Spring 2024 InDepth Magazine

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InDepth

A Day in the Life

STORIES FROM ALUMNI

SPRING 2024 SMITH COLLEGE SCHOOL FOR SOCIAL WORK
Cynthia Barrett, M.S.W. ’23 and Rita Phang, M.S.W. ’23 enjoyed great food and even better company at the 2023 Opening Ceremony.

InDepth is published by the Smith College School for Social Work. Its goal is to connect our School community, celebrate recent accomplishments and capture the research and scholarship at the School for Social Work.

EDITORIAL TEAM

Laura Noel

Simone Stemper

DESIGN

Lilly Pereira

Maureen Scanlon

Murre Creative

CONTRIBUTORS

Kira Goldenberg

Katie Potocnik Medina

Tynan Power

Faye S. Wolfe

Megan Rubiner Zinn

PRINCIPAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Shana Sureck

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR AND ALUMNI UPDATES CAN BE SENT TO:

InDepth Managing Editor Smith College School for Social Work Lilly Hall Northampton, MA 01063 413-585-7950 indepth@smith.edu ©2024

Books are magic! Emely Rumble, M.S.W. ’10 shares how they help her create healing space.

DEPARTMENTS 02 From the Dean A note from Marianne Yoshioka 03 SSWorks School News + Updates Student Focus 28 Alumni News Alumni Desk Alumni Lives Alumni Profile 36 Post Script An End Note
THE COVER
Therapist
which
embodied care and support for
care workers
health. Photo
Shana Sureck.
ON
Asher Pandjiris, M.S.W. ’13 co-founded Kintsugi
Collective
provides virtual
marginalized therapists and
in mental
by
FOLLOW US ON: Facebook facebook.com/ smithcollegessw Instagram instagram.com/ smithcollegessw YouTube bit.ly/SSWYouTube
SPRING 2024
FEATURES 10 A Day in the Life Eight alumni share snapshots of their daily lives and work: 12 Caroline Russell Smith Unlocking intimacy 14 JD Fuller Decolonizing mental health 16 Asher Pandjiris Crafting a balanced life 18 Pamela L. Begay Indigenous advocacy 20 Emely Rumble The magic of bibliotherapy 22 LaToya Lopez Severe mental illness support 24 Beth Prullage Campus canine therapy 26 Terry Northcut Teaching and mindfulness
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SMITH COLLEGE SCHOOL FOR SOCIAL WORK
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In many ways, my job is like that of a conductor of a magnificent orchestra. I make sure everyone knows what music we are playing today and what we will be playing in the future.

A Dean’s Day

The power of our educational programs is best demonstrated through the extraordinary work of our alumni. So, we took a new approach in this edition of InDepth. We’re very excited to share some snapshots with you into the lives of our distinguished alumni. We are so proud to share the important ways they are making a difference through education, advocacy and private practice.

Following the theme of the issue, A Day in the Life, I wanted to share my update through the lens of a typical day’s work as dean of our School.

I like to start my day with reading, spending time with my partner, exercising, walking the dogs, eating breakfast and doing a first round of emails. I find spending a little extra time doing this every morning sets my day up in the best way possible. It’s much easier to control how my day begins than it is to control what time my work day will end! Whenever possible, I block off a few hours in my day to write and create materials for upcoming meetings and deadlines.

The reality is, my day is filled with meetings with colleagues at the School and around the country. I chair a number of doctoral student dissertation committees (which I love) and I serve on the board of the National Association of Deans and Directors of Social Work and I co ­lead the Leadership Academy for Deans and Directors and several non profit organizations as a part of my community service.

Throughout the day, I also make an effort to connect with staff, faculty and other colleagues at the college or around

the country, exchanging information or sharing conversation. I believe that the work day should also have some fun, so taking time to connect is important. I try to end my day with a final round of emails, hopefully closing my laptop by 8 p.m.

In many ways, my job is like that of a conductor of a magnificent orchestra. I make sure everyone knows what music we are playing today and what we will be playing in the future whether that’s one month or one year ahead. I set the tone for how this School will operate, how we will move forward in line with our Core Principles, improving and refining our stellar educational programs and enabling faculty and doctoral students to engage in the generation of social work knowledge. I am deeply committed to aligning all parts of our School with our principles and our mission. I take our Community Agreement very seriously and aim to live up to it everyday.

Now, I am busy getting ready for our 106th summer. I’m looking forward to the Deepening Clinical Practice conference. Not only is it a great opportunity for learning (and earning CEs!) but a great chance to spend a day in community. I am so proud of our faculty, students and staff who are designing thoughtful, intentional events for the summer that embody our Core Principles and demonstrate care and respect for this special community.

Though busy, I am lucky to have colleagues and students who fill my days with energy and creativity. The enthusiasm to build a loving, accountable community is energizing. ◆

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Facing page: Marianne loves starting her day with a walk in the woods with Juju and Ren.

SSWorks

News from Lilly Hall

IN THIS SECTION SCHOOL NEWS

STUDENT FOCUS

New Vision for Teaching

Commitment to informing and guiding the development of adjunct instructors

There’s no such thing as ‘arriving as a teacher’… this is lifelong learning. For me, there’s great joy in collective learning.
—MEGAN HARDING, ASSOCIATE DEAN

In January, SSW launched the Teaching and Learning Institute, a two-year pilot program of pedagogicallyfocused professional development for current and former adjunct instructors. The idea for the institute came out of the School’s desire to ensure its five Core Principles of racial justice work are centered, informing and guiding all aspects of the program.

“We realized there is an opportunity to do some deep collective learning on our classroom practices,” said Associate Dean Megan Harding, M.S.W. ’07 who worked with Alberto Guerrero, M.S.W., Ph.D., and other SSW faculty to bring the institute to fruition.

“There’s no such thing as ‘arriving’ as a teacher…this is lifelong learning. For me, there's great joy in collective learning, investing together using the five principles as a centerpiece.”

The curriculum of the Teaching and Learning Institute unpacks those principles pedagogically, while also working to expand and strengthen teaching skills, like lesson planning, purposeful engagement strategies, question posing, interrupting groupthink and formative assessment.

The program is designed in two parts. The first segment of the program takes place online between January and May, covering five thematic modules. In the second segment, participants will practice focused skills with a virtual simulated classroom experience. This component involves meeting three times over the course of a year.

Harding provides administrative oversight for the institute in her role as associate dean of academic affairs, while Guerrero serves as the institute’s coordinator and primary instructor.

“Alberto and I have both worked in the public school system—I used to work in the Holyoke Public Schools and Alberto taught on the west side of Chicago,” said Harding. “We have a deep respect for both the art and the science of teaching and we both find great joy in it. So Alberto was a natural partner to not only design and develop it, but to take on the role of coordinator.”

