Honoring Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

From the Office of Dean Heller

Dear Colleagues,

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. First established as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week in 1978, the observance was expanded to a month by Congress in 1992. At the School of Social Work, we take this opportunity to recognize and celebrate the contributions of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students, staff, faculty, and members of our community.

The past few years have been especially challenging for AAPI communities who have faced harassment and attacks across our nation. As a School that values diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism, we oppose this bigotry and stand in solidarity with AAPI communities. We know they make UConn and the School of Social Work stronger.

Our support of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month aligns with the mission of our profession and the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics. These ethical standards include social justice, dignity and worth of the person, and the importance of human relationships.

All month long, let’s make a commitment to honoring the rich heritage and cultural experiences of AAPI communities. Throughout U.S. history, AAPIs have contributed to and shaped American culture, science, medicine, literature, art, government, politics and so much more. Today, AAPIs are the fastest growing racial group in the country. Read the history and take part in events in your local area.

In solidarity,


Nina Rovinelli Heller, PhD
Dean and Professor
Zachs Chair in Social Work


Honoring Arab American Heritage Month

From the Office of Dean Heller

Dear Colleagues,

April is Arab American Heritage Month, an opportunity for the School of Social Work and the University to celebrate the cultures and achievements of Arab American communities. Nearly 4 million Arab Americans can trace their roots to 22 countries across the Middle East and North Africa. Despite a history of exclusion, today, Arab Americans reside in all 50 states, representing a wide range of faiths, races, and languages. In 2021, President Joe Biden officially recognized April as National Arab American Heritage Month.

Highlighting this occasion is part of the School of Social Work’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism. We stand in staunch opposition to all forms of systemic racism, including policies and practices that oppress our Arab American neighbors. As a school community, we are called to promote teaching, scholarship, and community/professional action that reflects this commitment to justice. The Code of Ethics for our profession emphasizes the inherent dignity and worth of the person, and in that spirit, we will work to ensure a sense of belonging for Arab Americans throughout our school and campus community.

Please join me in commemorating Arab American Heritage Month! Learn more here.

In solidarity,

Nina Rovinelli Heller, PhD
Dean and Professor
Zachs Chair in Social Work

Lunar New Year

From the Office of Dean Heller

Dear Colleagues,

This month, we celebrate the Lunar New Year and the history, contributions, and achievements of Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander communities. The Lunar New Year has been observed for thousands of years and 2022 marks the Year of the Tiger. At the School of Social Work, we would like to take this opportunity to highlight the rich heritage and cultural experiences of our Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander students and colleagues.

Supporting the Lunar New Year and its significance to Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander communities aligns with the mission of our profession and the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics. These ethical standards include social justice, dignity and worth of the person, and the importance of human relationships. Highlighting this occasion also supports the School of Social Work’s strong commitment to anti-racism and inclusion.

We know that the last two years have been especially challenging for many in Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander communities. We stand with these communities and believe they make UConn and the School of Social Work stronger.

We are excited to celebrate with our students and colleagues during the week-long Lunar New Year 2022 UConn events starting on February 13. Please join me in supporting these events and our Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander communities.

In solidarity,

Nina Rovinelli Heller, PhD
Dean and Professor
Zachs Chair in Social Work


Celebrating Black History Month

From the Office of Dean Heller

Dear Colleagues,

As we begin the celebration of Black History Month, we are called to remember both its origins and its importance in our current contexts. As we are all aware, these last few years have been challenging ones for our Black and African American communities.

The story of Black History Month can be traced back to the beginning of the last century when Negro History Week was first recognized in 1926. Decades later, the event was expanded to a month as an annual celebration of Black history and the contributions of Black Americans to our nation’s cultural life.

Several years ago, a group of UConn SSW students, faculty and staff came together to form a Black History 365 committee with the goal of intentionally honoring and highlighting Black lives, contributions, and culture throughout the year. We’ve since offered a range of programs and events that explore Black history and current affairs and promote mental health and wellness among Black Americans. These programs have recently included a panel discussion on Black Lives Matter Facts vs. Myths and The Naked Truth: Death by Delivery discussion about black maternal health, among others.

