Meet the School’s 2019–2020 CSWE Master’s Minority Fellows

January 15 @ 9:25 pm
By Communications Office

Today’s social justice-oriented MSW students are tomorrow’s culturally competent social work professionals. And now six of ours are receiving additional training in health disparities thanks to a fellowship from CSWE.

Columbia University’s School of Social Work prides itself on having a faculty cohort doing innovative research on health disparities—the health differences that emerge between population groups due to social, economic, and environmental factors. And now we can boast of six of our MSW students achieving places in this year’s Master’s Minority Fellowship Program—significantly more than any other school of social work.

The Council on Social Work Education offers a total of 44 of these fellowships to full-time, master’s-level, direct practice-focused social work students who are in their final year of study. The main criterion is that the student must be committed to providing mental health or substance use-related services to racial or ethnic minority populations, with the goal of reducing health disparities.

Says Tomomi Uetani, the School’s director of Career Services and Leadership Management, “I’m not surprised by our strong representation. Our students are well prepared, committed to serving the most in-need populations, and deserving of this wonderful opportunity. We’re thrilled for them and proud to have them represent CSSW.”

The School’s communications office recently asked the six Fellows, all of whom are scheduled to graduate this spring, what inspired them to pursue this work, how they plan to utilize their fellowship training, and what courses and instructors helped prepare them for this challenge.


Victoria Draper

VICTORIA DRAPER

Previous degrees: MS, Educational Leadership; MS, Nonprofit Leadership; MS, Special Education and Teaching; BA, Political Science and Government

Current field placement: Executive intern and youth improvement specialist at Southeast Bronx Neighborhood Centers

Inspiration: A Black queer woman from Harlem, Draper was partly raised by her grandmother, a social-justice-oriented psychologist and community activist. When later, as a special education teacher, Draper “realized that the school systems failed many students,” she wanted to work on restructuring urban schooling in a way that “connected me to my grandmother’s life work and values.”

Career plans: Perform nontraditional clinical psychotherapy with Black and Hispanic youth who struggle with severe mental illness or have experienced trauma

CSSW shoutouts: Duy Nguyen was “the first professor to tell me that I was capable of persevering through his class and the program,” Draper says, and Anindita Bhattacharya (view video), her direct practice instructor, “helped me to really challenge my perspective as a blooming social worker.”


Tori Guen

TORI GUEN

Undergraduate degree: BA, Art History and Fine Arts

Current field placement: Providing therapy to children who have been in the foster care system, at Lutheran Social Services

Inspiration: Since she was a child reading parenting advice in magazines, Guen says, “I have always been passionate about mothers and their bond with their children.” This affinity was compounded by “all the sacrifices my mother made to take care of my brother and me.” She has led financial-aid workshops for single mothers and provided GRE tutoring for mothers who are incarcerated.

Career plans: Work in an OB/GYN branch of a hospital as a perinatal social worker, while addressing racism in the health care system and removing barriers to services.

CSSW shoutout: Jeanette Takamura’s class on federal policy: “Learning how the federal government works has given me a different perspective on how to be a strategic advocate in the context of our governmental structures.”


Yajaira Hernandez Trejo

YAJAIRA HERNANDEZ TREJO

Undergraduate degree: BA, International Relations

Current field placement: Clinical Intern, Crime Victims Treatment Center

Inspiration: Raised in Oregon as the child of immigrants from Mexico, Hernandez Trejo says, “I became extremely passionate about seeking to end the gap between my comfortable life in Oregon and that of my extended family struggling in Mexico. From an early age I wanted to dedicate my time to decreasing the gap between people to receive what they need.”

Career plans: Continue working with migrants, immigrants, and survivors of violent acts within the LatinX community; do international work with migrants and displaced populations in Latin America

CSSW shoutout: Prema Filippone, PhD student and Decolonizing Social Work instructor, who provided support and career guidance. “We are on the same Social Intervention Group research project, Women Economic Empower. She listened to me as I changed my mind every week, helped me determine organizations I would benefit from interning at, and gave me insight and guidance on finding my purpose.”


Joya Joseph

JOYA JOSEPH

Undergraduate degree: BA, Forensic Psychology

Current field placement: Intern, Forensic Assertive Community Treatment team, The Bridge

Inspiration: Joseph was raised in Queens by a Black American mother and Trinidadian father who were both activists. “My mother organized mental health events in underserved communities. My father organized protests and die-ins to promote equity in the public education system,” she says. “Their efforts inspired me to be an advocate for marginalized communities.”

Career plans: Clinical social work serving communities affected by oppression, serious mental illness, and substance use disorder

CSSW shoutouts: Joseph credits Jalana Harris and Ijeoma Opara for teaching her how to incorporate an evidence base, use of self, advocacy, and anti-oppression into clinical practice. “They have been particularly helpful in preparing for my career,” she says.


Kyra Russell

KYRA RUSSELL

Undergraduate degree: BA, Criminology and Psychology

Current field placement: Counseling Department, Manhattan District Attorney’s Office Witness Aid Services Unit

Inspiration: Russell states that as an AfroLatina, “I have learned both in the classroom and through my own experience how racially biased the healthcare field can be.” She believes she can “bring a certain level of empathy and understanding to my clinical practice while also increasing the representation of people of color in healthcare.”

Career plans: Provide trauma-based clinical services to marginalized communities in forensic settings, primarily women and people of color

CSSW shoutout: Stephanie Stolzenbach’s Advocacy class. “Because of her class, I’ve not only learned ways to advocate for my clients, but to also advocate for myself.”


James C. Sampson, Jr.

JAMES C. SAMPSON, JR.

Previous degrees: MDiv, Theology; BA, English Language and Literature

Current field placement: Psychotherapist Intern, Harlem United-Community Nest Wellness Center

Inspiration: Having trained as a Christian minister, Sampson says he was called by God to become a social worker. His decision was also shaped by his brother’s diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and his late best friend, who encouraged Sampson to enter the mental health field.

Career plans: Become a psychotherapist providing treatment modalities for mental health and substance abuse

CSSW shoutout: Richard Hara’s classes in Clinical Case Evaluation and Health Care Systems. “Dr. Hara has shown so much passion in the course. He has pushed me to my limit every time through the assignments and reminds me to uphold the Power, Race, Oppression, and Privilege (PROP) lens while doing the work.”


Congratulations to all six students, and we look forward to hearing news of your brilliant careers post-graduation.