In Honor of CSSW Student Susan Chuang
We have created this page for sharing memories of MSW student Susan Chuang along with supportive words for Susan’s family and our community. If you would like to leave a tribute, please post it as a comment.
A beloved member of Columbia University’s School of Social Work community, MSW student Susan Chuang, passed away on April 6, 2020, due to complications from infection with COVID-19.
Known for her many roles—besides being a part-time graduate student, she was also a wife and mother, an attorney, and a community volunteer—Susan left her mark on our School through her thoughtful contributions to her classes, the passion she showed for the social work profession, and her dedication to the clients she served at her field placements.
“There are no words to describe the pain and loss we feel,” said Dean Melissa Begg. “Susan was such a bright light—always thoughtful, loving, and gracious to all around her. She was driven to help those in need, without waiting to be asked. She was a devoted spouse and mom and a true social work advocate.”
“Susan went to great lengths to ensure her clients’ needs were met which was done with utmost professionalism and creativity,” said her first-year advisor, Laurie Sands. “She had a special way of engaging with the children and their parents and was a fierce advocate. She will be sadly missed in this profession.”
According to Donna D’Andrea, Susan’s final-year advisor: “Susan will always be remembered as a kind, compassionate and highly intelligent student. She was conscientious and hard working. She appreciated the true meaning of social work, whereby she gave of herself to help the most vulnerable in our society.”
At the School of Social Work, several professors recalled Susan’s vital presence in their classrooms. As Professor John Robertson put it, “She had a deep understanding of issues of power, race, privilege and oppression and did a great job conveying that to other students.” Professor Andrew Hamid concurred: “Susan’s commitment to the social work profession’s emphasis on social justice saw her leaving no stone unturned. Her caring and compassionate nature came through as she responded to concerns and anxieties expressed by her classmates. She was a joy to have in class, and will be sadly missed.”
Susan will be deeply mourned by all of those whose lives she touched at Columbia University, where she was also a graduate of the School of Professional Studies. Let’s all keep in mind her loving family and circle of friends at this difficult time. We will make plans to come together in the future to more formally honor Susan and celebrate her life.
I met Susan at my first field placement and from the very beginning, she was a mother figure (or more of a cool aunt, really) to the rest of us: always eager to help, to listen, to create space. She made sure we were well fed (always sharing recipes to home-cooked Taiwanese meals) and well supported at field, in the classroom, and beyond. I am endlessly grateful for all the guidance Susan provided me. She embodied the type of Social Worker that inspired this career path and the caring friend and mentor I strive to be. Susan, you are already missed immeasurably and will continue to light the path for myself and many, many others. Rest easy and rest in power! Having baos and Mapo tofu in your honour.
I am sending my deepest condolences to your family. From my experiences in class with her, Susan was kind, thoughtful in her responses and intelligent. She also spoke often in class about being a mom and you could just tell how much she truly loved her family. Sending my love to everyone that she touched.
Staring at this beautiful photo of Susan. She’s so full of joy and life. My heart is heavy, thinking about her family. Remembering how she brought her young daughter to class on a snow day last year. Thinking about her kindness, her compassion, her light, her love, the sound of her voice….. In complete shock and disbelief that she’s gone. I just cannot believe it. An angel spirit, up in ether right now.
To my friend Susan,
I woke up to a nightmare this morning. I read an email that broke my heart. I was told that you are no longer with us, that you passed away because of the virus that insidiously changed our world.
The first time I met you, you were a mom who cared more about how your son played with his friends at recess than how well he did in math or writing. You were concerned more if he was treating friends with kindness or if his friends took his kindness as being a wimp. My impression was, “This is a mom who really understands what’s important for her son. She GETS IT.”
Susan, you were a visionary that cared so much for our PS 124 school and Chinatown community, you used your “other” degree, as a lawyer and helped create a nonprofit foundation called the “Friends of Yung Wing,” which helps fundraise and fund so many amazing opportunities to enrich the lives of the children and families in our community. The Foundation funded our library, nature programs, arts, music and a ukulele program. And for this, we are smarter, brighter, happier.
