NYU Silver MSW Students Awarded CSWE Minority Fellowships

Left to Right: Olivia Byrd and Carly Johnson
Left to Right: Olivia Byrd and Carly Johnson

Class of 2019 MSW students Olivia Byrd and Carly Johnson have been awarded Master's fellowships from the Council on Social Work Education’s (CSWE) Minority Fellowship Program. The one-year fellowship, which is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), provides a stipend, training, and professional development supports to outstanding MSW students who are committed to providing behavioral health services to underserved racial/ethnic minority communities after they graduate.

Fellow Olivia Byrd’s mental health interest is serving women of color in disenfranchised communities and addressing the associated stigma. “As an adolescent,” she said, “I observed individuals in my community, and even a few family members, trying to cope with their mental health or substance use in secret. Witnessing their experiences and living in a disenfranchised community of color, I realized how challenging it was for them to seek help because of the negative stigma of having a mental health diagnosis combined with the lack of access to resources and adequate health care due to our zip code. As a result of this and my community involvement growing up, I continue to be motivated to learn and grow in how to serve those in need."

Olivia is part of NYU Silver’s Focused Learning Opportunity in Evidence Based Practice for Adults with Severe Mental Illness, which combines coursework, field education, and colloquia to prepare students to deliver advanced therapeutic practices that have been proven effective through clinical research. Her current field placement is with ICL's Pathway to Home team, which provides trauma-informed, recovery-oriented integrated and person-centered care to individuals with severe and persistent mental health diagnoses.

According to Olivia, “The Silver School of Social Work has prepared me clinically and enhanced my leadership skills. But most importantly the global opportunities helped shape me. Having the ability to participate in NYU Silver Global programs has ignited my passion to understand the endless possibilities of my role as a future clinician and how I can address and provide mental health and sustainable preventive services to communities in need not just in the U.S. but globally."

Fellow Carly Johnson’s career goal is to be a social worker in a clinical practice serving adults experiencing mental illness and confronting the intersection of race, poverty, and mental health as it relates to mass incarceration and trauma. She explained that her professional interest in mental health care was motivated by her personal exposure to the field. “For several years before grad school I worked on a suicide prevention hotline and at an outpatient depression clinic,” she said. “That shaped my curiosity in the environmental constituents of mental health, and the various ways that society shapes health outcomes.”

Carly’s current field placement is in an inpatient adult psychiatric unit at New York State Psychiatric Institute, which integrates teaching, research, and therapeutic intervention, and serves an ethnically an economically diverse population. There she conducts individual, family, and group counseling, and facilitates discharge planning.

According to Carly, “NYU Silver has cultivated a deeper passion in me to better serve individuals experiencing mental illness, and confront systems of oppression as they inevitably intersect with the mental health system. Coursework and working with clients involved in the criminal justice system have made me increasingly more aware of the severity of mass incarceration as it relates to mental health, race, and poverty. It is ultimately a combination of these things that has motivated my interest in using egalitarian approaches to promote empowerment and opportunities that can help people successfully meet their needs.“

Carly said a particularly important lesson she has learned at NYU Silver is “evaluating the power and privilege associated with my role and identity; to specifically take responsibility in dismantling power dynamics and hierarchical assumptions inherent in client to social worker relationships.” She also cited the School’s critical emphasis on self-care.

Olivia, Carly and the other MFP Master’s fellows will attend an in-person training on March 24-27, 2019 in Alexandria, VA and participate in virtual webinars throughout the fellowship year that will strengthen their competency to work with underrepresented and underserved racial/ethnic minorities with or at risk for mental health and/or substance abuse disorders.