Planning for the institute’s launch involved designing the program, seeking and incorporating feedback and selecting the first cohort. The team began by establishing the five modules of the program: SSW’s five principles and power; building and sustaining classroom culture and community; pedagogical preparation; formative assessment and building a culture of feedback; and synthesis and integration. These five modules cover a broad range of topics such as assessing how power shows up in the classroom,

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addressing groupthink, handling ruptures in the classroom and student disengagement, the use of universal design to counter ableism and enhance accessibility, lesson pacing and providing high quality feedback.

They then identified objectives for each of the 16 instruction sessions and developed lesson plans for each. In the process, they returned again and again to the five Core Principles to ensure they were at the center of each component of the program.

When the initial program development was complete, the team sought feedback from the resident faculty as well as hosting a focus group with participation from Smith College’s Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Floyd Cheung, representatives from the Office of Disability Services, and the Sherrerd Center for Teaching and Learning, as well as current adjuncts and students in the program. Based on this feedback, the team revised plans and materials.

Finally, they identified criteria to invite experienced instructors who would join the institute’s first cohort. There was significant interest and it was important that participants must be able to attend all sessions, barring unforeseen emergencies. Harding and Guerrero felt strongly that all participants needed to be consistently engaged with the institute during this first trial, so that the evaluations of

the program could be as accurate and comprehensive as possible.

“We are eager to figure out genuinely effective ways to pedagogically integrate SSW’s five Core Principles, so we will continually evaluate this institute to see what we learn and how the institute—and our graduate program instruction—can be improved,” said Harding.

In addition to Harding and Guerrero, the institute has benefitted from the guidance of Associate Professor Kenta Asakura, M.S.W. ’04, Ph.D., LICSW. Asakura provides invaluable insight as an expert in the application of simulations—in which professional actors portray realistic and complex client scenarios—in the profession of social work.

“As far as I know, no one else in social work is using simulationbased faculty development to train instructors to become better educators,” said Asakura. “The idea is to have instructors try out new skill sets, make mistakes (without causing real harm) in a simulated situation and further develop their teaching skills as educators.”

Simulations can be especially beneficial as a way to allow educators to reflect on and discuss scenarios that address complex issues like racial justice and accessibility in the classroom.

“The most essential element of simulation-based learning is the

post-simulation debrief,” said Asakura. “This is where the educator (who engages the simulation) can reflect back on the experience, while observers (i.e., other educators) of the simulation can share their observation. Together, learners—both those who engage simulations directly and those who observe the simulations—can hopefully develop critical consciousness around power, power dynamics, discourses and their own biases.”

The Teaching and Learning Institute is a natural next step for a School where more than 90% of graduate courses each summer are taught by adjuncts. Adjunct instructors are highly skilled, with expertise in diverse areas of social work and with a wide range of classroom teaching experiences and insights.

“So many of our courses are taught by adjuncts,” said Harding. “For those of us who are resident faculty, these adjuncts are our colleagues. This institute is a way for us to honor and center the wisdom, the skill and the commitment that our adjuncts offer us.”

“I value this collaboration with Alberto Guerrero, Kenta Asakura and other colleagues at SSW and I look forward to learning how to continuously improve not only our classroom practice, but our supportive programming for our valued adjuncts,” said Harding. ◆

SPOKEN WORD

“ I feel it is my responsibility to hold that I am in a position of power and need to constantly dialogue with the assumptions that go along with [it] rather than coming in with the lens that therapy is the end-all be-all. [This] builds greater trust between me and my clients to be in a process of discovery together and when we do trauma work, trust is a foundation of safety.”
JORDAN ALAM, M.S.W. ’20, LICSW
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Legacy of Dedication

Irene

Rodríguez-M retires after 37 years of exemplary service

As a first generation college attender, Irene Rodríguez-M, Ed.D., has spent a career dedicated to access, support and retention for students, particularly students of color and those sharing her experience as a first generation student. When she announced her retirement after 37 years at the School for Social Work (she first joined Smith College in 1986 serving as the director of alumni affairs), her colleagues shared that she is “thoughtful, sensitive and passionate,” “competent, dedicated and true to the core values of social work” and that through her work she “made other people shine and glitter.”

As the world celebrated the millennium, Rodríguez-M expanded her role at Smith, taking on leadership and oversight of the Office of Graduate Enrollment, the Registrar’s Office and Financial Aid and Student Services. Adding student success to her existing roster of professional work laid the foundation for her present work as associate dean of graduate enrollment and student services where she has overseen student success from application through graduation.

Alongside Deans Hartman, Lightburn and Jacobs, Rodríguez-M worked tirelessly to expand support for and to grow the enrollment of Black, Indigenous and students of color at the School.

“When she took over as director of admission, Black, Indigenous and people of color made up 5% of the entering class,” said Professor Emeritus Joshua Miller. “Irene methodically and radically changed that.”

Her mentorship as a professional leader and thinker and her camaraderie as a woman in higher ed and as a person of color has had a lasting impact on my career and on me personally.
—VALERIE NGUYÊ N HOOPER, SENIOR ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF ADMISSION

Under her leadership the School consistently enrolls a class made up of 25-30% Black, Indigenous and students of color.

“She balanced consistency and standards with understanding the human condition to advocate for students who are typically marginalized…” said Maconda Brown O’Connor Professor Marsha Kline Pruett, M.S., M.S.L., Ph.D., ABPP, who served alongside Rodríguez-M as associate dean of academic affairs. “She was a tireless champion of student financial support—pulling out all the stops to find creative ways of increasing scholarships and grants, even when money wasn’t readily available.”

Over the course of her career, Rodríguez-M has seen the School and the world undergo many changes including five deans, the creation (and ultimate discontinuation) of the 1997 anti-racism statement, the writing of the School’s Core Principles, the sunsetting of the M.S.W. thesis, a revamp of the M.S.W. and Ph.D. programs, two re-affirmations (one of which she spearheaded) and more. Through it all, the School’s commitment to clinical social work education and Rodríguez-M’s commitment to equity and access has never wavered.

“Irene helped students decide to come to SSW and then supported them all the way through,” said Kline Pruett. “She got to know students and responded to them as individuals, focusing on their strengths but also upholding standards that helped them grow into professionals.”

Though her work was centered around recruiting and

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retaining students, Rodríguez-M showed an unparallelled commitment to all facets of the School. When hired, she was the only person of color on staff, a far cry from the diverse group of individuals the School employs today, and, as with students, Rodríguez-M has mentored and supported innumerable staff in their professional development.

“I’ve taken great pride in recruiting diversity onto the teams that I’ve overseen,” said Rodríguez-M. “I have LOVED these teams! They have been joyful, smart, hard-working and I never fail to learn something from them.”

“I have had the honor of working for and with Idene for more than 20 years,” said Valerie Nguyê ~ n Hooper, senior associate director of admission. “Her mentorship as a professional leader and thinker and her camaraderie as a woman in higher ed and as a person of color has had a lasting impact on my career and on me personally. I have had the privilege of not only experiencing her knowledge, capacity, kindness, and insight, but also the privilege of watching hundreds of others do the same. I cherish her and her example of dedication and friendship in my life and in the world.”

