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Stories of Alumni in Action

Davida Adedjouma, MSW '07

Davida Adedjouma

When Davida Adedjouma graduated from the NYU Silver School of Social Work (SSSW) in 2007, she took away an MSW degree uniquely infused with a lifetime of experience. Her 50 years included time as a single parent, welfare recipient, award-winning creative writer, and college teacher. Additionally, she lives with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder.

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Michelle Bagan, MSW '06

Michelle Bagan, MSW '06

Pediatric Social Worker

Michelle Bagan, 24, works at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Cornell Weill Medical Center as a Pediatric Social Worker, counseling children and their families.

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Kate Barrow, MSW '08

Kate Barrow

Kate Barrow wears many hats as a social worker, all of them infused with her drive for social justice and anti-oppression work. As the youth services coordinator and clinical social worker at the Midtown Community Court, she sees all youth under age 21 who pass through the court for mandated counseling and manages the youth programs.

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Jacob Berelowitz, MSW '09

Jacob Berelowitz, MSW '09

When Jacob Berelowitz, host and executive director of "Talk Therapy Television," was applying to graduate schools he envisioned a career in direct practice. He ultimately enrolled in the NYU Silver School of Social Work (SSSW) because of its clinical social work reputation.

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Melissa Bessaha, MSW '09

melissa bessaha

For Melissa Bessaha, MSW ’09, an equal fascination with research and clinical work has led to a lengthy and diverse academic journey from psychology to social work. Now in her third year of study, Bessaha is pursuing a PhD at the University of Maryland.

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Bobby Noel Casiano, MSW '10

Bobby Noel Casiano

As Bobby Casiano completes his MSW degree, he reflects on what he appreciates about the past two years at the New York University Silver School of Social Work (SSSW). “What stands out most of all are the relationships—with fellow students, with people in my field placements, and with professors,” he said. “I will always hold them close to my heart.

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Angie Cazares, MSW '11

Angie Cazares

Angie Cazares’s journey to social work began at a young age. As a child, her grandmother told stories of growing up disadvantaged in Mexico and immigrating to the United States as a young mother. Through these stories, her grandmother taught Cazares to “remain humble, remember where you come from, and give back to the community.”

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Mindy Chettih, MSW '11

mindy chettih

For Mindy Chettih, MSW ’11, the decision to pursue a career in social work did not happen overnight. She was first exposed to the field by her best friend from college, who became a social worker.

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Willing Chin-Ma and Stella V. Pappas

NYU social work alumni Willing Chin-Ma and Stella V. Pappas were among the honorees at the 2007 Emerging Social Work Leaders awards dinner, presented by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) in New York City.

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Carmen Collado, MSW ’92

carmen collado

From a young age, Carmen Collado, MSW ’92, knew she wanted to help people. Growing up in Jamaica, Queens, Collado said, “I saw quite a lot of people suffering. I saw single mothers, children without fathers. I realized that a lot of mothers were able to function in crisis if they had a support system. If you could give people tools, their lives improved. I knew I wanted to work in a profession where I could help improve the lives of others.”

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Phil Coltoff, MSW '64

Phil Coltoff

I grew up in the Bronx in a working-class family that was also very culturally and intellectually curious. My initial interest was in the sciences and I went to college to study biochemistry. I did well, but I never loved it.

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Earl Davis, MSW '57

Earl Davis

Earl Davis had a 50-year career, which began and ended with New York University. He received an MSW in 1957 from the Graduate School of Public Administration and Social Service, and practiced social work in the field until 1972, when he joined the Silver School of Social Work (SSSW) staff as assistant dean for admissions and student affairs.

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Drena Fagen, MSW '06

Drena Fagen, MSW '06

Counselor and Art Therapist

Drena Fagen grew up in Florida, studied graphic design, and had a career in advertising in Los Angeles . until a solo journey around the world changed her perspective, becoming "the catalyst for a career change."

