In Honor of CSSW’s Jiazheng Wang

August 13 @ 2:18 am
By Communications Office

We have created this page for sharing memories of MSW student Jiazheng Wang along with supportive words for Jiazheng’s family and our community. If you would like to leave a tribute, please post it as a comment.

Jiazheng Wang, who was an MSW student at Columbia School of Social Work, passed away on August 5, 2020, from cardiac arrest.

Inspired by her strong bond with her grandparents during her childhood in China, Jiazheng decided to pursue social work with a focus on aging and mental health.

Born in China, Jiazheng obtained an undergraduate degree in law from the China Youth University of Political Studies in Bejiing. Although her first job out of university was as a public relations specialist, she ultimately decided to pursue her passion for the field of gerontology.

A member of the May 2020 cohort, Jiazheng began her studies at Columbia in the Fall of 2018, determined to enact positive change in the world. She interned at Knickerbocker Village Senior Services Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC), a center provided by Hamilton Madison House; and at P.S. 57 James Weldon Johnson School-Based Health Center, one of seven school-based health centers operated by the Institute for Family Health in New York City.

“Jiazheng was a powerful force for good, and was poised to contribute so much to the world,” said Dean Melissa Begg. “Our grief and sorrow are immeasurable. Our hearts go out to Jiazheng’s boyfriend, friends, and classmates, and especially to her parents in China. Jiazheng was deeply loved, and as is often said, grief is the price we pay for love—and it is a heavy price indeed. Let us all keep her memory alive, and revere her bright spirit.”

Professor Qin Gao first met Jiazheng in her native China, at a forum Gao had organized in Shanghai. She recalls being impressed by Jiazheng’s dedication to advancing social change. “After joining CSSW, she shared with me how much she cherished her internship experience working with older adults in Chinatown,” Gao said.

Two of Jiazheng’s instructors at Columbia echoed Gao’s remarks about her drive and passion for the field of geriatric social work. Adjunct Assistant Professor Lia Marshall had Jiazheng as a student in Social Work Practice with Individuals with Dementia & Their Families. Marshall reported that when she asked the class what they would hope to have accomplished by age 90, Jiazheng said she wanted to advocate for older adults in China so they could live full and healthy lives.

Dean Emerita Jeanette Takamura, a specialist in social work and gerontology, recalled having Jiazheng in her Long Term Care course. “Jiazheng was a beautiful, almost luminous student, fully dedicated to becoming the best social work professional possible and a scholar of consequence with a focus on aging,” she said. “She was fully appreciative of the human rights and social justice dimensions of some of our knottiest issues related to the aging of our societies. My sincere condolences to her family, her partner, and her close colleagues and friends. We have lost a treasure.”

There are no words that adequately express the depth of our grief at this terrible loss. We extend our heartfelt condolences to all those who loved Jiazheng. We will make plans to come together in the future to more formally honor Jiazheng and celebrate her life.