Student Spotlight: Nancy Gershman ’20

Tell us about how your experience led you to your interests in dreamscaping and social work?

Social work has been my life’s calling, only I didn’t know it until I met Maureen, a social worker with three decades of experience in hospice and palliative care. It was while volunteering at a 25-bed hospice run by Visiting Nurse Service of NY that Maureen taught me how to take the temperature of the room to gauge whether a patient wants to share their emotional truth privately or within the family group.   

It was also in this New York City hospice where I did my first clinical work as a memory artist and bereavement volunteer. My work with hundreds of end-of-life patients and their families became the basis for my book, “Prescriptive Memories in Grief and Loss: The Art of Dreamscaping” (Routledge, 2019), co-authored with psychotherapist Barbara E. Thompson. 

What is dreamscaping?

Dreamscaping is a breakthrough intervention that is rooted in how the emotional brain encodes new memories.  Imagine one organizing principle—”bring me your favorite or good-enough memory” fulfilling an intention, wish, dream or longing. 

Here’s a story from the book to give you an idea:

Jane is a photographer, unable to work after the death of her mother, with whom she was very close. As I got Jane to focus on fun memories of Sylvia, she began to remember how much the two of them loved Christmas, despite being “atheist and Jewish.” During our exchange, I heard that rare bird of a memory that suddenly got Jane laughing. She recalled that as Sylvia lay dying in hospice on Christmas Day, she had this fleeting fantasy of Santa coming back for Sylvia so they could go off together on his sled. Before dreamscaping, Jane had never breathed a word of this to anyone, and yet here was a perfect example of a hidden resource that translated beautifully into a prescriptive memory, making it more available for use in coping with the loss of her mother. Later, when we constructed it as a tangible dreamscape, Jane was able to change her perception of a white marble sculpture by Sylvia (who was a sculptor) that seemed to be waving goodbye to one that was now waving hello. In Jane’s words, “…my feelings changed,” and dreamscaping “showed me you can make yourself believe different things.” (From Chapter 3, “Elicitation of Humor, Positive Emotion and Play in Dreamscaping.”)

What was your inspiration for writing this book?

I wrote this book knowing there was a community of learners out there, a wide range of therapists, end of life practitioners, and even spiritual care counselors drawn to short-term, novel, strengths-based interventions. These included art therapists who longed to work more collaboratively with clients and clinicians who wished to investigate what happens when you invite a memory artist into the therapeutic dyad. 

My goal in pursuing my MSW in Advanced Clinical Practice at a prestigious university like Columbia University was to be able to teach and practice dreamscaping, globally, and on a deeper level.

It sounds like you’ve already made a significant impact in the field. In what ways has your experience here at CSSW impacted you?

In my first year of field at FDNY Counseling Service Unit, I was dropped into group work with firefighters and EMTs —journaling, anger management, relapse prevention. Some days there would be up to 20 men and women around the table. I had stage fright at first until I learned that the “group does the group’s work.” In the same way that social workers learn not to fix people, I learned how to let things roll, intervening only when I felt a pearl had dropped and not marking that moment would be a lost opportunity.

As someone who entered the program with prior professional experience, what insights or advice would you like to share with other students?

Success can mean many things, but for me it was the opportunity to be taken seriously by my peers who were credentialed and spoke the identical language of advanced clinical practice. And if you have to do your life backwards as I have—proposing a job description to a Director of Bereavement Services that no one had ever heard of (“memory artist”), getting bereavement volunteer training at that hospice before being assigned to a floor, authoring a book based on clinical experiences with end-of-life patients and their families on that floor, going to graduate school, and requesting field placement with a population I never worked with before—DO IT. You can never be too young or too old to venture into the brilliant unknown and test yourself.

Building Community through Candid Conversations

Yesterday, at our 2nd annual Communities of Color Networking Night, we had the pleasure of welcoming back alumni, both in person and online, to share their unique stories and perspectives on navigating their careers as professionals of color working in various roles and spaces.

Notable themes included the importance of being open and thoughtful about who you choose to connect with — recognizing that titles don’t always dictate the value others can offer — knowing what you want to learn and being proactive in the learning process, and using your natural ability as social workers to initiate and cultivate relationships.

We would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all our alumni who spent their evening with us to share their insights and advice, to James Singletary ’10, Associate Director of Field Education, who led an engaging panel discussion on strategic networking, and to students who participated and helped make the evening a success!

We hope everyone enjoyed the opportunity to connect and felt empowered to continue developing their network.

For tips on how to build on the connections you made after an event, click here.

2019 Social Enterprise Conference | Friday, October 11

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 11, 2019

Columbia University
Alfred Lerner Hall
2920 Broadway, New York, NY 10027
8:00 AM–5:30 PM

Register Now for Early Bird Pricing*
Student Tickets $25 ($50 after August 31)
General Admission $100 ($175 after August 31)
*No code required.

