News & Events
For Newcomers, a BRIDGE to Graduate Education
Published on January 13, 2011
In his cap and black wool coat, Ali Abdullahi looks like any other graduate student in Boston bundled up against the December cold. Despite looking the part of a BU student, Abdullahi, who is from Somalia, did not always think graduate school was a possibility.
“If it wasn’t for BRIDGE, I would never have even thought about going to graduate school,” said Abdullahi, currently a part-time student in BU’s Masters of Social Work program.
Run through the School of Social Work, the BRIDGE (Building Refugee and Immigrant Degrees for Graduate Education) Program gives immigrants and refugees the opportunity to earn graduate level education in social work and ultimately to fill highly skilled positions in the health and human services sector.
Current and past BRIDGE participants represent countries around the world, including the Cayman Islands, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Iran, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Somalia, Uganda and Vietnam.
“BRIDGE opens up access to graduate social work education for a variety of refugee and immigrant groups,” said Program Director Lee Staples. “Our long-term goal is to increase the number of social work professionals who themselves are members of culturally and linguistically diverse, under-served newcomer groups.”
The program is structured in four phases: Preadmissions, Pre-Matriculation, Master of Social Work Program and Post-Graduation/Career Development. In 2011, 17 new students enrolled in BRIDGE’s first phase, the program’s largest cohort to date.
“Currently, there is a wide gap between most newcomer communities and graduate level academics,” said Staples. “This program helps bridge that gap by providing academic, social and financial support along a continuum, beginning with potential applicants who are considering graduate education all the way through to MSW alumni.”
“Those of you interested in coming to the School will bring tremendous diversity to the student body and to the curriculum,” School of Social Work Dean Gail Steketee told the cohort. “Our faculty and classes are so much enriched by your presence.”
Orientation, a free ten-session course run during the winter, eases BRIDGE students’ transition into graduate level classes and coursework. Prospective students can inquire about the differences in macro and clinical concentrations, the application process, and the challenges of balancing graduate school and working.
Once BRIDGE students enter the MSW program at BU, they continue to receive support and guidance from the BRIDGE coordinator, Mojdeh Rohani (M.S.W. ‘99), and from the BUSSW faculty. The program also provides students with career planning resources and networking opportunities after graduation.
“I would not have had the opportunities to do the things I am doing now without the foundation of clinical training I received from BU’s School of Social Work,” said Saida Abdi (M.S.W. ‘10), the Community Relations Director at Children’s Hospital’s Center for Refugee Trauma and Resilience.
Abdi, who immigrated to the United States from Somalia, took part in BRIDGE during its pilot stage and was the program’s first graduate.
“I cannot express my feelings of pride and happiness to see all of you,” she told the program’s 2011 cohort. “You don’t know how much you are needed. Every one of you coming through this program is a gift to the world and society.”
As a whole, the BRIDGE alumni agreed the program did serve as an effective bridge between their diverse backgrounds and their academic success in graduate school.
“This is the best program you are going to have,” said Abdullahi. “The BRIDGE program prepared me for graduate school 100 percent.”