“Without her, the School would not have functioned—kind of like a car not having an ignition system,” said Miller. “She never said ‘I only do this.’ Her commitment to the entire program was evinced by her selfless work and actions.”

“SSW has benefited directly and profoundly from her work, her vision and her generosity,” said Dean and Elizabeth Marting Treuhaft Professor Marianne Yoshioka. “Irene is a consummate professional and leader. Every day she brought her wisdom, outstanding management and planning skills and deep knowledge about social work education. I will miss her counsel, humor and thoughtfulness.”

Rodríguez-M plans to spend her retirement tending bees, Christmas trees, vegetable gardens and chickens with her husband in the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. —Laura Noel

FUTURE VISION

A new name to better represent long-term direction

In 1930 when SSW launched Smith College Studies in Clinical Social Work the editors aimed to contribute significantly to the development of clinical knowledge by publishing a wide range of influential social work thinkers. For many years the journal thrived, publishing diverse clinical research articles. As the School and the social work profession evolved to better address intersectional justice and the challenges posed by a constantly evolving cultural climate, editor Kenta Asakura, M.S.W. ’04, Ph.D., LICSW, began to reconsider the original title.

SSW AMONG TOP 6 PERCENT OF SOCIAL WORK GRADUATE PROGRAMS

Smith College School for Social Work was ranked twentieth in the U.S. News & World Reports 2024 Best Social Work Programs. The survey compared 319 M.S.W. programs in the United States. This ranking places SSW in the top 6 percent of social work schools.

“Our consistently high ranking does not happen by accident. The intentional effort and commitment to excellent pedagogy of both our faculty and staff contributes directly to our rank.” said Dean Marianne Yoshioka. “I believe very deeply in our program. We have built not only a strong educational program but also a program rooted in care and accountability. I could not be more proud.”

Rankings are based “solely on the results of peer assessment surveys sent to deans, other administrators or faculty at accredited degree programs or schools in each discipline,” according to U.S. News & World Report. Only fully accredited programs in good standing are included in the rankings.

Asakura spent a year engaging in discussions and consultations with key stakeholders to find a way to more accurately represent the journal’s long-term goal of remaining a leading journal of clinical social work that focused not only on clinical practice but also on clinical education and research from the social work community. In 2024, under his leadership the journal was renamed Studies in Clinical Social Work: Transforming Practice, Education and Research. “We are very excited for this title change and feel it will better represent the aims, scope and focus of the journal while also emphasizing that it is open to submissions from all clinicians, social work educators, practicum instructors and researchers, regardless of their affiliation,” said Asakura. “This endeavor would not have been possible without our active and committed editorial advisory board, comprising scholars, educators and practitioners from diverse backgrounds. I also extend my gratitude to Maria Maldonado-Morales, LCSW-S, MPH, Ph.D. student, who works alongside me as the journal’s editorial assistant, as well as [...] colleagues from Taylor and Francis.”

Asakura remarked that he is filled with “a profound sense of pride” as he begins his journey as editor-in-chief. The first edition with the new title was published by Taylor and Francis in early 2024. —Laura Noel

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Volume 94, Issues 1-4, 2024 Studies in Clinical Social Work Transforming Practice, Education and Research studies in clinical social work Volume 94, Issues 1-4, 2024 Studies in Clinical Social Work Smith College School for Social Work Lilly Hall Northampton MA 01063

Nurturing Inclusivity

Self-expression plays heavily into Cyril Slemaker’s practicum placements

During his two internships as an M.S.W. student at Smith College School for Social Work, Cyril Slemaker—who graduates after this upcoming summer term—has become a fixture on the college campus. He completed his first-year placement at the Office of Disability Services, where he helped connect students with accommodations. And he is currently interning at the Schacht Center, the college’s on-campus counseling facility. There, he meets with four to five clients daily in addition to writing the notes and attending the meetings that undergird the day-to-day work of a practicing therapist.

He opted to do both placements at the college because it cultivates an environment that makes Slemaker, who identifies as trans and as someone living with a vision-related disability, feel considered and comfortable.

“I want to be able to be my whole self in a space, and I know I can do that at Smith,” he said.

Those identities shape both his daily existence and his clinical practice. He carpools to campus with a fellow intern because, unable to drive, he would otherwise need to walk or pay for a ride there. Once at work, Slemaker conducts therapy that

focuses on the client’s voice; he cannot rely on reading facial expressions and nuanced body language, two indicators of emotional status emphasized throughout most clinical training.

“For me, therapy is verbal more than it’s anything else,” he said. “I’m listening, I'm hearing the speech. Those things tell me way more than a small expression, because it’s not available to me.” That adaptation works especially well for neurodivergent clients who prefer to avoid eye contact, he said, the sort of unexpected benefit often revealed when fields are reimagined to allow more kinds of people into them.

“I’m really lucky that I never fit properly into the mold of expectations that people had of me, because there is a kind of freedom to being like ‘this is how I am in the world, and I can’t change it,’” he said.

Before entering social work, Slemaker spent seven years as a classroom teacher, where he began to notice the myriad ways that students with multiple vulnerabilities slipped through the cracks—and how he was rarely in a position to help change those circumstances.

“It would break my heart to see the way that the intersection of multiple marginalized identities was blatantly impacting the way students were able to navigate through the education system,” he said.

When he realized his desire to move away from teaching, he began to think about what drew him to education in the first place: it was the aspects of the job that most mirrored the practice of social work.

“I was able to connect students with resources; I was able to connect families with resources and also bear witness,” he said. Now, he does this in his fledgling clinical practice, and

I’m really lucky that I never fit properly into the mold of expectations that people had of me, because there is a kind of freedom to being like ‘this is how I am in the world, and I can’t change it.’
—CYRIL SLEMAKER

he plans to continue the work after graduation.

“I’d like to bring more disability justice to therapy. I think we’d all benefit,” Slemaker said.

At the end of his workday, Slemaker carpools home and then relaxes by doing art, like drawing or crochet. “I think it’s really important to wind down and just have as few thoughts as possible” to recharge for another day of clinical work, he said. This knowledge about how to care for himself has been part of his social work education, helping him preserve the bandwidth to show up daily for others.

“Going to social work school has really changed my life. It’s opened up an understanding of myself,” he said. “There’s a focus on who you are in the space and how you are interacting and what you’re bringing in that impacts the way you're able to connect with other people.” ◆

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A Day in the Life STORIES FROM ALUMNI

What does a day in the life of a social worker look like? Social work is one of the fastest growing professions in the U.S. and it allows for an enormous range of specialties and career paths. SSW alumni serve clients in a multitude of impactful ways throughout the United States and the world. Explore the dayto-day lives of just a handful of distinguished alumni, featuring the work of those in private practice, sex therapy, bibliotherapy, higher education, macro practice and more. Dive into their lives and learn how they balance client care, family life, hobbies and self-care.

Editor’s note: The following stories include composite scenarios of clients and do not represent any real clients. First names are used throughout to encourage connection with these snapshots of people’s intimate lives.

