4th Annual Communities of Color Virtual Networking Event | Thursday, October 28

virtual meeting image
Image by Alexandra Koch from Pixabay

The offices of Career Services and Leadership Management; Development and Alumni Relations; and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are pleased to invite students to our 4th Annual Communities of Color Virtual Networking Event on Thursday, October 28.

All those who identify as students of color/BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) are encouraged to participate!

This is a great opportunity to meet and mingle with a group of distinguished alumni of color, learn about their career paths and trajectories, and get tips and advice on navigating your own path as a professional of color in a dedicated virtual support space.

The list of featured alumni can be found below.

Event Details

Thursday, October 28
6:30 – 8:00 pm ET
Platform: Zoom

Pre-registration is required.

Sign up here using your LionMail account by Tuesday, October 26. We ask that you only register if you are able to attend.


Read more about our participating alumni.

Lead with Curiosity When Networking

The idea of networking can be anxiety-provoking for many, no matter what career stage they’re in, leading some to avoid it. Yet, it still remains the number one strategy to land opportunities and an essential component of one’s career development.

Networking is more than talking to strangers; it is a process of building relationships towards a mutual exchange of support, resources, and information. It is also a way of letting others know your skills and passions and getting noticed in the field. (You can’t get noticed if people don’t know you!)

Not sure how to get started? Then lead with your curiosity.

Perhaps you’re wondering what you can do with your degree or concentration or how others with similar backgrounds and experiences landed their roles. Or maybe you’re still exploring and want to know different opportunities you might find meaningful. Find people with direct knowledge of your interest area and start a conversation:

    • Faculty, supervisors and colleagues in field, peers, and alumni currently working in your field of interest
    • Professionals you admire regardless of their background whom you can connect with through industry events, professional associations, or virtual networking communities, such as those on LinkedIn
    • Recruiters, hiring managers, and organizational representatives hosting information sessions and related recruitment and networking activities

Don’t forget that professionals outside your immediate scope of interest can also possess valuable insights, including how to effectively transition from student to professional, advance to leadership positions, or maintain work-life balance and self-care.

Whomever you choose to reach out to, make sure to tailor your conversation to the individual and assess what specifically you hope to learn from them so you can identify your next steps.

If the idea of networking and informational interviewing still feels intimidating, remember that you don’t need to know everything to have a fruitful conversation. Asking questions like “How do I get started?” or “Where do I go from here?” are acceptable conversation starters, particularly with social work educators and alumni. The main goal is to start somewhere!

More on networking for social workers

Upcoming NYC Government Career Events Hosted by DCAS

New York City Civil Service 101
Friday, March 19, 2021 from 4:00pm to 5:30pm

To register, please visit: http://bit.ly/0319CS101

For more information contact: Shannon Foley [email protected]

CityTalk Panel Discussion: “Women in City Government”
Friday, March 26, 2021 from 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

To register, please visit: http://bit.ly/0326WomenCareers

For more information contact: Raymond Cruze, Citywide Recruitment Specialist [email protected]

Social Workers Who Run Forum | Tuesday, March 16

Shared by Shanequa Moore, LMSW ’10:

Hear from a panel of social worker candidates who are running for public office in the 2021 election on why it is essential to elect Social workers into public office.

Featuring LMSW Candidates for City Council, Shanequa Moore ’10, Abigail Martin ’06, Ingrid Gomez, and Tricia Shimamura, and Candidate for NYC Mayor, Dianne Morales ’93.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021 at 6:30 PM
Register here

Hosted in partnership with Social Workers in New York City Running for Public Office in Honor of Social Work Month.

Flash mentoring is back – Sign up to get career advice and support from alumni!

The Office of Alumni Relations and Office of Career Services and Leadership Management are pleased to resume our career mentorship program for the spring semester!

The program will run from Monday, February 1 through Friday, May 28. Requests will be accepted until Friday, May 14.


Mentoring Program Overview

Through this program, students can request to connect with up to 3 alums per month for 1:1 conversations to:

    • Gain insights and perspectives about a career path, field, organization, or industry;
    • Get advice about career planning, searching and applying for jobs (including resume writing), networking, interviewing, or navigating life after CSSW; OR
    • Seek support in general from someone who’s been in your shoes as a student


    1. Fill out this mentoring program interest form. On the form, you will find a link to a directory with a list of more than 300 alumni volunteer mentors who are eager to meet you! Select the one you’re interested in meeting. Note that you will have to complete this form for each request.
    2. After submitting the form, you will receive an email confirmation as well as an introductory email from Jennifer March from Alumni Relations connecting you to the alum of choice within a few business days. If you don’t hear from Jennifer in that time frame, please email her directly at [email protected] to follow up.
    3. Once you receive the email, it will be your responsibility to arrange a meeting directly with the alum using the contact information provided. While Zoom meetings are recommended, you can choose a platform that works best for both you and the alum.

