CUSSW Students Honored with NASW-NYC Awards

May 9, 2007 @ 4:00 am

For Immediate Release

May 9, 2007

New York, NY – Mary Ellen Santiago and Monique Michelle Sierra, 2007 master of social work candidates at Columbia University School of Social Work (CUSSW), have been selected to receive awards from the National Association of Social Workers-New York City Chapter. The awards will be presented during the School’s commencement ceremony at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center on May 16.

Santiago will be awarded with the McMurray Award, which is only given to one student out of all six graduate schools of social work in The award recognizes outstanding accomplishments and contributions a graduating student has made to services to children and families. “I am truly delighted to be honored with this award,” says Santiago. “Growing up in the Bronx, I was able to observe some of the pressures poverty causes within the family structure. Social work has provided me an outlet to change people’s lives.”

Born in Tampa, Florida but raised in Bronx, New York, Santiago pursued social work to help find a way to help impoverished individuals better their lives. After graduating from Western Connecticut State University, she applied to CUSSW to obtain her master’s degree of social work in children and family services. A community advocate, Santiago volunteered as co-leader of the Finance Committee that worked to increase funds to support the existing work at the Columbia Student Medical Outreach (CoSMO). She was recently hired as the new Director of Foster Care’s Upper Manhattan Unit of Lutheran Social Services of New York.

Sierra will be awarded the Student of the Year Award, which recognizes students who have demonstrated professional commitment, identity and values through student leadership, practicum practice or academic projects. “I am honored to be selected for this award,” says Sierra. “My work with various communities has impacted me in many ways. I have learned a lot from the people I serve – they are my inspiration and motivation to continue the work that I do.”

A native of Los Angeles, CA, Sierra studied social policy and international social work at CUSSW. She received her undergraduate degree in sociology from University of California – Santa Barbara. Sierra has worked in Ghana and Uganda, and plans to pursue a career in international development. She is married and currently resides in New York City.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is the largest membership organization of professional social workers with 153,000 members. NASW-NYC represents the collective expertise and experience of more than 10,000 members in New York City. It promotes, develops, and protects the practice of social work and social workers. NASW also seeks to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through its policy work and advocacy.

For more information, please contact Jeannie Hii at 212-851-2327 or