KEYNOTES

Melissa Berman

President & CEO
of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Inc

Elizabeth Carlock-Phillips

Executive Director
of Phillips Philanthropies

Wes Moore

CEO
of Robin Hood

Deval Patrick

Managing Director
of Double Impact at Bain Capital

Mona Sinha ’93BUS

Chairwoman
of Women Moving Millions

SPEAKERS FROM

Access Circles | AeroFarms | ALTRD | AptDeco | Art for Justice Fund The Bell | Braemar Energy Ventures | Cavendish Impact Foundation | The CITY | Civil Media Company | change:WATER Labs | Columbia University | Documented | Dollaride | Earn.org | Folia Materials | GiveDirectly | Hearst Corporation | HELP USA | HERE to HERE | IDEO.org | Ilara Health | Nova Credit | NYU Furman Center | Plum Alley Investments | Propel | Report for America | Rilbite | Saving 9 | The Spare Food Co. Streeshares Teens Take Charge

PROGRAM →

Located in the finance capital of the world, this industry-leading event provides a unique opportunity to tap into the vibrant ecosystem of capital for impact through the lens of philanthropy, impact investing, ESG, and social venture and business examples. Social impact leaders in business, government, nonprofit, and philanthropy will speak to how they are changing the way we think about how capital is sourced and used to generate sustainable solutions to global, systemic challenges.

We will bring together industry leaders, investors, philanthropists, professionals, faculty, students, and alumni to share best practices and engender new ideas surrounding the intersection of capital and society. Speaker presentations will catalyze conversations of change and embolden a generation to take risks in order to create a world in which everyone, regardless of where they were born, has the equal opportunity to succeed in creating a better life for themselves, their families, and their communities.

TICKETS →

            

 

Job Search Tips for International Students

The job search process can be a challenge for any student, but particularly if you are an international graduate student seeking opportunities outside of academia. With restrictions outside your control, planning early and being strategic in the search process is imperative. Take a look at these tips from Inside Higher Ed to start.

Where ever you are in your career stage, keep in mind that the process begins with you — knowing what drives you, what you excel at, and what options you have. To further explore your skills, interests, and goals, make an appointment with us via Career Connect. To learn more about your employment options based on your status, meet with an advisor from the International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO). ISSO also offers useful information on their site on employment as well as workshops throughout the year. Make sure to review their newsletters so you don’t miss their events!

Project REACH Fellowship | Apply by September 6

The Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research is offering the Project REACH Fellowship in Fall 2019, a ten-week training on implementing communication strategies to community outreach and engagement. Graduate students will be partnered with a community-based organization for the entire training to co-develop outreach tools for the organization’s client engagement efforts. The Fellowship is an worthwhile opportunity for students to learn how to communicate and engage stakeholders as well as practice working collaboratively with other professionals from various fields. They are keen to have students apply from different schools at Columbia, including the School of Social Work!
 

Some of the organizations participating in Fall 2019, that students could be partnered with, include: 

  • ARC Seniors consists of three senior centers and provides transportation to seniors in the Washington Heights and Harlem communities. ARC Seniors works to ensure that older adults in these communities continue to have a  high quality of life. 
  • Coalicion Mexicana seeks to empower Latinx youth and families in New York City.  
  • El Nido de Esperanza offers a variety of services geared towards parents and children. Areas that are covered by these services include nutrition, education, safety and community building.  

See the attached flyer below for more information about the Fellowship. You can also check out our their instagram account (@irvinginstitute_projectreach) or facebook page (Irving Institute – Project REACH) for more information.

Free Technical and Soft Skills Training

Did you know that as a CSSW student, you have free access to self-training for hundreds of software tools as well as personal and professional development via Lynda.com, also known as LinkedIn Learning?

Click here to explore online tutorials on an array of topics from data science to program and project management.

2019 APPAM Research Conference in Denver, Colorado | November 7 – 9, 2019

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Rising to the Challenge:
Engaging Diverse Perspectives on Issues and Evidence
November 7 – 9, 2019 | Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel | Denver, Colorado

The APPAM 2019 Fall Research Conference will be a multi-disciplinary research conference attracting the highest quality research on a wide variety of important current and emerging policy and management issues. The focus will be on bringing together researchers and practitioners with a wide range of perspectives to engage the evidence and discuss how best to improve public policy.

Register


Details from the conference website:

Pre-Conference Workshop

Deploying Machine Learning Tools for Public Policy Impact
Wednesday, November 6, 2019
11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Sheraton Denver Downtown

The workshop seeks to provide an accessible introductory overview to machine learning tools, illustrate the range of policy problems to which they can be applied, develop understanding of what makes for a good policy application for these tools, what can go right (and wrong), and where and how policy analysts can add value to making progress on these problems. We will also include some discussion about how machine learning tools can be useful for solving the sort of causal inference problems that have traditionally been the focus of policy analysis work.

Innovation Lounge

Introduced at the 2018 Fall Research Conference, the Innovation Lounge is an easy-to-access space where experienced researchers are invited to meet and share cutting-edge research with conference attendees. Innovation through diversity will be a major theme of this conference, so we strongly encourage our attendees to do just that in the Innovation Lounge!

Positions in Policy

The APPAM Positions in Policy (PIP) program connects job seekers who plan on attending the Fall Conference with organizations who will be conducting interviews and potentially hiring at the conference. The employers will contact job candidates directly to set up onsite interviews at the conference for open positions. Those positions may be for a variety of job functions, both academic and non-academic, to appeal to job seekers at all levels including students, postdocs, and early- and mid-career professionals. Those positions may be for a variety of job functions, both academic and non-academic, to appeal to job seekers at various levels including students, postdocs, and early- and mid-career professionals. When available, the positions being interviewed for at the conference will be noted on their Job Listings page.

Networking Opportunities

Opportunities to network at the conference will be plentiful through our educational programs, social events and special programs.

Student Resources

There will be student specific events  during the Fall Research Conference, including mentorship programs, a Student Lounge, networking opportunities with policy experts, the PhD Program Fair, the Equity & Inclusion Fellowship, and student-focused content.

Go to APPAM’s conference page for more information and to register.