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Maria Fitzpatrick, MSW '14

Maria Fitzpatrick, MSW ’14

It began, as dreams often do, in a park playground. Maria Fitzpatrick, MSW ’14, often took her 4-year-old son to play in McGolrick Park, a long-neglected park in the heart of Greenpoint, a historic and culturally diverse neighborhood in North Brooklyn.

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David Flomenhaft, LCSW, PhD

In the days and weeks following 9/11, many mental health professionals in the New York City area staffed crisis centers that provided counseling for first responders, as well as for spouses, children, or parents of those who had fallen. As the enormity of the tragedy became apparent, David Flomenhaft, LCSW, PhD, part of a Nassau County mental health team, saw that although resources were available to support surviving children and spouses, “I realized there was another group that hadn’t been served – sibling survivors.”

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Erika Freund, MSW '10

Erica Freund

NYU Silver second-year MSW student Erika Freund spent this last summer volunteering in Tanzania, a largely struggling nation in eastern Africa. She worked with a local Tanzanian organization called EDU-Care in a village called Machumba, but did more than most volunteers.

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Audrey Geyer, MSW ’94

audrey geyer

At the end of October, the documentary Our Fires Still Burn by Audrey Geyer, MSW ’94, will be shown at the 2014 Council on Social Work Education Annual Program Meeting. Part of the CSWE Film Festival, Our Fires Still Burn explores the experiences of contemporary Native Americans through a compilation of frank, compelling first-person narratives.

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Greta Gleissner, MSW '10

Greta Gleissner

Greta Gleissner, MSW '10, grew up dancing and dreamed of kicking up her heels with the Rockettes. When she got her chance at age 24, she auditioned and was cast in the Christmas Spectacular in Branson, Missouri.

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Diane Grodney, PhD '90

Diane Grodney

My career began in 1977 after I graduated from Columbia University School of Social Work. My first job was in a mental health clinic in East New York. I began working in the field of substance abuse, specifically a methadone maintenance treatment program, and went quickly from a direct line practitioner to a supervisor.

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Hilary Herbold, MSW '11

Hilary Herbold

For years Hilary Herbold, a student in the 32-month master’s program, has wanted to be a social worker and therapist. And though her path was circuitous—including a doctoral degree in English and two deanships at Princeton University—she is expected to achieve her lifelong goal in May.

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Ilana Horowitz, MSW '06

Ilana Horowitz, MSW '06

Assisted Outpatient Treatment Coordinator

Ilana Horowitz, a native New Yorker, works at Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center (Brooklyn, NY).

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Sarah Kahn

Sarah Khan

In the early 1990s, Sarah Kahn was employed as a social worker at a Wall Street brokerage house. While she was well paid and felt she was making a difference, when Kahn went home each evening, she read about the raging Balkan war and the atrocities suffered by the region's citizens.

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Maryum Khwaja, MSW '01

Maryum Khwaja

Maryum Khwaja always finds time to contribute to her New York University community, even working full time as an emergency room social worker at the Queens Hospital Center. Up to four nights per week, Khwaja volunteers her time as the director of social services at the NYU Islamic Center, where she provides counseling to students and members of the larger community at no charge.

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Amber Kline, MSW '06

Amber Kline, MSW '06

Psychiatric Social Worker

Amber Kline is a psychiatric social worker at the Capitol District Psychiatric Center in Albany, NY. Amber is part of a team (including a psychiatrist and a nurse) that provides comprehensive evaluations of patients brought into the facility, to determine whether the patient is in need of hospitalization or can be released with a referral for follow-up care.

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Gerald Landsberg, MSW '67

Gerald Landsberg

In the 1960s, the New York University School of Social Work was a very different place. First, it was a much smaller school. I [studied] here from 1965 to 1967 and we had maybe 200 students in the school. It was also a time of great social activism. At that time about two-thirds of the students were interested in direct practice and the rest were interested in community organization.