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A Day in the Life

Unlocking Intimacy SEX,

THERAPY, TRANSFORMATION

Talk about sex? Yes! As a sex and couple therapist, Caroline Russell Smith, M.S.W. ’00, LCSW-R, is greatly engaged by the intellectual richness of her work. This day in the life had its unique challenges, but was also typical in that, she said, “it required me to use my brain in many different ways.” The problems clients present can be complicated, difficult and deep-rooted. “Sex therapy rarely is talking about sex. It’s talking about the self.”

What follows are clinical composites but they are typical of the kinds of clients Caroline sees in a day.

“I see at least one person a day with pelvic pain. These clients can often present with dark, dense energy, hard to sit with. Yet they are also fiery in their intent to experience pleasure. My role is to stay hopeful in the presence of their doubt and to help them cultivate their potential to thrive. My focus is constantly shifting between sexual functioning, distress tolerance and parts work.”

By contrast, another typical client presents with, “sharp, loud, protesting energy,” in Caroline’s words, stemming from having some kind of genital cancer or medical condition that has robbed them of the sexual future they envisioned. “I work hard not to go with or against their protest and to create opportunities for fear and grief to enter the conversation. Working psychodynamically with loss is generally my framework.”

After sessions like these it is typical for Caroline to have a Zoom supervision meeting with therapists around the country who apply the PACT (Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy®) model to their work. “I love supervision, I’ll be in it until my very last day as a therapist,” she

said. “Seeking support and insight, we present cases of clients with sexual concerns. As I’ve gotten older and more experienced, I’ve become braver and more honest about sharing what’s not working—usually it has everything to do with me!—as well as what is. I have a hunger for feedback.”

Lunchtime often involves a walk—or a nap. “It really helps to power off for a moment.” After her break, on this day, she moves the furniture around for a couple counseling session. “I’ve been doing couples therapy for only three years. It’s such a different role. The clients are in each other’s care, not in mine the way individual clients are. I aim to be outside the action. I’m a beginner in this work, which is one of the great parts of being a therapist. There are so many ways to pivot professionally.”

Caroline also works with LGBTQ+ clients over the course of a typical day. “Often they are embarking on a new way of life, test-driving their changing bodies, their evolving sexualities, working to feel more at home in themselves in a world that is often hostile. Their relational, financial and spiritual worlds can be complex, even frightening, and there is also a lot of joy and excitement. My training at Smith still feels tangible in my work all these years later, especially when it comes to holding the macro and the micro over the course of a session, working with layers of systemic oppression and identifying pathways to personal liberation.”

Caroline is home in time for dinner with her family (that’s not always been the case, she acknowledges), then it’s on to leading a free community support group. She spoke enthusiastically about its makeup: “The participants range in age from 18 to 80 and across the LGBTQ+ spectrum, and they’re diverse in terms of race, class and ethnic background. It’s a beautiful web of journeys.” Leading this group for the past 15 years, Caroline said, “has been a way of being a part of my community, but even more, a way to offer people who have not been heard and served access to safe, loving connection.”

Her workday done, she plops down on the couch to watch “Julia,” the Max series about another Smith College alum, Julia McWilliams Child, A.B. ’34.

Asked how she handles the emotional demands of days like this one, Caroline said, “I have days when I feel confused or I feel the pain more. But the longer I do this and the more solid I am in my seat, the more capable and flexible I feel and the more I can stay in touch with my own optimism. And, the fact is, people can and do change! That’s so beautiful. I’m so inspired by people’s honesty, by the risks they’re willing to take to heal. I’m very grateful to be doing this work. What an amazing job!”

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PHOTOS: SHANA SURECK
Caroline relaxes with her wife at the end of a long day.

DEGREE:

M.S.W. ’00

LOCATION:

Saratoga Springs, NY

A Day in the Life

East Coast Sunrise to West Coast Sunset

DECOLONIZING MENTAL HEALTH

JD Fuller, M.S.W. ’99, LCSW, doesn’t sleep much. She wakes up early to commute to her day job at a prep school in New York City and then spends her evenings seeing private clients on telehealth into the West Coast evening.

NAME: JD Fuller

DEGREE:

M.S.W. ’99

LOCATION: New York City

Such is the life of a polymath social worker, whose work spans the spectrum of both micro and macro practice. She has dedicated her career to understanding the depth of global anti-Blackness and the colonization of mental health.

“I usually start my day at about 6 a.m. I ride a Citi Bike to work”— Léman Manhattan Preparatory School in lower Manhattan. “I deal with teenagers, support the lower school children and staff at any given moment. I deal with everything from ‘my friend talked about me’ to self harm and, unfortunately, suicidal ideation,” she said. “I created the Black Student Union (BSU) in the middle school, and I co-facilitate the high school’s [BSU] and also a mentoring group for boys. These are supportive spaces for kids in the Black diaspora to feel empowered. They get to process what it’s like to be

educated in a rigorous white space and to figure it out collaboratively.” She also manages the mental health needs of the school’s boarding students and runs parenting groups.

After school ends, JD’s day has just begun. “I walk another few miles to come back to the house where I see private practice clients” via telehealth, often until 10 p.m. to accommodate West Coast evening hours (JD lived in California for 20 years before moving back to the east coast early in the COVID-19 pandemic). She also coaches licensed clinicians, locally and internationally, seeking to combat anti-Black racism in their clinical practice, and she teaches an annual course on decolonizing mental health at the New Center for Psychoanalysis, based in Los Angeles.

Additionally, JD started a podcast called “Change the Narrative” in 2021, giving a weekly platform to people with underrepresented voices in the anti-racism space. Across nearly 150 episodes, she says that the greatest moment was getting to share space with one of her idols in this work, Resmaa Menakem, psychotherapist and author of My

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JD with a student at Léman Manhattan Preparatory School after a session.

Grandmother’s Hands, a book on healing racialized trauma. Another exciting interview of the many was current Illinois congressional candidate Qasim Rashid.

“This whole process of doing this podcast—that I paid for myself—was a work of passion,” JD said. “It was a bigger audience than in a classroom, an opportunity to have different types of people hear these conversations.”

JD’s commitment to deconstructing anti-Black racism grew out of lived experience, early experiences in social work, and her time at Smith School for Social Work. She grew up in Norwalk, Connecticut, a working class, diverse city sandwiched within some of the wealthiest and whitest towns in the nation. Relatives helped run an inner-city community center there, planting her roots in the profession from the start. Eventually, those roots grew into experience working in agencies, directing a teen youth center in Greenwich, Connecticut, and finally finishing her education at SSW. JD’s abilities were overlooked throughout her schooling, so getting to this point took great effort.

“I had to finish my education, because I didn’t like how people were treating me,” she said. JD earned her degree in the SUNY system and then applied to Smith, where she

Below: JD recording an episode of “Change the Narrative,” her podcast that platforms underrepresented voices in the anti-racism space.