The 2nd time I met you I found out that you wanted to be a social worker and applied at Columbia University School of Social Work, and needed a field placement. I asked you, “Susan, you are already an accomplished lawyer, why do you want to be one of us?” You told me this: “I became a lawyer for my family but I want to be a social worker for me, to balance injustice for women, children and families”; and you came back to us, to PS 124 in Chinatown. Susan you helped our kids laugh, connect with each other, wiped up tears and boogers. You never called in sick, and was always there for everyone. And for this we were happier, more connected and loved.
As I scroll through our phone text message, I see you always had a wonderful sense of humor. You gave everything you had to your kids, your husband, your mom and dad, and to your friends, unconditionally. You would jokingly complain about school and say: “Oh man, I have to study, I have a ball busting professor and one of my kids gave me a cold.” You would still volunteer your time to help others, and were on the path of being one of us, a social worker that believed in the goodness of people. Our last conversation was “what am I going to do when I graduate?” and I would simply tell you “Be the amazing woman and social worker you are. ANY agency would be happy to have you”; and when you graduate, WE (your partners in changing the world, Maho and I) would make sure you get your LMSW and one day work for you when you create your own nonprofit as a LCSW.
Susan, we will all miss you. I was lucky to have been in your life to experience your GLOW 2x. Susan, you were taken away from us way too early and I can’t believe we never got to say goodbye. We had texted each other that when this stupid virus was over we would have dinner. Your best advice to me is “Don’t ever feel guilty and worry. If it makes you happy YOU ENJOY the moment.”
Susan, thank you for your loveliness, your lightness, your brightness and your wisdom. We Love you and miss you. You will always be that special beautiful flowing light in our lives.
I am so honored to have shared a field seminar with Susan. While my memories of her are brief, they are distinguished by Susan’s intellect, warmth and wealth of experience as an advocate. Her life tells the story of leadership and commitment to service. Susan exemplified the best of us. Thank you for your dedication and spirit. You will not be forgotten.
My heart and condolences go out to Susan and her family. May they know they have support here at CSSW.
Susan was such a friendly person. She always had a smile on her face, and made sure all of us did too. We were in the same Foundations of Social Work class with Professor Hamid, and since it was only 8 of us in the class, we really got to know each other well. In class, I remember she would always address our concerns and our anxieties and make us feel better about things, despite going through it herself. I remember walking with her to the Butler Library during a snow day last November, and she asked me how I’m doing, and talked to me about her life and experiences. She was such a good listener and a friend. I will really miss her. The world and social work field really lost a wonderful person today. My condolences to all her family and friends.
It is with much sadness that we mourn the loss of a mother, sister, friend, daughter and a change agent in the world. The lives touched by the work done by Susan are many and even in death, she has left a distinct mark. Even as we mourn, we celebrate a selfless life lived and we celebrate a heroin of our time.
Love , thoughts and prayers to Susan’s family and to all of us who have been impacted by this loss.
I met Susan on the first day of field placement. Right from the beginning, she was kind, funny, generous, and ready to include everyone in the group. She truly cared about engaging and fostering a bond with everyone. Throughout my time at our field, Susan was always willing to talk and provide a listening ear. I once had the privilege to accompany her on a home visit, and watched as she worked her magic with the client, treating him with warmth, compassion, and injecting her signature humor in the conversation as well. She personified all the best features of our commitment to social justice, and was a true social worker.
I will always remember how Susan loved food, and culture, and cuisine, and how she always made a point to invite others to feast and hang out with her. I remember the last time she invited me out for lunch (a comforting bowl of congee). Sadly, I declined her invitation due to my work load, but we made promises for “next time.” I wish I could go back, and take you up on your warm invitation, Susan. One day I hope to go back to Congee Village and have a meal to celebrate you. You and your family are in my thoughts, and I hope you rest well Susan.
I was lucky to spend this semester interning alongside Susan at our field placement. From my first morning at the office, the depth of her kindness and warmth was clear. She was generous and supportive, smart, thoughtful, curious, and quick witted. She was unbelievably welcoming, inviting me out to lunch on my first day and introducing me to everyone, ensuring I felt included.