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Linda Lausell Bryant, PhD Candidate

Linda Bryant

Linda Lausell Bryant, executive director of Inwood House (New York, NY) and a doctoral student at the Silver School of Social Work, has been working to promote adolescent well-being since her first days of social work practice. “The adolescent age group has always been my interest. It’s a pivotal time in human development—you can think of all the things that can go right or go wrong and derail their lives,” said Lausell Bryant, adding: “Our society really doesn’t make a place for adolescents.”

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Sapna Mendon, MSW '10

Sapna Mendon

Growing up in southern California, Sapna Mendon was raised in a family where social justice, equal rights, and the value of counseling were woven into the fabric of her life. Her mother was an occupational therapist, and it seemed almost natural to be interested in the skills of therapeutic counseling.

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Michael Miller, MSW '11

Michael Miller

Michael Miller has not yet started the second year of his MSW program, but is already looking to his next academic venture. “I want to get a PhD. I want to teach, I want to do research,” he said.

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Clare Morris, MSW '09

Clare Morris

Clare Morris, MSW '09, understands first hand the importance of showing people what technology can do for them. She explained, "We help people recognize the value of technology and how it can make their life easier."

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Claudia Narvaez-Meza, MSW '07

Homelands: Women’s Journeys Across Race, Place and Time (Seal Press, 2006) is a collection of 28 stories by women describing what “homeland” means in the context of immigration, war, or exile. Claudia Narvaez-Meza’s powerful chapter, “Sowing for Lineage,” explores her Nicaraguan origins, her mother’s struggle for survival as a factory worker in Brooklyn, and the impacts of growing up poor in urban America.

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Mildred Otero

“I tell people all the time: the reason that I pursued an MSW is that your career opportunities become limitless,” said Mildred Otero (MSW ’03), Legislative Assistant to Senator Hillary Clinton since March 2006. As an aide to Senator Clinton, Otero has been working on issues that include education, child welfare and families, including helping to draft and analyze legislation.

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Cayce Pack, BS '12, MSW '13

Cayce Pack

Cayce Pack, BS ’12, MSW ’13, has long felt attracted to social work on a global scale. Now she’s doing just that, at Tomorrow’s Youth Organization (TYO) in Nablus, a West Bank city that has the Palestinian Territory’s largest refugee population.

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Patrick Padgen, MSW '14, MPH '14

patrick padgen

Individuals who choose to pursue a career in social work enter into a vast world of diverse and far-ranging opportunities. The portability and applicability of a social work degree is one of its many selling points, and Patrick Padgen, MSW ’14, MPH ’14, has taken advantage of its versatility.

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Mary Pender Greene, MSW '74

Mary Pender Greene

Mary Pender Greene received an MSW from the New York University Silver School of Social Work (SSSW) in 1974. A former president of the New York City chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (2002 – 2004), she holds certifications in family and group therapy and is an expert on institutional racism and multiculturalism in the workplace.

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Soroya Pognon, MSW '05

soroya pognon

After receiving her master of social work degree, Soroya Pognon, MSW ’05, accepted a job offer from the site of her second-year placement—a 128-bed psychiatric hospital in Northern New Jersey.

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Amanda Raposo, BS '11

Amanda Raposo

A junior in the NYU Silver School of Social Work (SSSW) BSW program, Amanda Raposo is already using her course work and contacts to produce social change in her community. She began by volunteering with at-risk teenage mothers in Bellevue Hospital. “I thought I would be able to make things better right away because I cared so much,” she said.

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Natalia Ritter, MSW '63

Natalia Ritter

Natalia Ritter retired from the NYU Silver School of Social Work in 2004. She spent seven years working on continuing education programs, directing special training programs for outside agencies. Her relationship with the School, however, spans over 50 years.

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Jerry Sander

Permission Slips (The Way It Works Press, 2005) is SSW alumna Jerry Sander’s edgy novel about students and adults navigating their way through the social, cultural, and bureaucratic minefield that is high school. “I chose the title for a number of reasons, but chiefly because ‘permission slip’ is a metaphor for control – it’s the illusion that adults have control, yet it starts slipping away when the students are adolescents,” said Sander.