“ I’m so sick of the white silence and the silence in the mental health field of what goes on in the world because people believe social work and therapy are neutral, when they’re not.”

flourished, researching racial identity development.

Years later, through post-M.S.W. work in a grueling child welfare job in Southern California and then transitioning into educational and media work, JD has found her voice, and she intends to continue using it.

“I want to get back to teaching as a way of sharing the lessons that I continue to learn,” she said. “I’m so sick of the white silence and the silence in the mental health field of what goes on in the world because people believe social work and therapy are neutral, when they’re not.”

—Kira Goldenberg
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PHOTOS: SHANA SURECK
Left: Early morning Manhattan commute.

A Day in the Life

Therapy, Balance and Community CRAFTING A BALANCED LIFE

For many years, Asher Pandjiris, M.S.W. ’13, LICSW, LCSW, worked as a clinician in demanding institutional settings: in a community mental health clinic, an inpatient psychiatric hospital and as program director of an eating disorder treatment facility. Today, having weathered the periods of burnout that can come with this exhausting work, they have a small private practice and have developed a work-life balance that supports their own mental and physical health as well as that of their clients.

In their small private practice, Asher works primarily with queer, trans, or non-binary adults who are returning to therapy after a previous experience. Many of their clients have experienced complex PTSD and have a wide variety of manifestations of that. Many have issues with disordered eating, which given Asher’s background, has become a specialty of theirs.

Asher is also devoted to helping their fellow clinicians develop their practices and especially to develop sustainable work lives that don’t undermine their physical and mental health. To that end, they and fellow SSW alum Onyx Fujii, M.S.W. ’12, launched the Kintsugi Therapist Collective. Kintsugi is a virtual community of trans and non-binary, BIPOC, chronically ill and disabled therapists and aligned care workers—nurse practitioners, psychiatric practitioners, body workers, dieticians, physicians,

psychiatrists—who have experienced burnout or are struggling with the unrealistic professional demands in their fields. The collective offers embodied care, support, wisdom and resources through year-long mentorships, weekend intensive sessions and ongoing consultation. As Asher described Kintsugi: “We are interested in trying to go from the inside out to address what we call toxic professionalism, and how that actually keeps us from providing a service to our clients and ourselves.”

An average day in Asher’s life reflects the work they have done to ensure they can thrive as a clinician. Especially because they live with several chronic illnesses, Asher orients their days around some predictability, with allowances for accommodating symptoms that may come up. “I diversify my tasks, and that really helps me. Being able to see a client and have a consultation—to move in and out of teaching, research and different roles—is a big part of what is working for me.”

The day starts at 6 a.m. with Asher letting their dogs out and getting their teenaged daughter up and ready for school. Then they walk the dogs, which is one of the highlights of their day—spending time with their pets, getting the opportunity to move and listening to podcasts (current favorites are true crime and Democracy Now!).

Knowing they are at their best and most alert in the morning and early afternoon, Asher sees clients between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. They’ll have three to four virtual sessions a day, reserving time between sessions for stretching and meditation, which they often do virtually with other people. After the sessions, they will squeeze in another walk and then get their daughter from school. In the afternoons, they may do work for Kintsugi—perhaps developing a syllabus or reading a case study that someone in the collective plans to present.

From there, it’s back to the usual activities of daily life: preparing dinner with their partner, reading, watching television or doing something similar to turn off their work brain before getting to bed by 9:30 p.m. At the end of their day, Asher will usually send a voice note to Onyx. They communicate daily, in part regarding Kintsugi, but also to maintain this important friendship. Onyx also lives with chronic illnesses, and they provide essential support for each other, talking about frustrations with doctor appointments, difficult symptoms or a challenging week.

“It’s not exciting, but I like it like that,” Asher said about their work life. “My description of a typical day sounds a little idealistic,” they acknowledged, “but a big part of how I have been able to create a schedule that is more gentle for me has been through a lot of periods of burnout. Being able to rely on spaces like the Kintsugi Therapist Collective, that prioritize sustainability and not leaving the field, has been pretty important.”

—Megan Rubiner Zinn

Spending time with the dogs is a highlight in Asher’s day.

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DEGREE: M.S.W. ’13

LOCATION:

Amherst, MA

NAME: Asher Pandjiris
SHANA SURECK
PHOTOS:

A Day in the Life

From Research to Mentorship

SOCIAL WORK EDUCATION AND INDIGENOUS ADVOCACY

NAME:

Pamela L. Begay

DEGREE:

Ph.D.

’20

LOCATION:

St. Louis, MO & New Mexico

In her doctoral research,

Pamela L. Begay, Ph.D. ’20, LCSW, a member of the Diné Nation of Shiprock, New Mexico, explored American Indian and Alaska Native social work faculty’s experiences of being mentored. Now, in her day-today life, Pamela herself is an academic, guiding the next generation of Native and non-Native social workers.

Pamela is an associate professor of practice at Washington University in St. Louis’s Brown School, the chair of their American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) concentration and the director of the Kathryn M. Buder Center for American Indian Studies, a center for academic advancement for AIAN master of social work students. Taking this position was a homecoming for Pamela—she earned her M.S.W. as a Buder Scholar. In addition to these positions, Pamela is the

senior editor for the Journal of Indigenous Research and an editorial board member of the Clinical Social Work Journal In her research, she focuses on cultural identity and issues surrounding Native women.

Before Pamela was recruited by the Brown School in 2022, she’d had a wide array of experiences in social work, which positioned her well in her role as an educator. She worked for the Southern Ute Tribal Court in Colorado as a child custody evaluator, a mental health guardian ad litem and a tribal court therapist. When she became a parent, Pamela decided to move her work closer to her family home in New Mexico, opening a private practice and serving as an administrator for the Navajo Nation’s substance abuse program. She still maintains a private telehealth psychotherapy practice in New Mexico with a focus on treating trauma.

Working in academia, the activities in Pamela’s daily life vary widely. Like most parents, she starts her day making sure her teenaged children, Athena and Miles, are awake. “And from there,” she said, “the fun begins.”

As an administrator and faculty member, Pamela spends a great deal of time in meetings at the university and also in the community, addressing budgets, policies and programmatic needs. The Buder Center is student-focused, so in that position, much of her time is dedicated to making sure she is available for student engagement, while ensuring they get the support they need. As an advisor she is usually assigned students who are on the clinical track, given her deep experience. Pamela also teaches AIAN classes such as Indigenous Knowledge, Values and Cultures along with clinical courses like Contemporary Theories and Issues in Behavioral Health and Principles of Differential Diagnosis.

Pamela’s work with the Buder Center also involves planning and participating in community events that connect Native-serving organizations locally and nationally. These include an annual powwow in April, which “highlights and brings Native people and the community together to celebrate Native culture,” she explained, and Hunt, Fish,

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Gather, at which a Native chef is invited to prepare a meal, share recipes, do a cooking demonstration and educate the community about Native foods.

Along with engaging with her fellow faculty members, these kinds of events are the highlight of Pamela’s work: “When I can connect with my wonderful staff and community members it creates a place we can gather with our students and celebrate their accomplishments.”