I remember once weeks later hearing her speak with a participant and noticing how she was tender, assertive and self assured all at once, her warmth coming through even on a phone call. She sounded like she had been a social worker for years. I remember thinking in that moment that she must be an amazing and patient mother to her two kids who she was so often talking about.
In the weeks before school went remote, we all went out to lunch together and Susan asked if we could go to Congee Village, the Chinese restaurant down the block. She wanted to offer her support with all the xenophobia happening around the city due to the virus. She was conscientious and committed, and her caring spirit was always at the forefront- whether it was her choice of restaurant, her thoughtful questions, her patient listening.
I’m so deeply grateful to have met her, and heartbroken that her family, friends, and our community has lost her. I hope her memory can lift us up and in doing so that we can continue to feel her tremendous warmth. I’ll miss her terribly.
Susan was very supportive of the PS 124 community as a PTA Exec Board member during the short time she was with us. With her efforts, she helped us during our Annual Gala to fundraise for our Early Childhood Playground. She also advocated on our school’s behalf and got funding from our local Senator to acquire new air conditioners for all classrooms and our cafeteria. Susan was truly a go-getter and persistent to ensure our students benefited from all her outreach efforts.
While doing her internship with Lillian Moy [Guidance Counselor at PS 124] last year, she demonstrated caring and patience with some of our more challenging children. Her smile and attentiveness connected with each child she worked with. With her passing, we will never know how many other lives she could have helped. My deepest condolences to her family, and I know her memory will live on because of all the kindness and love she exuded to anyone she met.
I am deeply saddened by this news. Susan was an intern at my school and I witnessed her dedication and deep personal connections to our kids throughout her internship. I want her family and children to know that she has made a big difference in the lives of our children and that she will not be forgotten. I became a new mom when Susan was an intern and we connected over the love we felt for our babies and I quickly learned she was a fierce advocate for her children and loved you al so much. All my love and prayers to you.
Susan Chuang was a Social Work Intern assigned to work with me in the CARING@Columbia Drama Program fall residency 2018 at PS 124, The Yung Wing School. As CARING’S Drama Specialist, I observed Susan’s whole-hearted dedication to the field she had chosen, in addition to finding her a delight to work with. Susan was attentive and respectful to the students needs and showed a thoughtfulness and sensitivity to any unexpected emotional or behavior problem that may have emerged during class. I am heartbroken to learn of Susan’s passing,
I will remember Susan as a thoughtful, compassionate student, but having had the privilege of meeting her with her daughter once, I will remember her most as the loving, devoted mother she so clearly was. My deepest condolences go out to her family—you are in my thoughts and prayers.
My sweet friend, I am so pained to be writing this. I was not expecting to read your name and see your face when I opened my email this morning. Just a year ago in March 2019, we were sitting in class having coffee and planning for our CBT role play. I went back to some of our email exchanges about the role play, which we had to do on a Sunday and was videotaped! One email from you said, “We r gonna be great. No worries.” My heart hurt re-watching that video of us. You had such a presence about you—direct and curious, with so much care and sweetness. I enjoyed your sense of humor and our chats. It was playful and mischievous, we had a lot of laughs, and it was much needed in our early morning class.
We were like two ships passing in the night, as it can feel at CSSW with so many students and varying schedules. I feel so lucky to have crossed paths. It was affirming to meet another married student around the same age, who had a long career prior to graduate school. I loved hearing stories about your son and the work you did in the schools. I could tell how devoted of a mother and community member you were. You had a way of making people feel so heard and important. I won’t forget you, Susan. So much loving kindness to your family and all those who were blessed to share life’s moments with you.
Susan was a good one. She was one of those people who was genuinely curious about how you’re doing and what you’re doing. She cared. A lot. I met Susan for the first time when her son was in my science class. Like Lillian Moy [Guidance Counselor at PS 124] mentioned above, she cared about his academics, but she asked if he was being a good team player, being kind, and sharing. Susan cared so much about our school community and even helped us get a new playground! Last year, while she was an intern for the guidance counselor on my floor, I’d run into her so many times. Each time I was greeted with that smile, then followed by a random conversation. She was down to earth and approachable, which made her so much better for the children that she worked with. May the great memories we have of Susan bring her family some comfort during this difficult time.