This year, the committee was clear about focusing our February events to highlight cultural experiences. On February 8, we have partnered with UConn Hartford and UConn School of Law to highlight the experiences of the Black and African American communities through Black Joy, a celebration of self-love, health and wellness, pride, family, food and culture. Later in the month, our students will also host a cooking demonstration, Cooking with Chef Ross; please visit our website at socialwork.uconn.edu for details.

All month long, I ask you to join me in celebrating the achievements and contributions of Black and African American communities to our history, society and culture. Black History Month also aligns with our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism, as well as our goal to support and value the experiences of our Black students and colleagues.

In solidarity,

Nina Rovinelli Heller, PhD
Dean and Professor
Zachs Chair in Social Work

Happy Holidays from Dean Nina Heller

Dear Colleagues,

I hope this greeting and update finds you all well and healthy. It has certainly been a strange twenty months as we have had to find ways to adapt and develop new ways of relating, teaching, learning, and working. For some of you, things may feel a bit more “back to normal” and others may find that there are lessons learned through the pandemic that we can incorporate into our family and work lives.

Here, at the School of Social Work, we are nearing the end of the fall semester, with almost all our classes taught in person and with appropriate health measures. For most of our second year MSW students, this is the first time they have stepped foot on our campus, having taken the three prior semesters online. Our BSW and MSW students are back in their field settings and they and our partner agencies have certainly found this preferable to providing remote services. At the same time, we know that current and residual effects of the COVID pandemic have disproportionately affected many of the communities we serve. Where possible, we have placed more students in agencies who have expressed significant needs of their clients and opportunities for our students. As always, we are grateful to our community partners for their role in educating the next generation of social work practitioners.

Our faculty continue to engage our students in our classrooms and through advising and mentoring. They are also engaged in research and scholarship that explores pressing social issues such as substance abuse; food insecurity; juvenile justice; the isolation experienced by many older adults; health, educational, and economic disparities; and the effects of racism.

Of particular note, is the forthcoming book by two UConn professors, Dr, Ann Marie Garran, and Dr. Lisa Werkmeister Rozas, along with Dr. Hye-Kyung Kang and Dr. Josh Miller. Racism in America: Implications for the Helping Professions, 3rd Ed., to be released at the end of December, this book addresses historical, structural, theoretical, and interpersonal perspectives. This is the right moment for this book, and it provides a critical overview of contemporary issues around race, with a particular focus on the educational and professional needs of social workers and other related practitioners.

The SSW embarked on a Strategic Planning Process last spring, under the leadership of Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Dr. Joanne Corbin and Doctoral Program Director, Dr. Scott Harding. We will continue our work for the next several months with a completion date of mid-spring 2022. Our aim Is to produce a living document that emphasizes our strengths and guides us through investment in areas for development and expansion. Core to this plan is a focus upon multiple aspects of diversity, inclusion, and equity and the creation of an anti-racist culture at the school. Our ultimate goal is to promote a sense of belonging for all, while preparing to meet the multiple needs of the communities and profession we serve, through our teaching, scholarship and community engagement. Our focus upon emerging needs.

We always look forward to connecting with our alumni and hearing about all you are doing with your UConn SSW degree. Our students are eager to see what their degree can do for them and what they, in turn, can give back to the profession and people we serve.

Please come and visit, support our students through the UConn Foundation, check out our Continuing Education options – and have a healthy happy holiday season.

All the best,


Dr. Kathryn Libal Co-PI on OVPR Research Excellence Program Award

Dr. Kathryn Libal Co-PI on OVPR Research Excellence Program Award

Dr. Kathryn Libal, Associate Professor and Director of the UConn Human Rights Institute, was named a Co-PI on an Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) Research Excellence Program (REP) award:

Investigator: Oscar Guerra, Digital Media and Design
Co-PIs: Glenn Tatsuya Mitoma,  Curriculum & Instruction and Human Rights Institute; Kathryn Libal, Human Rights Institute
Project: COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout in Stamford, CT: A Multimedia Archiving Project
Award: $24,999.35

The primary goal of the Research Excellence Program is to provide seed funding to fuel innovative research, scholarship, and creative endeavors with strong potential for:

  • Significant extramural funding from federal and state sponsors, corporations, industry partners, and foundations.
  • Achievements consistent with the highest standards of accomplishment in the discipline.