Pamela’s time outside the university tends to be family focused: attending Miles’ football games (as well as NFL games), Athena’s theater performances, church activities, running with her husband, Manasseh (they recently ran the St. Louis half marathon) or watching Sonic Boom and Avatar: The Last Airbender with Athena. “I feel like my safest place is really at home with my family. And that’s both here in St. Louis and also our home in New Mexico.”

As she mentors social work students, Pamela focuses on the wide range of career options in the field, especially because over fifty percent of Brown School students plan to practice clinically. “I always love telling my students that I want them to consider what it might mean for them to be under an umbrella of such an amazing profession—that there’s so much room and there’s so much to do,” she said. Given her broad experience in the field and the variety of responsibilities she juggles on a day-to-day basis, this is something Pamela can truly demonstrate firsthand.

— Megan Rubiner Zinn

SPRING 2024 / 19 /
PHOTOS: SHARON RHINEY
Facing page, bottom left: Pamela Begay teaches Principles of Differential Diagnosis to M.S.W. students at the Brown School at Washington University. Facing page, top right: Pamela and Manesseh Begay at the Buder Center 2023 Powwow at Washington University in April 2023. Above: Pamela in the Graham Chapel at Washington University in St. Louis.

A Day in the Life

Turning Pages, Changing Lives

THE MAGIC OF BIBLIOTHERAPY

science program. She has collaborated in the past with The Bronx is Reading, who nominated her as a Mover & Shaker of the Year in 2023, and has built close relationships with her local librarians, often making recommendations of diverse books to acquire.

NAME:

Emely Rumble

DEGREE:

In 2020, Emely Rumble, M.S.W. ’10, LCSW, was settled in a career she loved as a school social worker in the Bronx, but life had a different plan. As the COVID pandemic turned the world upside down, Emely’s two-year-old son was diagnosed with autism and she became pregnant with her second child. “And so I was one of those two million women who had to leave the workforce,” she said ruefully. Fortunately, Emely had the skills and experience to remake her career. She had been working with a group practice part time and had long considered establishing a private practice, but hadn’t because she loved her work in schools. “I think this was the momentum, or maybe the challenge, that I needed to knock me off my seat to get it done.” Additionally, this was her chance to more fully pursue her love of bibliotherapy.

M.S.W. ’10

LOCATION:

Bronx, NY

Emely had started incorporating bibliotherapy into her practice when she interned at a facility for adults with schizophrenia, running socialization groups focused on reading and writing poetry. As a school social worker, she used storytelling in English language arts classrooms.

“We’d come up with alternative endings to stories, do role-playing, write letters to the main characters—getting the kids really interested in fictional stories. And then as a result of that, getting them telling their own stories and learning each other’s stories.”

With her move to private practice, Emely launched LiterapyNYC—“Where literature and therapy meet to provide the everyday bibliophile with mental health support and diverse reading recommendations.” Bibliotherapy uses literature to help clients make sense of their concerns and see them from different perspectives. Emely incorporates bibliotherapy into her psychotherapy practice with New York clients and offers it as a coaching service to those outside of the state. To further broaden her qualifications, Emely is training with the International Federation of Bibliopoetry Therapy to become a certified poetry therapist (CPT).

In addition to working with clients, Emely teaches bibliotherapy in the CUNY/Queens College master of library

With a busy professional life and a young family, Emely structures her days to ensure she consistently incorporates practices to nurture her own mental health. This usually means starting at 5 a.m. “I try to have that little bit of time in the morning for myself, for prayer, meditation, to be able to drink my coffee hot and just to have a quiet start to the day.”

By 6:30 a.m., she is taking the kids to school. She uses that commute time— walking and riding public transportation—to read, listen to audiobooks or music and move her body.

Back home, Emely will respond to emails and prepare for her workday. From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. she sees psychotherapy clients via telemed. Then she’s out again to pick up her children. Once they’ve settled into activities and homework, she’ll focus on networking, writing blog posts and other tasks to develop her still nascent business, as well as prepare for her bibliotherapy sessions.

In the afternoon, Emely’s husband, a middle school educator, returns home and takes over parenting. This gives her concentrated time to see clients. On some evenings, she’ll also participate in a peer group session—part of a supervision group of women of color in private practice, a crucial part of her professional life. “Without professional support and professional collaborations, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today, honestly,” she said.

This is also a time where she may do podcast interviews or work on revisions of her book, Bibliotherapy in the Bronx, which will be published by Row House Publishing in April of 2025.

Hopefully, by 8:30 p.m. Emely and her husband have gotten the kids into bed so they can spend some time together before they go to sleep. This may be time to read and enjoy the quiet. But like many of us, they may just use this time to relax on the couch and watch Netflix, she admitted.

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PHOTOS: SHANA SURECK
“ I try to have that little bit of time in the morning for myself, for prayer, meditation, to be able to drink my coffee hot and just to have a quiet start to the day.”
SPRING 2024 / 21 /
Left: Bedtime stories are an important part of Emely’s day and a beautiful intersection of her work and family life. Above, top: Family time after a busy day. Above, below: Evening virtual bibliotherapy with You Are Your Best Thing: Vulnerability, Shame Resilience and the Black Experience edited by Tarana Burke and Brené Brown.
“ I love supporting individuals with severe mental illness in their recovery to regain autonomy. You get what you get, you see what you see. There’s an authenticity about it.”

Empowering Mental Health Recovery

SUPPORTING INDIVIDUALS WITH SEVERE MENTAL ILLNESS

constructing programming, to clinical consultations with clinicians around client care. She does client crisis management and de-escalation. Thanks to the city’s glacial progress filling vacant positions, she even completes the administrative work of managing a staff and coordinating the facility’s activity calendar while carrying her own client caseload.

It’s a lot, but LaToya loves all of it—especially working directly with high-acuity clients.

NAME: LaToya Lopez

When LaToya Lopez, M.S.W. ’18, LCSW, commutes from Oakland to San Francisco for work each morning, she never knows quite what she’ll find when she arrives. LaToya is the program director of San Francisco’s Mental Health Rehabilitation Center (MHRC), the only cityrun locked facility for clients with severe and persistent mental illnesses.

DEGREE: M.S.W. ’18

LOCATION:

Oakland, CA

“We are working with clients that are really acute, somewhat in crisis, but not where they need isolation or restraint,” she said. Most clients are there for further stabilization, restoration and mental health recovery with a goal of returning to the community on the path to live independently. A few are longterm residents prevented by their illnesses from living in a less structured setting. “Our job is to help clients gather the tools and coping skills essential to meeting this goal” of independent living, she said.

LaToya’s role at the facility, in operation since 2004, covers everything from assessing and coordinating new client admissions, managing the rehabilitation staff and

“I have been working in this community with people with severe chronic mental illness for about 14 years,” LaToya said. She started her professional life in another helping sphere, as a vocational specialist. But after a layoff during the 2008 recession, followed by a year of unemployment, the Philadelphia native began to think she would be forced to return east to find work. Then, at LaToya’s California farewell party, a friend mentioned an open role at Progress Foundation, a Bay Area organization that provides residential social rehabilitative services to clients with severe mental illness. Two weeks later, LaToya started the job and never looked back.