I was extremely shocked and heartbroken when I knew that Susan passed away. I met Susan when we worked as social work interns in the PS 124. She is such a warm, kind and intelligent person. When I had difficulties in my field work, she was always there, giving me a hand and encouraging me to continue. After the field placement finished, we met on the campus and I saw her two lovely kids when she brought them to our class. We promised to have lunch together. Because of our schoolwork, we missed that chance but we said we’ll meet again in the coming spring. I can’t believe we’ll never see each other again. May she rest in peace. Susan will stay in my heart forever.
I’m so sad to read this news. She was such a caring, kind, and inspirational person that impacted me and touched so many others in our classes. Susan’s warm and outgoing spirit made me feel at home at the School of Social Work and I always looked forward to laughing and chatting with her. Grateful to have been her friend.
My heart goes out to her family and children. She was always talking about her children and how proud she was of them. She is so loving. This is such a huge loss for her loved ones, our community, and the world.
Susan was a person of incredible strength and undeniable charm.
She found beauty in any difficult experience, and always found a way to serve others.
She loved her family very much. She never stopped expressing gratitude for her husband and her two beautiful children who gave her the meaning to her life.
She never took anything for granted, and appreciated every moment she had with her children. She always spoke about their future, and it shutters my heart that she will not be with us to see them grow.
But I know that her way of living is embedded in her children’s hearts, and her unconditional love for them will continue to guide her children from heaven.
She always carried herself with a sense of ease and humor. I am only one among many to have felt the power of her charisma. We gravitated toward her from the moment we met her.
She was my best friend, older sister from a different mother, and mentor for my life.
Susan, I hope you are at peace. We will do anything and everything to make sure your family is well taken care of.
It hurts so much now, but I am looking forward to the time we go on a dinner date again in heaven.
I love you deeply.
So sorry to hear of the loss of Susan Chuang, who left our world much too soon. My heartfelt condolences to her family and to all those who had the privilege of knowing her.
When I first met Susan, she was a mom with the same goal as all of us parents at PS 124, and that was: “How can we make this school better for our kids?” She was elected to be in the PTA and contributed so much to our school during her time there. I got to know her over time, and she was always full of smiles. Never did she talk bad about anyone, nor gossip about others. She would just focus on how we can do more for our school. I grew to know her more and just fell in love with her positive energy. When I finally got a job, starting from the bottom of the totem pole, she said, “You will move up in no time.” She kept telling me how she saw in me more than what meets the eye. She made me feel proud of who I was. I remember when I was working I pretty much dropped out of the picture. She then came to visit me at my job and took me to get a manicure because she felt I was so deserving of it. I did eventually move up and I’ve done well for the short time I’ve been at my job. I told her how I got promoted to another position and she just screamed and hugged me. She was so genuinely happy for me. This was the type of person Susan was: always happy to see others do well. We would occasionally meet up for dinners, share stories and laugh the night away. I was looking at our last text from each other. I said: “I want to have dinner, so don’t forget about me.” She replied: “I’ll never forget you dude!” The last time I saw her it was when four of us were eating at a restaurant. We had reserved for five and got a bigger table. Susan kept telling the waiter we are waiting for the fifth person to come, although there was no 5th person coming. Lol. She had a way with talking with people that would make us all just laugh. She was someone full of smiles. As we all hugged each at the end of the night, we did say we will all meet again. I just can’t believe there won’t be an “again”. I will miss her terribly. My heart is truly broken up. A few weeks ago I can honestly say I was not that afraid of the virus, but now that this virus took away our Susan, I’ve become more wary. I will never take things lightly or granted again when it comes to good friends in my life. Susan, you will be missed so much! I thank you for the good times we’ve shared. I give my love to everyone here who saw what I saw in Susan. She was a beautiful person inside and out. God has another angel in heaven now.
My prayer for Susan’s family is that you cherish the memories of the life and legacy of your loved one forever.
God bless you all.