Remember: This is NOT a forum to ask for a job or a recommendation for a job, but rather an opportunity to gather valuable information based on their knowledge and expertise.

After the initial meeting, it will be up to you and the alum to decide whether to continue to stay in touch.


For general questions about our alumni mentors, please email Jennifer March at [email protected].

For guidance on how to prepare for a meeting, refer to our Informational Interview Guide. You can also view free, on-demand webinars on informational interviewing (and other career development topics) from LinkedIn Learning, or schedule an appointment with the career team to discuss further.

We hope you take advantage of this special opportunity!

Career Advice from VNSNY Community Mental Health Panelists

Last week, our office sponsored a panel discussion with VNSNY and their community mental health professionals to learn about their career paths and what led them to this work.

If you missed the session, here are some key takeaways:

    • Meet and build relationships with folx in the field, because networking is still one of the most effective ways to land opportunities.
    • Seek mentors and supervisors who are invested in your development. Surrounding yourself with a strong support system is key to growing and advancing in an organization.
    • Take risks by being open to new opportunities or exploring new paths—these experiences can help you build career agility, find meaningful work, and expand your professional network.
    • Take ownership of the job you have right now; it will not only help you build character and skill sets for your current role, it will also prepare you for future ones.
    • Make sure to prioritize self-care. When interviewing, ask questions about initiatives that are in place to support the well-being of employees and the agency as a whole.

Thanks to those who attended, as well as to our speakers Jessica Aitken, Natasha Anderson, Deborah Cho ’15, Sabrina Machuca, and Echelle Norman, and Keith Peters and Leah Blumberg for collaborating with us on this event!

You can find the presentation slides and speakers’ contact information in Career Connect within our Document Library under the Employer Events / Information Sessions folder.

Corporate Social Responsibility Panel with SEA Caucus | Wednesday, March 4

Interested in learning about careers in corporate social responsibility? See below for a great panel organized by SEA Caucus Leaders, featuring the following guest speakers.

Event: Corporate Social Responsibility Panel
Date/Time: Wednesday, March 4 @ 8 PM
Location: Room C06

  • Edgar Avalos ’16, Senior Program Associate, Youth & Workforce Initiatives – Global Philanthropy, JPMorgan Chase Foundation
  • Veena Jayadeva, Director of CSR, Guardian Life
  • Lisa Meng, Corporate Social Responsibility – Societal Impact, Verizon
  • Nicoletta Bumbac, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Analyst, JetBlue
Register here.
Wine and cheese will be provided.

Please contact Caucus Leader Laura Burgos at [email protected] with any questions.

INDIVIDUALS WITH DISABILITIES: Columbia University makes every effort to accommodate individuals with disabilities. If you require disability accommodations to attend an event at Columbia University, please contact the Office of Disability Services at (212) 854-2388 or [email protected] at least 5 days in advance of the event.

Panel Discussion: Careers and Placements in Policy | Wednesday, February 19

Join us for a panel discussion on how social workers can make an impact in the policy space.

Wednesday, February 19, 12:15 – 1:45 PM
CSSW Room C03

Register here

Speakers will include:

  • Ericka Echavarria ‘08 (Moderator), Associate Director of Field Education
  • Sarah Christa Butts, Director of Public Policy, National Association of Social Workers (NASW)
  • Emily Miles ‘13, Chief Policy and Program Officer, FPWA
  • Christelle Onwu ‘15, Lead Advisor for African Communities and Equal Employment Opportunity Recruitment Strategist at the New York City Commission on Human Rights
  • Dr. John Robertson, Social Welfare Policy Professor

Live-stream will be available. Please register via Career Connect for the link.

Hosted by the Offices of Career Services and Leadership Management & Field Education.


Ericka Echavarria

Ericka currently serves as an Associate Director of Field Education at Columbia University School of Social Work, and also teaches and provides supervision to graduate level students and Field Instructors at CSSW. She is heavily invested in preparing future social work professionals for direct practice with clients and systems by helping them develop a self-care and self- awareness practice, social justice advocacy skills, the capacity to hold and maintain difficult dialogues related to power, race, oppression, and privilege, and an ethical and professional identity.

Ericka also acts as a consultant in the federal criminal justice system working as a mitigation specialist/sentencing advocate since 2011. Her role involves making the case for life and/or just sentences on behalf of clients in capital murder and other serious federal cases through the use of comprehensive psychosocial investigations, assessments, and narratives. Ericka works closely with defense attorneys to zealously advocate for her clients on both court appointed and privately retained cases. Ericka has also performed forensic advocacy for parents and children involved with the family court/child welfare system in the following types of cases: abuse and neglect, guardian ad litem, and supervised custody/visitation.

