NYU SSLD Fellow Robert Aviles, MSW ’22

Robert Aviles headshotMeet Robert Aviles (he/him), MSW ’22, one of six NYU Silver students in the 2021-22 cohort of NYU’s Social Sector Leadership Diversity Fellowship (SSLD). The 18-month leadership development program for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) graduate students across all NYU schools equips fellows with the skills, knowledge and networks needed to make a lasting impact in their fields and communities, through a combination of retreats, monthly workshops, individualized coaching, social events and annual leadership summits.

As an MSW candidate, Robert focuses on clinical social work with a social justice and anti-oppressive perspective. “Through the MSW program,” he said, “I am deepening my understanding around diagnostic assessment, intervention, and evaluation skills, while gaining critical understanding of mental health and illness – including the social, economic, and political factors that impact them.” Robert added, “I am also very passionate about critically examining social policies and the links between policies and practice, particularly how the two impact marginalized, systematically disadvantaged, and historically excluded communities.” 

Through this point in his studies, Robert would like to acknowledge NYU Silver professors Amanda Mays, Candice Jarvis, Dr. Olatunde Olusesi, Dr. Ralph DePalo, Matt Wofsy and the incomparable Sasha Massey, Associate Director of the SSLD program, for “the excellence they bring to their work, passion and dedication towards their students’ growth and success, transformative classroom experience, and for the significant impact and influence they all have had on both my personal and professional journey.”

Now in his specialized practice year of the MSW program, Robert works directly with BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and individuals living with HIV/AIDS, with an emphasis on mental health and trauma. He is doing his Field placement this year at NYC Affirmative Psychotherapy (NYCAP), a community-focused private practice which provides sliding-scale psychotherapy, having a special commitment to LGBTQ+ communities of color. NYCAP was founded and is led by NYU Silver alum Aaron Skinner Spain, MSW ’09.

At NYCAP, Robert receives strong clinical supervision as he provides direct psychotherapy to individual adults, does intake assessments and documents clinical progress notes, collaborates with other medical health professionals and external networks for client support, and participates in a bi-weekly Racial Literacy Group, Case Seminar, and other professional development learning opportunities. Starting in January 2022, he has the incredible opportunity to co-lead NYCAP’s newest and dynamic process group, with a deep focus to serve persons [non-gender specific] living with HIV. 

In addition to pursuing his MSW, Robert is currently employed full-time with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, where he provides a variety of mental health and public health education training programs to New York City residents across the five boroughs. Robert is actually a career changer. He successfully completed his Bachelor of Music with a specialization in Opera and Voice Performance from Nyack College and left behind an extensive background in music and performance to pursue his passion for social work and justice. 

Post graduation, Robert said, “the opportunities of what to do are endless, however, it is my desire to remain within the private practice setting and continue my love for direct practice for now.” Robert plans to work towards becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and wants to return back to school eventually to complete a Doctorate of Social Work (DSW). Robert also shared his love for academia and public speaking. 

Robert noted that “the SSLD program has made such a profound impact on my life. This experience has introduced me to critical leadership theories and offered personalized support. In addition, the SSLD program provides so many opportunities for fellows to practice the skills required to lead ethically, inclusively, and collaboratively in our chosen fields, while building a network of other incredible BIPOC leaders who truly become your family and are excellent in what they do.”

“Personally,” Robert added, “this cohort has become all the more meaningful considering our global health crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, the state of our country as a whole, and what it means to be BIPOC within historically white institutions and how to navigate these spaces.  You’re never in this cohort alone; the emphasis is togetherness. It is a space for us, run and led by us. The ways in which you can intersect your learning and experiences between both the SSLD program and education here at NYU Silver truly distinguishes you and sets you ahead. The opportunity is here for you, and your cohort will be so much greater because YOU are in it. The SSLD program has been my graduate experience highlight, for sure.” 

Robert encourages all BIPOC masters and doctoral students slated to graduate in or after May 2023, who are passionate about developing leadership skills and advancing racial justice, who desire to assume leadership roles within their communities, organizations, and agency contexts, and who demand both radical and positive change within the social sector to apply for the 2022-23 SSLD cohort. Applications are being accepted now through January 16, 2022. Learn more and apply at bit.ly/applyssld.