About eight years later, when clients started presenting with more severe symptoms, she decided it was time for a social work degree.

Mental illness in the city of San Francisco “was becoming critical,” she said, converging with housing and drug crises. “You needed to have some understanding of what was being presented to you on a much deeper systemic level than having life experience.” She paused her career to attend Smith, completing internships a world apart from her usual niche, at an elementary school and then in a college counseling center.

“I have nothing against children; I just don’t do children,” she said. “It was like a whole other world to me.”

After earning her M.S.W., she quickly returned to her niche—her two M.S.W. work experiences solidified how much she appreciated her work with people with severe and persistent mental illnesses. It’s work that she pairs with frequent self care to prevent burnout, in the form of chocolate, UC Berkeley women’s basketball games with friends, holistic care and her faith. As a Practitioner (RScP) in her Religious Science community, LaToya even serves others on Sundays.

A life of service can take a toll but, to LaToya, it’s worth it.

“I love supporting individuals with severe mental illness in their recovery to regain autonomy. You get what you get, you see what you see,” LaToya said of her chosen client population. “There’s an authenticity about it.” She is adept at seeing beyond delusions and hallucinations and helping folks to reframe their thoughts. “That’s something that I enjoy,” she said.

SPRING 2024 / 23 /
PHOTOS: TIMOTHY ARCHIBALD A Day in the Life

A Day in the Life

Therapy, Teaching and Tails

CAMPUS COUNSELING AND CANINE THERAPY

“When I started the M.S.W. program, I had no idea of becoming a therapist,” said Beth Prullage, M.S.W. ’01, LICSW. “Then I fell in love with being a therapist.” She has worked in that capacity with children and families, for the LGBT Aging Project as a bereavement counselor, and in a variety of settings, including schools and as a hospital administrator. “As a social worker you can have different careers within a career.”

NAME:

Beth Prullage

DEGREE:

Variety is also the spice of her work life at UMass Amherst, where she is a psychiatric social worker and co-coordinator of the Groups Program at the Center for Counseling and Psychological Health. Her hybrid schedule brings her to campus three days each week; the other two she works remotely. Whether she’s at home or at the center, her role offers a satisfying, diverse range of responsibilities and interactions hour to hour, week to week.

M.S.W. ’01

LOCATION:

Amherst, MA

A typical day might start off with a staff meeting or a clinical team meeting. During the latter, she and her fellow clinicians have in-depth discussions and give and receive feedback. Next, she might meet with one of the three second-year Smith M.S.W. students she supervises to go over their recordings of client sessions. “They have different learning and clinical styles, and they’re working with a wide range of people,” said Beth. “I enjoy teaching and supervising students. I learn so much about my own practices from them.”

Having a whole hour for lunch feels “luxurious,” she said. It’s a valued perk, a chance to take a deep breath. “My life feels balanced in many ways,” Beth said. “I have close friends at work I go for walks with.” Rosie, her certified therapy dog, often comes along.

After lunch, Beth meets with individual clients, usually for short-term therapy, but a few over longer periods. There’s the first-year student who is daunted by life on a large campus. A year or two later, that student might be back, knee-deep in her major and feeling overwhelmed by

her course load. “I really like being part of a community where I see young adults at different moments in their journey,” said Beth.

Next is a session with, in Beth’s words, “an undergrad figuring out substance use, trying to understand their limitations and what impact substances might have on them.”

On another day, the issue might be boundary-setting or self-management, or related to gender, race or sexual orientation, or to friendship, intimacy or being away from home for the first time.

Later in the afternoon, she might see a grad student feeling the weight of pursuing a Ph.D. and anxious about how to balance academics with parenting. Then she counsels an international graduate student who comes from a country where psychological problems are stigmatized, yet has overcome that cultural barrier to seek help.

If the day happens to be a Wednesday when school is in session, she and Rosie can be found offering pet therapy to groups of five students in 15-minute slots. Some participants come once, some regularly. Rosie’s reassuring canine

/ 24 / SMITH COLLEGE SCHOOL FOR SOCIAL WORK
PHOTOS: SHANA SURECK
Above: Dynamic duo Beth and Rosie. Facing page: Beth and Rosie with Smith M.S.W. student Sophie Parker-Goos and Malcom Pradia, M.S.W. ’13, LICSW.

presence makes it easier for the humans to talk about themselves and to each other. One student has regularly sent photos of Rosie to her mom. “It’s great when a couple of students decide to have dinner together, great seeing friendships develop from the sessions,” said Beth. In contrast to what can be intense one-on-one counseling sessions, the pet therapy is “fun and not hard.”

Her day on the university campus finishes up with group therapy for graduate students, which she co-leads with a trainee. But because Beth is an SSW practicum faculty advisor and seminar instructor, her professional day might extend into the evening, teaching a second-year seminar via Zoom, for instance. And on a summer day, you might find her on the Smith campus as an adjunct professor, teaching such subjects as family therapy, group therapy and narrative therapy to SSW students.

“ When I started the M.S.W. program, I had no idea of becoming a therapist. Then I fell in love with being a therapist. As a social worker you can have different careers within a career.”
SPRING 2024 / 25 /

Striking a Balance

TEACHING AND MINDFULNESS

As a senior faculty member in the School of Social Work at Loyola University Chicago and director of the doctoral program, Terry Northcut, Ph.D. ’91, is able to enjoy the freedom to control the rhythms of her days. But this has a cost as well. “The best thing about the job is flexibility. And I think that’s true of the profession as well,” she observed. “It’s also the downside, because that means it spills over into evenings and weekends. Trying to come up with some limits is critical and an ongoing struggle.”

In her scholarship, Terry focuses on the integration of psychodynamic theory and cognitive-behavioral techniques, religion and spirituality in social work and teaching methodologies. She teaches in the Human Behavior in the Social Environment and Methods sequences in the master’s program, and a doctoral course on social work pedagogy. In the past, Terry’s work has also included teaching and research at the University of Gondar in Ethiopia. She continues that work virtually, but the country’s current conflict has made traveling there impossible and has limited access for Ethiopian faculty and students to the internet.

In 2022, Terry was named the Lucian and Carol Welch Matusak Endowed Professor. The position provides her with funds to develop two programs that are particularly

“ The best thing about the job is flexibility. It’s also the downside. Trying to come up with some limits is critical and an ongoing struggle.”

important to her. The Supervision Training and Education Program (STEP) is a collaboration with Adelphi University and will train social work supervisors in Illinois’ Northern Lake County. The second is a Pathways to Ph.D. program. This will provide support to prospective social work doctoral students from marginalized populations to help them strengthen their applications and then, if accepted into the program, will provide mentorship through the conclusion of their dissertation process.

