Alumni Spotlight: Winnie Chu ’18 Shares Insights on Pursuing an International Development Career

Tell us about your career journey.

I knew I wanted to become a helping professional since college. Being part of the solution to address human trafficking was the reason for me to pursue an MSW, because I wanted to gain direct practice, programming, and research skills. I was drawn to Columbia School of Social Work’s AGPP track, law minor, and cross-registration system, which allowed me to pursue classes at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and Mailman School of Public Health.

After graduating, I interned at United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Cambodia’s Child Protection Section, where I developed media briefs on different child protection issues and conducted research to evaluate the current social service workforce in the country. This research was part of UNICEF’s strategic advocacy tool to propose for improved access to social services through additional allocation of human and financial resources. This proposal is now being discussed at the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation in Cambodia, which I’m very excited about and hope to see brought to fruition. (Read more about her UNICEF experience here.) 

This experience was life-changing — it solidified my passion for international development work, and eventually led to my current role as a Health Logistics Specialist for a USAID global health supply chain project that delivers life-saving health commodities to developing countries. However, I found myself feeling detached from being on the ground. I also wanted to be an expert on Southeast Asia. This ultimately led me to decide to join the Peace Corps. This coming July, I will be leaving for the Philippines, where I will be serving as a Youth Development Volunteer. (Want to learn more about the Peace Corps? Attend our upcoming information session next Tuesday, April 16!)

What knowledge, skills, and abilities have been critical for success in your roles?

At UNICEF, I used a lot of research and analytical skills, along with knowledge of case management and many social protection issues, to develop the capacity of social workers. In my current role, I use a lot of communication and coordination skills to work with external partners and internal staff. As a Peace Corps volunteer, I anticipate using my programming skills to implement a variety of projects.

What advice do you have for students and fellow alumni seeking to work in the international development and humanitarian sector?

  • Network with professionals in the field and learn about their professional trajectories, as well as the skills in demand in the sector.
  • Take advantage of courses such as financial development, proposal development, and program evaluation.
  • Pursue opportunities that allow you to build research skills. My last semester field placement at the Social Intervention Group at CSSW provided me with important research skills that I have applied to research-oriented positions and that which will continue to be useful in the future.
  • Remain culturally humble and self-aware of your own privilege and power. This practice has allowed me to work effectively in multicultural and multilingual environments.
  • Follow your passion, be persistent, and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone!

To learn more about Winnie’s background and experiences in the field or simply to connect, feel free to reach out to her via email at [email protected].

Congratulations to Professor Nabila El-Bassel on Appointment to University Professor

Congratulations to Nabila El-Bassel, the Willma and Albert Musher Professor of Social Work, to the rank of University Professor, the highest academic honor.

From the Office of the President:

A tireless leader in the fields of global public health and social work, Professor El-Bassel has dedicated her career to improving the lives of people who have too often been overlooked or neglected.  Her landmark scholarship focuses on behavioral and social sciences approaches to addressing substance use, HIV/AIDS, and interpersonal violence within marginalized communities.  She is one of the nation’s foremost experts in these areas and a pioneer in designing sophisticated and innovative gender-based interventions, many of which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have identified as models and best practices, and which have revolutionized prevention and treatment of stigmatized conditions across the United States and the world.  Currently, she is leading community and system-based research to address the opioid epidemic in New York State.

Professor El-Bassel is the recipient of extensive funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).  She is a Principal Investigator on the NIMH HIV Intervention Science Training Program for Racial Ethnic Minority HIV Investigators and a Principal Investigator on the T32 NIH Training Program on HIV and Criminal Justice.  And, she has served as a member of the National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse.

We are proud that Professor El-Bassel calls Columbia her intellectual home.  After completing a BSW at Tel Aviv University and an MSW at the School of Social Work and Social Welfare at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, she earned her PhD at the Columbia School of Social Work and continued her training here as a Research Associate in the Center for Social Policy and Practice in the Workplace and as a Research Associate and Research Scholar in the Social Intervention Group, before becoming its Director.  She is also Director of Columbia’s Global Health Research Center of Central Asia, the core activities of which are outcome-driven and designed to improve the health and well-being of vulnerable populations in the region.

