, and immigrant/refugee services, and visited and served at various social service/non-profit organizations throughout Paris and its suburbs. It was refreshing to see firsthand the ways in which French social service agencies, nonprofits, and various organizations address such issues. France has a long history of supporting progressive ideals and challenging individuals and systems in power. It’s no surprise that France has remained a hotbed for progressive ideals and innovative social programs, policies, and entrepreneurship.

One particular organization that we visited and caught my attention was Les Grands Voisins. Based in a building that was formerly a hospital, Les Grands Voisins, which translates to “The Big Neighbors,” is an organization that hosts and supports businesses run by individuals from marginalized populations such as refugees, minorities, and victims of domestic violence. The aim is to ultimately empower these businesses to eventually become self-sufficient, while building a community space where all individuals, regardless of their background, could come together. This type of environment really challenged me and my cohort to think critically and creatively to address various social issues around us, especially through lenses we wouldn’t initially look through.

How did you apply your developing perspectives to address the social issues you mentioned?   

For our final project, we were split into groups and instructed to create a social intervention project (SIP) that addressed an issue that we noticed during our time in Paris. Two issues that our group identified were 1) the refugee asylum seeking process; and 2)food waste and insecurity. While brainstorming, our group identified that food is often the first factor an individual experience when encountering a foreign culture.

Our solution was to create a program called Let’s Break Bread, a local event that would bring together members of the local community and newly-arrived refugees and asylum seekers through food and fellowship. Food for this event would be provided by various stakeholders, including food banks, restaurants, and supermarkets, with food surplus in order to simultaneously address food waste. We hope that this program would ease refugee and asylee integration efforts in a non-threatening manner, decrease social isolation among refugees and asylum seekers, and tackle food waste in France. Although there are many factors that must be considered to truly implement this program, from funding, stakeholders, to research, this project challenged us to assess French society, culture, and policy to creatively address the various issues we identified during our time in Paris.

How did this experience contribute to your career development?

I originally attended this program with the intention of witnessing the French social service system firsthand and understanding the implications their interventions could have on social work practice in the United States. While I was able to accomplish this while attending the program, this experience has really allowed me to expand upon the different directions I could take for my social work career. Although I know how to speak French and have studied in France previously, I never considered working in an international setting. I was able to establish numerous connections within my cohort and with various professionals I met along the way. These relationships could make working internationally a reality.

Perhaps more significantly, this program has truly made me reassess the course I want to take in my MSW and future career. I originally came to CSSW with a clinical focus. However, shortly after starting my MSW, my interests expanded, and I began to notice that I was starting to view social issues at a macro level. My recent experience with program development and social enterprise through our SIPs gave me a small glimpse of what it’s like to intervene at the macro level, and it definitely seems like a path I’d like to pursue in the future. As a student in the Extended Program, I have a lot of time to think about the direction I want to go in, and I’m glad that this opportunity has afforded me a range of possibilities to advance my social work career.

Are there any tips or insights you would like to share with regard to the program?

Keep an open mind and be as flexible as possible because culture shock is part of the experience. This goes for both your work in the program and your personal downtime exploring Parisian life. Even though this program only lasted for one month, you’ll be navigating a completely different culture with a set of values that may be different from your own. These differences were prevalent in every facet of the journey, such as the social service agencies and organizations we visited, the French social policies and programs, and our day-to-day interactions with Parisians. With this in mind, try your best to not be intimidated by these initial difficulties and look at them as opportunities for growth. They’ll definitely help you grow as an individual, a global citizen, and a social worker.