Congratulations, Grads!

Hats off to our 2021 graduates!

You did it! While the past year has been like no other, our BSW, MSW, and Ph.D. students met the challenges they faced and came through stronger and with new skills and more empathy. We salute our grads for a job well done and are thrilled for you all to enter the social work profession or continue your studies to make the world a more just and inclusive place. Read on for messages from School of Social Work faculty and staff, wishing you well as you embark on your next chapter.

graduation mortarboard decorated with "change the world"

Congratulations on your accomplishment and welcome to the noble profession of social work! My wishes for satisfying and successful careers.

Alex Gitterman, Professor

To the Class of 2021: While the once-in-a-century pandemic affected your time here in unprecedented ways, you persevered. We are so proud of you. Here you are today, about to launch and advance your careers. I hope all of you take a moment to pause and congratulate yourselves and each other. There has never been a more urgent time for social work, and for you as professional social workers. The world, the nation, our state and our communities need you. You have answered the call for a vocation that centers respect for the well-being of individuals and communities; the need for diversity; the commitment to racial, social, and economic justice. You are ready. I could not be prouder of each of you, and I am particularly proud to have you join this profession that I have loved for decades. I hope you will find this calling, this vocation, as rewarding as I have. Congratulations!

— Nina Rovinelli-Heller, Dean

Congratulations on graduating from UConn School of Social Work! You are a cohort full of resilience! You have spent the majority of your Social Work education learning through not one but two pandemics. I can’t say how this will affect you later in your careers but I can say that it will and already has. First, learning about racism and White supremacy within the context of the deaths of so many at the hand of police, then within moments that you witnessed justice being served by the guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin another murder of a young Black woman occurred raising the same cries for police accountability. You have also experienced firsthand being separated from friends and family by something beyond your control. Fear, desperation, and longing, combined with loss and grief, for many of you has informed your understanding of the clients you were serving at your field placements. The connections made with faculty, staff and your fellow students are crucial future supports, keep them close. Felizidades!

— Lisa Werkmeister Rozas, BSW Program Director

Congratulations, Class of 2021! I hope you feel a tremendous sense of pride in what you have accomplished by earning your social work degree. You are the future of social work, and I am confident you will help move us all towards a more just and equitable world.

Kelsi Carolan, Assistant Professor

Congratulations on making it to graduation! You've worked so hard for this moment and now it's time to savor every minute of it. Best wishes on your next adventure and the one after that. Never forget your strength and that you're capable of greatness. The SSW Alumni community welcomes you all!

Abigail G. Jackson, Assistant Director of Alumni Relations

A group of graduates in caps and gowns celebrates in the stands of a stadium
BSW graduates celebrate before their in-person ceremony.

You've all worked hard! Time to go out and change the world. Best wishes for a long and fruitful life.

Pete Papallo, Assistant Extension Professor

To all of the BSW and MSW students who worked so hard under such trying circumstances, congratulations and good luck in your social work professions!

Kim Campbell, Assistant Extension Professor

For the 2021 MSW graduates:
Congratulations all!! Getting an MSW is always challenging, but add to that the novel coronavirus pandemic and the centuries-old systemic racism epidemic, and you have a UConn Master of Social Work education and degree without precedent. Hearts have been broken by losses and souls have been challenged by injustices, and yet you prevailed. There is hope for there are people like all of you who have been preparing to take on these challenges – whether that be as a clinical, community organizing, or policy practice social worker. Now it is time for you to spread your wings and fly, maybe somewhat cautiously initially, but fly nonetheless. On occasion, do come back and share your story, but now it’s time to go! The city, the state, the country, and the world sorely need you. Go and make a difference!

— Brenda Kurz, MSW Program Director

Dear Graduates,
At the end of the semester, I talked with you all about the idea of vicarious resilience — the positive meaning-making and growth that we may experience through witnessing the resilience of our clients. I encouraged you to attend to your clients' strengths with as much consideration as you give to their challenges, both because it will be helpful to them and because it will provide you with the energy and inspiration you will need to continue doing this work.
Now, as you prepare to move on from the UConn School of Social Work, I want you to know about the vicarious resilience that I've experienced watching you navigate your education in the midst of a pandemic. Though I have known many of you only through a computer screen, I have been so inspired by your engagement in your learning. You are entering the profession at a time of extraordinary need. I hope that this next chapter brings much fulfillment, growth, and time to rest and rejuvenate.
Best wishes,

— Ellen Smith, Associate Extension Professor

A group of graduates pose in caps, gowns, and masks
MSW graduates pose for a group selfie before their in-person commencement ceremony.

