Category: SSW News Releases
Most days it’s hard to catch Mirna Barba (’16). On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays she is completing her field placement with the Veteran Affairs Healthcare System in Boston. Other days, the second-year clinical practice major is on the third floor at 264 Bay State Road, working with the Center for Addiction Research and Services. Of course, there are always classes to juggle, and Barba, planning to graduate in May, is taking four this semester.
How does she balance it all? “I love Google Calendar,” Barba said. She admits it takes a detail-oriented person to juggle a second-year student’s schedule.
Before relocating to Boston from California in 2014, she served in the Air Force for eight years and later earned her degree at California State University-Fullerton, where she graduated summa cum laude with a major in psychology.
“I’ve always been interested in working with youth and unaccompanied minors,” Barba told Currents. She has worked with youth in a variety of settings, from working directly with adolescent girls as a counselor in Rosemary Children’s Services residential group home in Pasadena to serving as a wraparound facilitator in greater Los Angeles with OTTP (Occupational Therapy Training Program) and Crittenton Services for Children and Families.
Why Social Work? “I didn’t really know much about social work until I started working. What social workers do and how they approach issues of social and racial justice is really why I chose social work,” she said.
Barba told Currents she was drawn to Boston University by its emphasis on urban practice and first visited after she was accepted. During that summer 2014 visit, she met Professor Luz Lopez (now her advisor). “I also met some students who are actually now some of my really close friends,” Barba said.
Having spent time working alongside social workers in various nonprofits, Barba said she knew social work was the right field for her. She came into the program planning to focus on clinical practice.
Barba said Professor Lopez “has been a great influence.” Barba completed her first-year internship at Casa Esperanza, a bilingual behavioral health facility in Roxbury. There, among other things, Barba co-facilitated a bilingual Seeking Safety group, a trauma-focused group for women.
“The first class that I took [at BUSSW], I really felt like, yes, this is for me. It was human behavior with Ernest Gonzales,” Barba said. “Professor Gonzales gave me a platform to talk about my experience in the field and working in the [Los Angeles] community with youth.”
Fostering Inclusivity at BUSSW
Barba told Currents that her peers may not be aware she’s a veteran. “I think at least initially, I don’t fit their idea of what a veteran looks like,” she said. But Barba has big plans for the growing veteran population studying social work at Boston University—both on campus in Massachusetts and online.
“I’m trying to get something going now, a veterans’ subcommittee for Student Org, so that we can better look at how veterans’ needs are being met. Not only veterans’ needs,” Barba said, “but also military spouses’ needs.”
Before beginning her second-year field placement with the VA Boston, Barba had never worked with veterans. “I was excited that I was chosen to be a part of the VA,” she said.
In the Field
At the VA Boston Healthcare System, Barba interns with both the HIV and the oncology clinics. The experience is challenging but rewarding. “I’ve never worked with end-of-life issues before,” Barba said. “It’s very intimidating.” On her first day at the oncology clinic, Barba’s supervisor brought her to the infusion room and left her with a patient.
“I didn’t know what to say; I didn’t know what to talk about or how to talk about the issues that were relevant and important to him,” Barba said. But with her supervisor’s support, Barba has been able to jump right in. Barba’s work with the oncology clinic includes a mixture of therapy and case management.
With the HIV clinic, Barba works with veterans who have been diagnosed with HIV and AIDS. “Some of them come to talk about the stigma of HIV and AIDS,” Barba said. “Some are not ‘out’ to their families about their HIV status, or they’re working and they need their health benefits, so we talk about the ramifications of telling others.”
The Trauma Certificate Program was a big reason Barba chose BUSSW. Whether she ended up working with the veteran population or with youths, she knew the program would be important.
“I knew that I would need a background in trauma working with these communities,” Barba said. She told Currents she previously wrote home studies for unaccompanied minors in Los Angeles and realized the depth of their trauma. “I can’t even imagine going through what some of these youths have gone through just to get here,” she said. “There’s just so much trauma.”
As part of the Trauma Certificate Program, Barba attends monthly seminars, and her second-year placement is focused on trauma. Students pursuing the certificate learn to analyze conceptualizations of trauma, apply current principles of intervention and program planning, and consider the larger social, cultural, and political forces at work that shape both exposure to and recovery from traumatic experiences.
Building on a BUSSW Education
Barba said the skills she has learned through the master’s program at BUSSW have been important to her successful field experiences.
In her work with the VA Boston HIV clinic, Barba teaches mindfulness to her patients. It’s a technique she’s learning in a course with Professor Kathleen Flinton. “Everything that I learn here, I take back to my field placement,” Barba said.
Despite a passion for the Los Angeles area, Barba hopes to stay in Boston after graduating. She plans to apply for a full-time position at the Boston VA this spring.
BU School of Social Work (BUSSW) jumped four spots in the latest ranking of the best social work graduate programs by U.S. News & World Report, rising to 12 from a previous ranking of 16. The 2017 rankings were released on March 16, 2016.