A University Professor appointment is a rare and distinguished honor among our faculty.  Not only does it signify scholarly merit of the highest caliber, it also designates the recipient as a professor of the entire University who can teach across schools and departments.  Professor El-Bassel has devoted her career to the pursuit of knowledge and innovation that can strengthen communities and improve the human condition.  She has established social work as a recognized profession in countries where it previously did not exist and has mentored generations of new researchers in a field that has had a transformative effect on the lives of at-risk populations.  She richly deserves this honor—please join me in congratulating her.

NYC: ATWORK Information Session – Thursday, April 25

In partnership with the NYC Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, the Office of Career Services at Mailman School of Public Health is organizing an NYC: ATWORK Information Session on Thursday, April 25, 11:30 am – 12:30pm at Hammer Health Sciences Building – Room LL204, 701 West 168th Street, New York, NY 10032.

NYC: ATWORK is the first public-private partnership creating career pathways for New Yorkers with Disabilities. Attend this event to learn more about the program and resources they offer.


To request accommodations, please contact Edmund Asiedu at [email protected].

2019 ACS Prevention Services Career Fair | Tuesday, April 16

The ACS Division of Prevention Services invites graduating BSW and MSW students to meet with representatives from prevention service agencies servicing all five boroughs within New York City. Employers include Good Shepherd Services, Seamen’s Society for Children, JCCA, New Alternatives for Children, and more.

Bilingual students are especially encouraged to attend.

DATE: April 16, 2019
TIME: 11:45 am – Registration Opens; 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm – Career Fair
LOCATION: Nicholas Scopetta Children’s Center – 492 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10016

This is a no cost, FREE event. If you have additional questions, please feel free to reach out to [email protected]

Nationally, New York City is at the forefront in providing prevention programs to support families. ACS has steadily increased the availability of prevention programs to include evidence-based models that are shown to improve overall child and family well-being. Thousands of families are receiving intensive counseling services tailored to their needs. Services such as parenting coaching, helps parents cope with the pressures they face to raise healthy children.

UNANY Spring Career Fair | Thursday, April 6

Are you inspired by the possibility of working for the United Nations?

UNA-NY’s Spring Career Fair will provide an employment scope of several UN agencies — UN Volunteers, UN Women, UNDP, UNFPA, and UNICEF — courtesy of select personnel who will be presenting an overview of these respective organizations as part of the outreach this event will highlight. Areas covering human resources will be featured in the topics discussed among the panelists, who will speak to attendees about various types of positions available at these UN agencies, and discuss possible career paths with interested participants. Eva Jansen, a UN Human Resources Officer from the talent outreach unit, will also be on hand as moderator of the panel.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

6:00 p.m. | Registration, Networking, Reception
6:30 p.m. | Program and Q+A
8:00 p.m. | Career Fair with opportunities to engage with panelists from presenting organizations

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP
Conference Room – 43rd Floor
One Bryant Park
(Bank of America building, corner of 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue)
New York, NY 10036

All are invited to bring their resumes to the event, and attendees with some professional work experience are also welcome. Since the United States is under-represented at the UN, U.S. nationals are especially welcome to attend this event.

Take advantage of this special opportunity to meet and speak with their guest panelists, who will provide valuable advice while sharing their experience.

For more details, visit our event page here.

Register ($10 for UNA Members; $15 for Guests and Non-Members) – UPDATE (waiting list only) 
*includes hors d’oeuvres and wine reception

For more information, go to their event page.


NYC: ATWORK Re-Launches Job Board for People with Disabilities

The Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities has recently re-launched NYC: ATWORK, an exclusive job board featuring opportunities from across sectors for New Yorkers with disabilities.

Bookmark the site to see the latest openings, which they will post regularly. You can also access their tips and samples on how to tailor resumes and cover letters using the following links:

NYC: ATWORK is an initiative to build partnerships and expand coalitions by connecting people with disabilities who are unemployed or underemployed to meaningful, living wage jobs across the five boroughs. This initiative focuses on creating a centralized pipeline of talented candidates including transitioning youth, college students and graduates, and recipients of state vocational rehabilitation services.

For more information, click here. For information regarding vocational rehabilitation services in New York City, click here.