Preparing for Careers and Internships in Policy: A Panel Discussion | Wednesday, February 13

Wondering what a social worker can do in the policy field or what policy work entails?

Attend our upcoming panel discussion to meet experienced professionals and learn about the different ways social workers can make an impact in the policy space, as well as steps you can take to navigate your own path toward similar roles.

Wednesday, February 12
12:15 – 1:45 PM
Room C03

Register (live-stream link will be made available to those who register)

In-person attendance is strongly encouraged.


Associate Director, Field Education at Columbia School of Social Work

Ericka Echavarria is a private consultant and a mitigation specialist. Through comprehensive psychological investigations and narratives, she advocates on behalf of clients facing the death penalty in capital murder cases, as well as clients in the federal and state criminal justice system.

Her areas of focus include: criminal and family law, child welfare, school social work, addiction, trauma, mental health, and case management. She has advocated for immigrant survivors of domestic violence; families and children in the family court and child welfare systems; clients struggling with addiction; defendants in the federal and state criminal justice system; and children facing learning, emotional, behavioral, and psychological difficulties in school. She has provided technical assistance to other advocates who provide services to these clients by conducting training in mental health, self-awareness, diversity, motivation, and behavior management.

She earned her MSW from the Columbia School of Social Work in 2008, and her JD from Albany Law School in 2002.

Community Engagement Director, Arthritis Foundation

Laura Ilowite, LMSW, is the Community Engagement Director at the Arthritis Foundation. She received her Master of Social Work from Columbia University where she was awarded the Mae L. Wien Prize. She specialized in AGPP with a Health, Mental Health, and Disabilities field of practice. Laura has worked at nonprofits such as Active Minds, National Eating Disorders Association, and Spence-Chapin doing advocacy, program management, community outreach, and community education. She’s passionate about healthcare, women’s issues, families and working for mission focused organization.

Director, Global Drug Policy Program, Open Society Foundations

Kasia Malinowska is the director of the Global Drug Policy Program at the Open Society Foundations, which promotes drug policies rooted in human rights, social justice, and public health. She previously led the Open Society’s International Harm Reduction Development program, which supports the health and human rights of people who use drugs. Before joining the Open Society Foundations, she worked for the United Nations Development Program in New York and Warsaw, leading capacity building and drug and HIV policy reform in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

Kasia publishes regularly on drug policy as it relates to women, social justice, health, human rights, civil society, and governance. Her academic publications include works in the Lancet, the British Medical Journal, and the International Journal on Drug Policy. She wrote her doctoral dissertation on “HIV among Drug Users in Poland: The Paradoxes of an Epidemic.”

Kasia co-authored Poland’s first National AIDS program; helped formulate policy at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria; the World Health Organization; and the Millennium Project Task Force on HIV/AIDS, TB, and Malaria. Kasia holds an MSW from the University of Pennsylvania and a DrPH from Columbia University.

Lead Advisor for African Communities and an Equal Employment Opportunity Recruitment Strategist at the New York City Commission on Human Rights

Christelle Onwu is 2017 graduate of the Coro Immigrant Civic Leadership Program (ICLP), and serves as an Adjunct Professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where she teaches a course on Justice in the Africana World in the Africana Department. She is a fierce advocate for under-served populations with a focus on African communities in New York City. In her role at the Commission, Christelle advocates and mobilizes the African community throughout the five boroughs, and has given an unprecedented voice to the fastest growing immigrant group in New York City, while also championing the causes of other communities.

Prior to the Commission, Christelle served as a Social Worker Supervisor at Sauti Yetu Center for African Women and Families. There she provided bilingual (French and English) counseling and case management to survivors of gender-based violence. She also served as a Policy Analyst at Safe Passage Project, New York Law School, where she worked with an interdisciplinary team of people to analyze quantitative and qualitative research data on immigration policies within New York City and State. Furthermore, Christelle interned at Families for Freedom as a Policy Analyst, where she drafted policy memos on how to handle diverse foreign nationals who are facing deportations with criminal convictions. She earned her Bachelor degree at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a Master of Science in Social Work Policy at Columbia University School of School Work, where her article titled “Understanding Female Genital Cutting in the United Kingdom within Immigrant Communities” was published in the Social Work Review. She is a proud New Yorker, lives in the Bronx with her family, and hails from Cameroon. She is fluent in French, pidgin, and Eton.

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