I did not know Susan personally. However, these testimonies to her life and memory help me understand the kind of social worker we need in the world.
In reading such heartfelt, thoughtful and genuine reflections by those who came to know, love and admire Susan and her passion for becoming a social worker, I saddened that someone so vibrant and with a zest for life is no longer with us.
Susan, you are known and loved by so many, and I pray that all who have shared moments with you find comfort. From one social worker to another, thank you for all that you have done. Your impact will carry on forevermore. Rest easy.
Susan passing away due to infection with COVID-19 makes me feel sad and mourn her death. I look at her photo and feel she seems so relaxed, so easy to relate to. I think she is about to take action on behalf of others—surely, taking action was something dear to her, as was embracing her family.
It reminds me of the great fright that is created by COVID-19 here in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, and almost all over India. Our death toll is rising, not to talk of social distancing and other methods initiated by the government and now being carried out within our communities. The fight is on and we are hopeful. It will come under control. But it’s a war.
A graduate of CSSW, Melissa Aase, who is the Executive Director of the University Settlement, the field instruction agency in which Susan Chuang was fulfilling her second-year field placement this academic year, wrote the following message yesterday to her colleagues at the University Settlement, and I’d like to share it here:
Dear University Settlement Community,
It is with a very heavy heart that I write to let you know of the death of one our graduate social work interns, Susan Chuang. Susan had been hospitalized for the last two-and-a-half weeks with COVID-19, and we learned on Monday that she passed away at Presbyterian Hospital.
Susan was part of the team of Wellness Together, a program we launched recently with the leadership of Bing Ji—who herself started as a social work intern with US. The Wellness Together project provides a wide range of services for home-bound seniors in the Lower East Side, ranging from case management and ensuring financial and physical wellbeing, to mental health, social connections, and much more. It is a new program just launching, and our team of social work students is crucial to its success, and Susan was part of an amazing team of students from Columbia, Fordham and Hunter, including Bianca, Colleen, Manuela, and Maya.
Susan grew up in Chinatown, and decided to change careers recently, from real estate and law to social work, fulfilling a lifelong aspiration. Speaking both Mandarin and Cantonese, Susan sought an internship position with University Settlement so she could support under-served people and her own community. She was not only a savvy problem-solver for the seniors she worked with, but also a “systems thinker,” someone who helped the team think more expansively about the lives they are touching and the systems of support (and systemic obstacles) that could be brought to bear in supporting the elders of our community to thrive. She brought a strong analysis of race to her learning process and her internship practice and supported her team-mates in discussions of how to counter bias in our work and organization. She was creative, thoughtful, gracious, and compassionate. Our organization, community and the profession of social work will be much poorer for this loss. Along with Bing and Jennifer, and our Board of Directors, I will be sharing our condolences with her family, and Bing will reach out to you if there is more we can offer.
Please join me in supporting Bing and her team during this hard time. I know that many more on our team members have also been ill with the virus, or have had loved ones who are sick, hospitalized or have died. And we are all worried about our communities, participants, and colleagues. This is such a challenging and heartbreaking time.
I encourage all of us to take advantage of the sharing circles that Barbara DiGangi and Mary Adams are providing for us, and am grateful for their leadership, and for all of you. Please be sure to take care of yourself.
Melissa Aase, Executive Director of the University Settlement
(Graduate of CSSW)
My heart goes out to her son, husband, parents, sister and brother. I’m numb with disbelief while also realizing the tremendous loss this is to her family, friends, and her community.
Susan and I commuted daily to Bronx Science for three years. We teased each other, we laughed together, we shared our hopes and dreams. In recent years we would serendipitously run into each other in TriBeCa, her home since childhood. Despite the two decades since high school she never lost that childlike twinkle in her eye. Her unwavering optimism will be survived by all that she touched. She will be terribly missed.
Susan was a warm and friendly soul! Her ability to speak Mandarin was very helpful when she interned at our school last year to provide counseling to one of my English-language learners who needed someone to talk to. Susan was able to communicate with care and sensitivity with this fifth-grade student, helping her adjust and ultimately do well in our school. To the adults in our school, Susan was simply lovely and kind. We will all miss Susan for the genuine concern and thoughtfulness she displayed towards others.