Since the pandemic, Terry has split her days between working from home and working on campus. However, on or off campus, these days tend to be structured by meetings and classes.

Administrative meetings might include hearing from various stakeholders in the above programs or the Certificate of Advanced Psychotherapy that she helps to coordinate. From there, it may be a doctoral committee meeting, in which the faculty are looking at revisions to policies or the

/ 26 / SMITH COLLEGE SCHOOL FOR SOCIAL WORK A Day in the Life
NATALIE BATTAGLIA
PHOTOS:

NAME:

Terry Northcut

DEGREE:

Ph.D. ’91

LOCATION: Chicago, IL

curriculum or addressing ongoing DEI work. As director of the doctoral program, Terry has an advisory role with students and meets with them often to check in. “Some of that is professional in terms of their research, and some is personal in terms of how to balance their personal and professional lives and how to cope with life occurring while they’re in the doctoral program.” A given day may also include meetings with the advisory board of the projects funded by her endowed professorship and meetings with her graduate and research assistants.

In the midst of all this, Terry carves out time for her teaching and hopefully, for her research. “I spend way too much time on Zoom and meetings, which unfortunately doesn’t give me much time for writing or doing my own work,” she said. “I think with this kind of administrative role, that’s a natural consequence.” In addition to her academic roles, Terry maintains a small private practice, seeing clients and providing consultation. She preserves some time on Fridays

and some evenings for her clinical work, often weaving appointments among her other meetings.

Although the “mix and match” quality of Terry’s position that blurs the boundaries between home and work can be challenging, she appreciates the freedom it also provides. “I feel like I’m incredibly lucky to have all this flexibility because I get to blend my interests with programs that I believe in and want to contribute to.”

As someone who has written on mindfulness, Terry still prioritizes time to unwind and refresh in the midst of her demanding schedule. She swims three times a week, which she calls her haven: “That’s the most mindful thing I can do.” She loves cooking, is an avid gardener in the warmer months, has adult children, two grandchildren and a pair of high-maintenance dogs. She also reads every night, primarily mysteries. “At the end of the day I am definitely ready for an escape!”

—Megan Rubiner Zinn

SPRING 2024 / 27 /

Building Bridges

Connection and healing on campus

Paul Gitterman, M.S.W. ’94, LICSW, MSc, CGP, is a psychotherapist in Williams College’s Integrative Wellbeing Services (IWS); he also has a private practice. Summers, he comes to the Smith campus as an adjunct faculty member to teach courses on group theory and practice.

Whatever his schedule, every day begins with yoga and unless New England is dishing up some especially nasty weather, he bicycles to work. “Mostly I’m riding on a dirt road or a trail; it’s quite lovely. There was a time when I’d be rushing out the door, flip phone to my ear. Starting my day this way gives me a reference point to return to when things get challenging.”

At IWS, Paul meets with students 18 to 22 years old, with nontraditional students like veterans and graduate students in the mix. He might see “a first-generation student who has worked really hard to gain mastery but now has to adapt to a new environment. Not only is it academically intense, but there’s also the social and emotional aspects of campus life to manage.”

Group work is my passion. It’s a way to connect to something bigger than oneself. —PAUL GITTERMAN

The next student might be a person of color with similar issues. “The college is more aware and diverse than it’s ever been and it’s committed to disentangling white supremacy,” Paul said, “but still there are students who feel marginalized. They may be used to acclimating themselves to settings where they are in the minority but doing so has come at a price.”

Then, it’s an athlete seeking help. Paul has been a part of IWS’s Sports Psychology since 2013, offering dedicated mental health services for athletes who are less likely than other students to access such resources. “Maybe the coach suggested they get counseling. We discuss sports-related things: how to handle anxiety, pressure to perform, competition. The student might say their family is having health or financial problems or stress around their immigration status. Worrying about them makes it hard for the student to concentrate on schoolwork, and that makes it harder to keep up in their sport.”

In the afternoon, Paul meets with interns and post-graduate fellows receiving advanced clinical training in IWS. He also co-facilitates a group therapy session.

“Group work is my passion,” he said, “it’s a way to connect to something bigger than oneself.” He believes it’s very important on a college campus. “Students can feel very lonely because they don’t have friends—even when they’re surrounded by friends. Group

therapy gives them a place to talk about psychological and emotional subjects; it’s a unique social dynamic that enables connection.”

Loneliness also comes up in his private practice, particularly for the men he treats. “As men, they have had opportunities and advantages, but at some point in their lives, they realize they’re not particularly happy. They’re not where they wanted to be in their career... Maybe they don’t have close friends or a good romantic relationship. I work with them to develop their emotional connections in relationships, build awareness of their own psychological and emotional states, become part of the community and more connected with the world.”

Threaded through each week are activities related to his membership in the American Group Psychotherapy Association. He serves on its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force, gives presentations and participates in panel discussions. This aspect of his life has long been very meaningful to him.

“Meeting with people from around the country, with colleagues I ‘grew up with’ professionally, folks with similar passions who share my interest in social justice...sustains me,” Paul said. “Being part of a community…having places that hold me and having gracious and supportive family and friends, are really important to me. I’m grateful for my life and being able to do the work I do. It’s a pretty good gig.” ◆

/ Alumni Profile /
SPRING 2024 / 35 /

Indigenous Time

I want to be in the memories of my grandmother, Telling of the years like days. The precious minutes of birth, The quiet hours of death, All those moments adding their song to us.

The Indigenous Time, Counted by the cooking of meat, beans, chilis, And the pat of tortillas on hands.

I long to be in the now. Until I feel the flow of the Southern Wind on my back, Pushing and pushing against all the loose seconds.

Testing the fences like a pack of coyotes. I scatter.

Running away from the deep desert like rabbits at dusk, Feeling time melt away into the then of being, Blistering skin, boiling fat, charring bone, The white ash of me.

Ibex St. runs on City Time. Bus schedules, shelter checkouts, free breakfast hours, and 10 PM quiet times. Life is dictated on pamphlets and signs, And Repetition, And Repetition, And Repetition.

Life moves at the pace of regulation.

Indigenous Time

On a beautiful sunny June day in 2023, the SSW community gathered next to Paradise Pond for a solstice celebration focused on Indigenous perspectives organized by the Anti-Racism Planning Group (ARPG). Indigenous artist-activists Clemente Sajquiy and Jason Montgomery shared about solstice, time, land and connection. Montgomery read original poems, among them “Indigenous Time,” inspired by the event and the work of ARPG.

/ 36 / SMITH COLLEGE SCHOOL FOR SOCIAL WORK / Post Script /
Smith was the only school I applied to.
being in the field, I know that SSW one-hundred percent prepared me, and in a better way than any other school could have.
Now
HAAF, M.S.W. ’22 The world needs clinical social workers. We can help you become one. Haaf works as a full-time therapist at a group practice. They use an integrative, client-centered, relational approach to treatment and particularly love working with couples/relationships and queer/trans youth. ssw.smith.edu

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