Yong Gun (YG) Lee, Doctoral Graduates
Yong Gun (YG) Lee is a PhD candidate studying contemporary approaches to health promotion among sexual and gender diverse people in global settings. While at CSSW, YG worked under the mentorship of Professor Elwin Wu as well as in collaboration with colleagues at the Social Intervention Group and the Global Health Research Center of Central Asia, conducting HIV prevention intervention research with sexual and gender diverse people in Kazakhstan. After CSSW, YG will continue research and training as the Postdoctoral Associate in Intersectionality & Sexual and Gender Minority Health at the Rutgers University School of Social Work.
Ashley Cole, Jr., Master’s Graduates
Ashley Cole, Jr., who’s better known as Ash, is a native of Far Rockaway, Queens, a graduate of Queens College, and now a graduate of Columbia University School of Social Work. Next fall, Ash will return as a first-year doctoral candidate at Columbia University School of Social Work. Ash is the Vice-President of the Association of Black Social Workers at Columbia University, a
Student Advisor for the Action Lab, a Research Assistant at the SafeLab, a Beyond the Bars Fellow Alumni, and the Lead Facilitator for Umoja Circles. He’s also a Co-Editor of the book entitled Unwritten: Stories from Behind and Beyond the Bars
. He has moderated and co-moderated countless events throughout his tenure at CSSW. As a first-generation graduate student, he shares in many of the lived experiences of the people he serves. He’s an advocate for criminal justice reform, fathers who the child support enforcement unit has negatively impacted, and the mental health of young Black boys in academia. When he’s not working to break the bondage of systematic oppression, you can find him spending time with his family.
Meet our 2020-2021 Student Speakers
Shabieko Ivy, Class of 2020 Speaker
Shabieko Ivy is a 2020 graduate of Columbia University School of Work. She was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Since graduating, her work strives to help individuals become the best versions of themselves through advocacy. It is a mission that aligns with her own educational pathway to social work- to serve the needs of our most vulnerable members. Her experiences has allowed her to gain an understanding and appreciation of the world, and ways in which she can become an agent for change, both for her local and international community. She is devoted to the common good and whose journey from Jamaica to the United States teaches us all about the power of a single life with purpose. She understands from the experiences of her family and people served that it is important to give back, lend a hand and be there for those in need. This, she feels is essential for there to be real change in our world. She feels this is not only a responsibility but a civic duty.
Monika Soto, Class of 2021 Speaker
Monika Soto is a New Jersey native and Class of 2021 graduate of the Columbia School of Social Work. Professionally, she currently works as the Justice Ambassador Program Manager at Prison Fellowship, the nation’s largest Christian non-profit and leading advocate for criminal justice reform. Through her work, she equips Justice Ambassadors to change culture and law by advocating for justice that restores. She previously worked as the Grassroots Advocacy Manager for March of Dimes. During her time at CSSW she concentrated in Policy Practice and served as a fellow for the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy. She has always had a genuine passion for unleashing the power of Social Workers within the political system at all levels of government. Monika was the recipient of the 2021 Benjamin and Agnes Louard Fellowship as a result of her academic achievements and notable leadership. Prior to attending Columbia, she obtained her BA in Social Work with honors from Seton Hall University and landed internships with NJ Assemblyman Gary Schaer as well as the Center for Court Innovation where she focused primarily on criminal justice reform. She has an innate desire to serve marginalized communities, especially immigrants and communities of color. Monika has a particular interest in the intersectionality between social justice and public policy, and enjoys educating those around her on the importance of exercising their civil rights.