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.)

Record Number of Columbia School of Social Work Students and Graduates Selected as 2019-2020 CSWE Minority Fellows

Columbia School of Social is Work is thrilled to have a record number of students and graduates selected for the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) Minority Fellowship Program this year for both the Masters and Doctoral Program!

CSWE’s Minority Fellowship Program (MFP) serves to “…reduce the effects of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities by increasing the number of individuals trained to work with underrepresented and underserved racial/ethnic minority persons with or at risk for mental health and/or substance abuse disorders.”

Congratulations to all our MFP Fellows!

Master’s Fellows

  • Victoria Draper ’20
  • Victoria Guen ’20
  • Yajaira Hernandez Trejo ’20
  • Joya Joseph ’20
  • Kyra Russell ’20
  • James Sampson ’20

Doctoral Fellows

  • Gilbert Nick ’14
  • Luis Ramirez ’13
  • Mariama Diallo ’11
  • Matt Ignacio ’08

Kainen Bell ’17 Discusses Career Journey and Work with love.fútbol

Wondering what alums are up to around the globe?

Check out this blog post from Kainen Bell, a 2017 SEA Advanced Standing graduate who became a Fulbright Fellow in 2018 in Brazil, where he researched the impact of the economic recession on various nonprofits, and thereafter, joined love.fútbol, a global nonprofit that brings communities together using football pitch projects as platforms for change, as a Grants & Salesforce database specialist.

Alumni Spotlight: Patrick Burden ’12 Shares Path to Leadership Role at Mount Sinai

Tell us about your career journey.

When I graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with a Bachelors in Psychology, I was still unsure what I wanted to do. I decided to participate in an AmeriCorps program, The Choice Program, serving youth with justice-system involvement in Baltimore. This experience was tough, but incredible, because it showed me all the skills I lacked to do the type of work I wanted to do with the kids there. I decided that pursuing an MSW at Columbia would be the best path for me to gain those skills.

I currently work for the Mount Sinai Health System as a Program Coordinator in the Care Management Program. Care Management employs social workers, care coordinators, nurse clinical coordinators, and others to carry out the population health goals of the health system. As Program Coordinator, I provide clinical supervision for the social workers and care coordinators providing direct services to patients. This is an aspect of my work that I love most, because it allows me to stay connected to the direct work, flex my clinical muscles, and support my supervisees’ professional development and growth, which is always inspiring.

I also plan and develop workflows and initiatives to better engage patients in meaningful care. For example, Mount Sinai has recently partnered with a new insurance provider serving those with Medicare and Medicaid. In this initiative, I create reports, present data to health system and insurance administrators, and work closely with the insurer to meet standards set forth by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, while setting up best practices to facilitate the most efficient and patient-centered interventions.

I love being able to effect change in healthcare through this work. My goal is to use the lessons learned working in a large health system to make broader changes in healthcare, especially seeing the systemic constraints placed on hospitals and patients that exacerbate healthcare disparities. I recently published an article on the subject of these disparities in the International Journal of Aging and Society (now known as the International Journal of Aging and Social Change), titled “Seeing Healthcare through a Social Work Lens: Tackling Disparities and Inequalities for the Elder African American Male”.* I have also had the opportunity present at conferences around the world and look forward to continuing to advocate for improved access to healthcare, quality of care, and health outcomes, particularly among underserved populations.

How did your experience at Columbia impact your career trajectory?

My time at Columbia prepared me for much of my journey at Mount Sinai. In addition to developing critical clinical skills as an intern at IMPACCT Brooklyn (formerly Pratt Area Community Council) and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, I was involved with many of the caucuses and that allowed me to interact with people with varying experiences and points-of-view, often times different from my own. I have reflected on those experiences to develop better relationships with my supervisees, colleagues, and leadership. This also prepared me to take on more leadership roles.

I also worked on a research team with a post-doc focused on juvenile justice and planning. Working with her rekindled an interest in writing and caused me to be more thoughtful about the problems beyond my day-to-day work. Though I’m not completely sure what is next in my future, the curriculum and wide range of concentrations and fields of practice showed me the vast array of opportunities I can pursue as a social worker.

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

Flexibility is the first trait that comes to mind in terms of being successful in the health system, as protocols and workflows may frequently change to meet the needs of the larger health system. Being willing to take risks and volunteer for new pilots and initiatives — understanding you will have to build some of the structure as you are doing the work — is what leads to new opportunities for success and growth. In general, you must have a wealth of empathy and be able to use your clinical skills in creative ways.

What advice do you have for students and fellow alumni?

Take advantage of your opportunities when they come, understanding that there will be times where you feel like you aren’t ready or prepared for the moment. It might be uncomfortable, but you can always grow from these experiences.

*This article received the International Award for Excellence for Volume 7 of the journal.

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].

Elise Verdooner ’17, Executive Director at TEEEM, Discusses Path to Leadership in Network for Social Work Management’s Blog Series

After graduating from CSSW in 2017, Alumna Elise Verdooner dedicated her evenings to volunteering with TEEEM, a small international nonprofit run only by the founder, fellow CSSW alumnus Jarret Schecter ’14, while working full-time at a technology company. Months later, she was working as the organization’s new Executive Director. Read more about her professional journey, the path to management, and the impact of networking in the Network for Social Work Management’s latest blog series post.


Alumna Jillian Rose ’05 Receives Distinguished Educator Award!

We’d like to extend a warm congratulations to Alumna Jillian Rose, LCSW ’05, MPH, on receiving the Distinguished Educator Award from the Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals (ARHP) for her “sustained excellence in the teaching of patients and students/trainees, including health professional students, medical students, residents, graduate students, and/or fellows, with their primary focus being rheumatology-related content.”

Jillian currently serves as Director of Community Engagement, Diversity and Research at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in New York City. She started her career at HSS in 2005 and has dedicated much of her work to understanding inequalities in rheumatology care and empowering both patients and health care providers to ensure the highest quality of care for all.

Most recently, she served as a guest speaker at our recent Communities of Color Roundtable Networking Event, where she provided mentorship and advice to current students about leading successful careers as professionals of color.

Read the full press release to learn more about her background and achievements.

Alumni Spotlight: Miracle Allums LMSW ’15 Launches Virtual Support Service for Mental Health Professionals

The Office of Career Services and Leadership Management would like to extend a warm congratulations to CSSW Alumna Miracle Allums, LMSW on the recent launch of her new business, Mhoodle, a virtual support service for Mental Health Professionals!

Miracle founded Mhoodle after noticing a gap and need for more holistic support for mental health professionals, particularly those in private practice, having seen challenges through own experience as a psychotherapist in schools, hospitals, private practice, collaborative care, and international support services. By providing a platform where clinicians can have all of their administrative, operations, and marketing needs taken care of, she hopes to help them stay focused on the work they love and are purposed to do — providing stellar mental health support to the community.

A 2015 graduate, Miracle is also a fierce advocate for holistic wellness. She became a Labor and Postpartum Doula, having completed her doula training with Ancient Song Doula Services, an organization that primarily serves woman of color throughout the New York City Area. She is also a Reiki II Practitioner and has trained with Reiki Master Jean Bromage, becoming a practitioner of both western and eastern lineages. of Reiki.

Please join us in celebrating her achievements!