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Katie Savin, BS '10

Katie Savin

Katie Savin was 12 years old when she found out she had insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, also known as juvenile or type 1 diabetes. The diagnosis changed her life significantly and, in a sense, planted the seeds of her future journey into social work. “My interaction with a social worker as a child diabetic made a profound impression on me,” said Savin, undergraduate class of 2010.

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Jama Shelton, MSW '04

Jama Shelton

Jama Shelton, MSW ’04, LMSW, Ph.D. is a nationally recognized leader on the issue of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth homelessness with more than 14 years of experience working with LGBT youth, the last 10 of which were focused specifically on the issue of homelessness.

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Denise Shipper, MSW '78

denise shipper

Social work graduates often find themselves working among diverse elements of social justice: policy, child welfare, domestic violence, or the LGBTQ community. Denise Shipper, MSW ’78, has found her calling in food; that is, food philanthropy.

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Barbara Staley, MSW '95

Barbara Staley (MSW ’95) works hard to provide a holistic program of care for the 127 children at St. Phillip’s Mission, a hostel for orphans in Swaziland.

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Rick Steinhaus, MSW '06

Rick Steinhaus, MSW '06

Social Worker, Adult Caregiver Support

Rick is a social worker at the Mount Sinai Care Givers Resource Center, helping to provide services, support, respite, education, and counseling to caregivers of people 18 years or older in upper Manhattan.

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Elizabeth Taub, MSW '11

Elizabeth Taub

Elizabeth Taub, BS '10, MSW '11, does not work in your typical social work environment. She has gone corporate, employed by Walgreens, a Fortune 30 company, on their initiative to hire more people with disabilities. People with disabilities are among the most shunned, diverse groups in society.

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Roxana Sobie Tetenbaum, MSW '06

Roxana Sobie Tetenbaum, MSW '06

Geriatric Mental Health Social Worker

Roxana is a mental health social worker at Henry Street Settlement Supportive Services for Seniors, working with the Hispanic elderly. She assists seniors across a range of issues, from housing and social isolation to navigating new Medicaid rules.

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Jasmine Thomas, MSW '06

Jasmine Thomas, MSW '06

Program Officer, New York Community Trust

Jasmine Thomas is a Program Officer at The New York Community Trust. Her responsibilities include crafting and funding grants to non-profit organizations in areas of HIV/AIDS, local environment, Native Americans, Appalachia, and the Gulf Coast.

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Nathan Thomas, LMSW, MSW '06

Nathan Thomas, LMSW, MSW '06

Coordinator, GLBT Youth in Foster Care

Nathan Thomas, originally from Los Gatos, California, is the Independent Living Skills Coordinator for Green Chimneys Children's Services at the Gramercy Residence in Manhattan.

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Carol Tosone, PhD '93

Carol Tosone

I came to the Silver School in August of 1993. And the School, in some ways, is very much similar and in other ways very different. I think the focus in the early 1990s was analytic with a strong emphasis on clinical work, but also with a strong sense of community, family, and purpose to educating our students.

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Ferne Traeger, MSW '98

Ferne Traeger, LCSW, has a plan, and it’s a good one.

Ferne Traeger (MSW ’98), founder of Beyond the Boardroom, has worked for more than ten years with mostly female professionals holding degrees from the nation’s top universities, people who have “off-ramped” from the traditional 9-to-5 mainly to raise their children, and have decided to return to work.

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Ann Webre, MSW '69

Ann Webre

When Ann Webre attended the NYU Silver School of Social Work, few professionals were qualified to work with the developmentally disabled. Her scholarship required her to serve that population, and she did. At her first field work placement, AHRC (Association for the Help of Retarded Children), now-retired Professor Eleanore Korman supervised the student unit.

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Clark Williams, MSW '97

Clark Williams, MSW '97

When Clark Williams, MSW '97, learned he had been named the 2010 Social Worker of the Year for Santa Clara County, he was shocked. "As social workers, we don't perform our work for honors or awards."

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