I had the pleasure to work with Ms. Chuang at PS 124m. She was a kind soul, a professional and caring person. I could tell she loved working with children. Her smile and kind gestures made the children feel comfortable. She will be missed. My deepest condolences to her family.
I’ve known Susan since 1999 when we met in law school. Susan was an excellent person, smart, funny, genuine, a great friend and always a source of positive energy. I’m sad that I was not closer to her as our lives developed, but I know that she became a wife and mother and was endlessly proud of her family. I’m so sorry for the loss of this bright, young star. There are no words. My heart goes out to all who loved her, especially her husband and children.
One of our Asian Columbia alumni leaders shared Susan’s story. Susan is such an inspiration to us Asian Columbia alums. We want to turn our mourning for her into action, following Susan’s torch by mobilizing resources and shouldering the responsibilities of responding to this global health crisis. Here’s to all the Asian alumni leaders in greater China, Singapore, and the wider Columbia Doctors, who have done tremendous work on the front lines and behind the scenes. May all of Columbia unite and do what’s necessary to fight the pandemic.
I’m an alum from out of town and I’ve just been reading the email and seeing this picture and I feel that I must send my condolences. Susan was clearly a very special, very accomplished person and to see this picture and this bright beautiful smile, I’m truly heartsick that the world has lost her. May her memory be a blessing.
I’m so sorry for this terrible loss.
Dearest Chuang Family,
Your beautiful Susan deeply touched so many people. Please know that a fellow Social Work student in Dallas, who regrettably never met her, mourns for your great, great loss. May your hearts continue to be full from her love.
Susan was smart, brave, sweet, energetic, hilarious, and very caring. She was really passionate about this profession, and her passion really inspired me in so many ways. The first time I met Susan was last year, and we did not really talk much at first. One day she brought her adorable child to school, and we started talking. She was very responsible, supportive, and knowledgeable about her many different roles as a mother and as a social worker. Sending love to her and my deepest condolence to her family.
I did not know Susan personally, however I am deeply saddened to hear of the news regarding her passing. My heart goes out to her family and dearest friends. I am confident that the lives she touched will remember & honor her moving forward.
I’m fortunate to have known Susan as my cousin. She had many cousins and we all grew up living on the same block together on Staten Island. As a young girl, I remember Susan as friendly and cheerful, often with a bright smile.
I didn’t get to connect with her much after I moved to the Boston area, but would still see her at family gatherings from time to time. Several years ago, I randomly bumped into Susan and her son at a playground in TriBeCa. It was a wonderful surprise and I loved seeing how my cousin had grown into a beautiful and loving mother.
The last time we spoke was when she had a class project to interview a social worker with a similar racial identity. She was curious about my work as a social worker and we talked about her life and professional aspirations. I was inspired by her passion and I deeply admired her courage to pursue a second calling in her life while also juggling a family with young children.
Although I’ve known Susan as a cousin, reading the words and stories shared in this space have given me a fuller appreciation for the impact her life and relationships have made. She will be missed but it’s comforting to know her memory will live on in the many lives she has touched.
As a fellow mother, I admired how Susan spoke with her son. Always calm and gentle, never terse—and magically, he would respond likewise. Upon being asked for her secret of infinite patience, she would say it was her upbringing that gave her the inspiration to be kind.
My deepest condolences go to her loved ones and may they forever hold onto their best memories of a life cut short.
This left a whole in my heart.
Susan and I met during orientation in Aug 2018. We hit off and talked for quite a while. She was uncertain about how she would balance grad school with everything else she had on her plate. We talked and connected and agreed that we should talk again. We would see saw each other two or three times in passing each of us saying we have to connect again soon. She always wore a smile and filled the spaces she entered with love and warmth. It’s hard to believe.
I extend my love to her family, friends, loved one’s and all who are impacted by her absence.
Thank you everyone for your comments regarding my little sister. I had the privilege of growing up with her, and not a single moment of her life was a selfish one. Our entire family appreciates all the testimonials you have left for her, and shall use it to supplement our cherished memories of Susan.