“We let the data speak to us,” BUSSW Professor Linda Sprague Martinez told faculty and students in attendance at the January 26 Research Luncheon Series presentation in Conant Lounge. Professor Sprague Martinez explained the important role of data in her work with Project Aqui Lá, a transnationalism and health study that focuses exploring culture in two transnational communities in Boston: Brazilians and Dominicans. Combined Dominicans and Brazilians are two of the largest immigrant groups in New England. Both are highly transnational and racially diverse; culturally they have many similarities as well as differences. Aqui Lá, which literally translates to “here and there” in Portuguese captures the captures the spirit of transnationalism, as individuals finds themselves here, there, and somewhere in between two worlds.
Project Aqui Lá is funded by the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research and and the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities through the OppNet- Basic Behavioral & Social Science Research Opportunity Network. Researchers and community partners that span Boston University, UMass Boston, the Brazilian Worker Center and the Dominican Development Center are collaboratively working to develop a systematic multilevel method for measuring culture and its impact on health. Through a data informed planning process, the team has engaged in extensive qualitative data collection methodologies, uncovering many stories such as the role of cellphones as cultural lifelines and the social life of food. Professor Sprague Martinez reported that data collected through cultural conversations and other methods of reflection was compiled and analyzed in the language(s) it was originally collected in. She said this helps to preserve both the message and feeling of what was said. For more information about Project Aqui Lá, click here.
The BUSSW Research Luncheon Series are brief lunch-time talks open to the BUSSW community which feature faculty and student presenters. Recent presenters include BUSSW professors Thomas Byrne, Yoonsook Ha, and Daniel Miller, as well as PhD candidates Abigail Ross and Melissa Hirschi.
Save the date! Don’t miss the remaining Spring Semester Research Luncheon Seminar Series:
Tuesday, February 23, 12-1: 30 PM, Dr. Robert B. Hudson, BUSSW Professor
Tuesday, March 22, 12:00-1:30 PM, Jin A. Chang, BUSSW Doctoral Student
Tuesday, April 12, 12:00-1:30 PM, Astraea Augsberger, BUSSW Professor
Wednesday, April 20, 12:00-1:30 PM, Dr. John Pinkerton, Professor, Queen’s University, Belfast (invited)
Be sure to join the discussion, RSVP to Lisa Murphy.
Dr. Ruth Paris, associate professor of clinical practice and director of the Family Therapy Certificate Program at Boston University School of Social Work, has received confirmation from the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Department of State and the Council for International Exchange of Scholars that she was selected for a Fulbright Specialist Program grant in social work at Bar Ilan University (BIU) in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Throughout March, Dr. Paris will work in collaboration with Dr. Rachel Dekel of BIU to share her expertise in community-based clinical research and family therapy practice. Dr. Paris will assist in the systematic study of the social work interventions currently offered through clinics at BIU’s School of Social Work. She will work in partnership with Bar Ilan faculty to provide an overall needs assessment of clinical research capacity, and will subsequently lead seminars, meet with individual faculty to develop research proposals, assist with clinical research training for the doctoral program and conduct joint research.
Social work plays a critical role in Israel, where there are unique challenges, given the diversity of the population and their stressful circumstances. For example, students work with veterans dealing with the aftermath of military service, immigrant families from Russia and Africa and young children struggling with the traumatic effects of bombings.
“It is delightful to have Dr. Paris be able to collaborate on such important research with her long-time distinguished colleague, Dr. Dekel,” Boston University School of Social Work Dean Gail Steketee said. “This Fulbright award will enable them to exchange ideas and work together on research while in Israel. Both of our institutions will benefit greatly.”
Dr. Paris is looking forward to the opportunity to work with the faculty and students at Bar Ilan. “I will approach this work—just as I do when partnering with community agencies—knowing there are many strengths already in place,” Dr. Paris said. “I will also be learning a great deal about different interventions, particularly those that are trauma-focused, and will bring that expertise back to BU. I am hopeful that we will build a bridge between Bar Ilan and Boston University so that we may continue to partner on joint research programs.”
The Fulbright Specialist Program promotes linkages between U.S. scholars and professionals and their counterparts at host institutions overseas through short-term collaborative projects and is sponsored by the U.S. State Department.
Over the last three years I have had the privilege of teaching in the Fall River and Chelmsford/Bedford off campus programs. This Spring I’m looking forward to teaching a course at the Cape Cod program and presenting a training on starting groups in different settings. There is something special about teaching within the cohorts. Teaching group practice within the off campus programs is especially exciting given all of the group dynamics that come with the cohort model. Every cohort I have taught has brought such energy, experience and laughter to the classroom. All of those Fridays driving away from the city to spend time with these social work students gives me a renewed enthusiasm for the work and I can’t wait to get there. I truly feel lucky to be with each group, they often teach me more than I think I teach them.
I have also had the opportunity to teach in the online program over the last few years. I was worried at first not knowing how I would translate the work into an online format. However, I was surprised when I realized that we could have the same process online as we do in the classroom. There is an intimate and personal element that is unique to the online classroom. We are in each other’s living rooms, after all! Not only do I make it a priority to help students integrate the course content but to also find connection with each other. The best part of online teaching is supporting students, who are sometimes across the country from one another, in developing a community and social work identity together.
As a BUSSW alum I am so grateful to be part of the OCP and online program, and hope to continue to support students in their social work journey!