Prior to engaging in forensic social work, Ericka gained a world of experiential knowledge while serving adults, youth, and children in mental health clinics, schools, child welfare, and drug treatment programs. Consequently, her expertise lies in the following: criminal and family law, child welfare, addiction, trauma, mental health, cognitive, learning, and emotional impairments, and case management. Her work has included advocating for immigrant survivors of domestic violence, families and children in the child welfare and family court system, men and women struggling with addiction, children facing learning, emotional, behavioral, and psychological difficulties in schools, and defendants in the federal and state criminal justice system. Additionally, Ericka has provided technical assistance to other advocates who interface or provide services to many of these clients by conducting trainings in areas of immigrants’ rights, mental health, self-awareness, difficult dialogues around power, race, privilege, and oppression, and behavior management.

Ericka received her Masters in Social Work from Columbia University in 2008, and her Juris Doctorate from Albany Law School in 2002.

Sarah Butts

Sarah Christa Butts, LMSW, is director of public policy at the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), headquarters office in Washington, D.C.  NASW is the largest social work organization in the nation, representing the interests of over 700,000 social workers nationwide, with 55 local chapters in states and U.S. territories. Butts is responsible for leading the association’s public policy, political and legislative affairs agenda, overseeing field organizing, working at both the national level and with NASW chapters, political candidates’ fundraising and endorsement efforts, as well as developing and advancing the association’s strategic goals and objectives related to influencing the legislative and executive branches of government. 

Prior to joining NASW, Sarah served as the first executive director of the Grand Challenges for Social Work, a national initiative modeled after a similar campaign spearheaded by the National Academy of Engineering, whereby 12 science supported challenges were advanced to tackle societies toughest social problems. Sarah is also the founding administrator of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare (AASWSW)—an honorific society for the social work profession and served as an assistant to the dean at University of Maryland, School of Social Work. Butts has also held roles in state and local government, as well as nonprofits, including positions in Maryland’s Department of Human Services, Social Services Administration and the Family League of Baltimore. In 2018 she was the recipient of The Daily Record’s 40 under 40 VIP list award. She is a contributing author on the 2018 Oxford University Press book, Grand Challenges for Social Work and Society and a 2015 AASWSW paper, the Grand Challenge of Ending Homelessness. Sarah is a member of the board of directors of the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy. Sarah holds a Bachelors of Social Work from University of Maryland Baltimore County, a Masters of Social Work from University of Maryland Baltimore and is currently pursuing a PhD in Public Policy at University of Maryland Baltimore County.

Emily Miles

Emily Miles is the Chief Policy and Program Officer at FPWA, an anti-poverty, policy and advocacy nonprofit with a membership network of nearly 200 human service and faith-based organizations, where she oversees the development and implementation of a policy agenda that seeks to reduce poverty and promote upward economic mobility for all New Yorkers.  In her time at FPWA, Emily has played a lead role in the development and launch of several campaigns and initiatives focused on increasing economic equity across New York City and State through increased access the quality healthcare, criminal justice reform, increased wages for human services workers, and reforming public benefits. In 2015, Emily was honored as a Next Generation Leader by the Human Services Council and a Top 40 Under 40 Rising Star by New York Nonprofit Media.

Prior to joining FPWA, Ms. Miles worked in the Obama Administration in the Office of the Vice President and in the U.S. Department of Education, managing gender-based violence initiatives.  She started her career as a public middle school teacher, working in both Georgia and Maine. Emily has a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Columbia University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from the University of Georgia.

Christelle Onwu

Christelle N. Onwu is the Lead Advisor for African Communities and an Equal Employment Opportunity Recruitment Strategist at the New York City Commission on Human Rights. She is a 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 Board Member at the Historical Memory Project, CUNY John Jay College. A project which cultivates historical memory to memorialize victims of state- sponsored terror, raise awareness of historical injustices in Latin America and beyond, and foster our collective human rights memory. She is a fierce advocate for under-served populations and a member of the New York City Civic Engagement Commission. 

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. 

John Robertson

Dr. John Robertson teaches Social Welfare Policy, the Policy Practice course for policy majors, and Advocacy in Social Work Practice. His interests include community development and organization, employment and family issues, and treatment for people struggling with substance abuse. He is involved in community social work practice in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood and has worked on several national policy research initiatives related to poor families, their employment, family formation, and receipt of public assistance. His publications include “Social Work with Families after PRWORA: Family Systems and Rational Choice Models,” “Relational Discord and Depressive Symptomatology among Non-Marital Co-Parents,” “Using Geographical Information Systems to Enhance Community-Based Child Welfare Services,” “Young Nonresidential Fathers Have Lower Earnings: Implications for Increasing Child Support Payments,” and “Using the Criminal Justice System to Prevent Adolescent Drug Abuse.”

Dr. Robertson has taught research methodology and human behavior courses. He previously taught at the Hunter School of Social Work, where he developed the school’s community organization field placement program, and at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis. He has also worked with newly released federal inmates as they return to family, employment, and their communities. Dr. Robertson holds a BA in Economics from St. John’s College, University of Manitoba; an MSW from Rutgers University; and a PhD in Labor Economics and Social Policy from the Columbia School of Social Work.