Sera will be leading a group training in each Off Campus location this spring. The title of the training is Ready, Set, Groups! Starting Groups in Your Agency or Practice. Group work is a powerful and effective intervention for many of the people we serve; however, few social workers create new groups in their agencies due to barriers in the development process. This training will illustrate how to best develop groups in various settings and will include information on structural frameworks, billing, member recruitment and maintaining participation. Multiple examples of innovative and exciting groups will be discussed in the hopes that social workers will be inspired to begin their own group work development journey!
When Cheryl Kerrigan was dealing with anorexia for over 30 years she could not find the right guide book that had tools and skills she needed to help her out in her recovery for her to use as a go to guide. She kept a journal of tools and exercises she used during her recovery and compiled them in a book calling it Telling Ed No! Telling Ed No! includes over 130 tools and exercises on how to overcome an eating disorder.
It took Cheryl about three and half years to write Telling Ed No! She gave herself a year to find an agent and a publisher. During that time she sent out 350 letters to different publishers. After getting mostly declined letters and more information she decided to self-publish her book. The first edition came out on March 2010. A couple of months later a publisher called Gers who publishes only one to two books a year contacted Cheryl to republish her book. Since Gers specializes in eating disorders Cheryl thought this was the perfect fit. She signed a contract with them and wrote 13 more chapters and updated the afterword. The second edition of Telling Ed No! came out in October 2011 at the National Eating Disorder conference in Hollywood CA.
She is now coming full circle doing her internship at an inpatient eating disorder unit at Walden Behavioral Care in Waltham where Cheryl had been patient. Cheryl plans on writing more books in the future. She will graduate this May from the Off Campus Programs Bedford location with her MSW.
Congratulation Cheryl on your tremendous accomplishments!
To purchase Telling Ed No!, click here.
Our Dean Gail Steketee was recently cited at the top of the list of the impact of women in social work scholarship. The article by Michael J. Holosko, John R. Barner, and Junior Lloyd Allen, focuses on females in higher education and female leaders in academia, especially social work.
On being included in this article, Dean Gail Steketee said, “It is an honor to be part of this illustrious group of women faculty across the country, and I am very thankful to my many interdisciplinary colleagues, both men and women, with whom I have published over the years. As Dean at Boston University, I can attest that, like other top universities, ours is a strong and also supportive research culture for our doctoral students who gain experience from the get go with excellent mentors, most of whom are women. I am proud to be part of the process of training outstanding women researchers and social work academics.”
To read the full article, click here.
NERCHE and the Center for Engaged Democracy at Merrimack College announced the selection of eight finalists for the 2015 Ernest A. Lynton Award for the Scholarship of Engagement for Early Career Faculty. The award recognizes a faculty member, either pre-tenure or early career at tenure long-term contract institutions, who connects his of her teaching, research, and service to community engagement. One of this year’s finalists was BUSSW’s very own Professor Linda Sprague-Martinez.
Dr. Sprague-Martinez joined the faculty at BUSSW as an Assistant Professor of Macro Practice- Public Health and Community Medicine in 2014. Her work focuses on the relationship between culture and health as she is interested in how local and organizational policies both directly and indirectly influence the wellbeing of urban communities of color, and how assets can be recognized and leveraged by communities and organizations to improve living environments.
The 2015 Ernest A. Lynton Award went to Dr. Eric DeMeulenaere, Assistant Professor of Urban Schooling in the Department of Education at Clark University.
It is with great pleasure that the Boston University School of Social Work (BUSSW) announces that BUSSW professor Maryann Amodeo, Chair and Professor of Clinical Practice and Co-Director for the Center for Addiction Research and Services, has been selected as a Fellow in the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare. This recognition is among the highest honors that a faculty member in social work can receive.
Dr. Amodeo’s distinguished career and scholarship, as well as her critical role as the Chair of Clinical Practice and her co-directorship of the Center for Addictions Research and Services at Boston University School of Social Work are particularly acknowledged by the Academy’s selection.
We are happy to see Dr. Amodeo join the ranks of immensely talented and committed AASWSW Fellows.
Dr. Amodeo will be honored at the induction ceremony for newly-elected Fellows at the SSWR Annual Conference at the Renaissance Hotel Downtown in Washington, DC on January 15, 2015 from 6:30- 8:00 PM. Please join us!
Boston University School of Social Work Professor Hyeouk Hahm was honored by the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) for her mentorship during the summer of 2015. Hahm was nominated for the award by student Jongwook Cha, who is studying Human Physiology at BU’s Sargent College and said, “Working with Professor Hahm made me feel that my efforts were part of a larger, greater whole despite only being a research student. I attribute my success and productivity to her constant attempts to plug me in to her team and system.” UROP presented Hahm with the Outstanding Mentor Award at the 18th annual 2015 UROP Symposium on Friday, October 16 at 1:00pm in the Metcalf Ballroom of the George Sherman Union.
“This research mentor award means more than any big research grant to me. As an educator, working with my students side by side, seeing them grow, and witnessing them making contribution to the field has been the most wonderful thing to me. I am so grateful for this,” Hahm said.