Wishing the graduating classes - BSW, MSW and PhD - all the best on their journeys as practitioners and educators. Congratulations!

Kathryn Libal, Associate Professor

Congratulations Class of 2021! You have made it to the finish line despite COVID-19. While this past year brought many challenges, you are no strangers to adversity. You should be proud of all that you have endured and all you have accomplished. In the words of Maya Angelou, “We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.” Remember these words as you embark on your social work journey to helping the many people and communities in need and fighting the injustices that exist. I wish you the best of luck with your future endeavors and look forward to you being my fellow social work colleague.

Milagros Marrero-Johnson, Director of Strategic Programming

Hey grads — you rock! You give me confidence that a better world can be built. I hope to cross paths with you in the community and see all the good work you will each be doing. Keep pushing for social justice!

Louise Simmons, Professor

Congratulations, graduates!! Your intelligence, tenacity, and dedication to social work have paid off!! You have endured one of the most tumultuous years in recent history and shown us and the world what you are made of. I couldn't be more proud of you!! Please stay in touch and keep us posted on all the amazing things you do in your careers.

Margaret Lloyd Sieger, Assistant Professor

Congratulations, class of 2021!

Caitlin Elsaesser, Assistant Professor

Congratulations and best wishes to the Class of '21! You did it!

Natalie O'Connor, Program Assistant

Congratulations and Best of Luck to the Class of 2021!

Beth Sharkey, Educational Program Administrator

Policy Practice graduates celebrate graduation with Tanya Rhodes Smith and Rebecca Thomas.
Policy Practice graduates celebrate graduation with Tanya Rhodes Smith and Rebecca Thomas.

To the Class of 2021! CONGRATULATIONS! SO very proud of you all! Sending you warm congratulations and wishing you the very best for the future. You have worked so hard and have endured many challenges, particularly this past academic year. I hope you can savor this great accomplishment and feel a sense of pride! May you always dare to do great things as you engage in social justice work!
Gio Iacono

Gio Iacono, Assistant Professor

Congratulations Class of 2021. This is it — the moment you have yearned for, shed many tears for, and dreamed of! You're an SSW GRAD! I am looking forward to your future successes, and wishing you all the best on your future endeavors!

Once a husky, always a husky! Stay in touch with the school — we are always here to support you!

Again, Congratulations — enjoy this moment, you deserve it!

Trisha Hawthorne-Noble, OSAS Coordinator

Congratulations, Class of 2021! It has been a long and difficult year, so be especially proud of yourselves for getting to this point. I wish you every success in your next chapter. Remember, you are the experts in the challenges and barriers our clients and communities face every day. Your voice and your perspective are needed in policy and politics. So be bold and brave in your practice and "speak your mind, even if your voice shakes." You are social workers who will change the world.

Tanya Rhodes Smith, Director, Nancy A. Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work

Dear Class of 2021 SSW graduates!

I am very excited for you as you graduate and launch the next phase of your social work career. You have demonstrated perseverance, flexibility, and creativity to be able to graduate during this pandemic. Those qualities will serve you well as you engage with challenges in the years ahead. I will look forward to hearing about your accomplishments in the years to come.

Best wishes,

Megan Berthold, Associate Professor and Director of Field Education

Dear graduating students,

Congratulations! It has been wonderful to see your development throughout your time at the SSW.  Your creativity and perseverance in serving others and completing your program during the pandemic was impressive. As you embark on the next phase of your career, we wish you all the best.

Megan, Cheryl, Gina, and Nancy (The SSW Field Education Department)

Read more about and view photos of the 2021 Commencement ceremonies at UConn Today.

Spring 2021 Scholarship Recipients

Thanks to the generosity of our donors, the School of Social Work is able to offer a number of scholarship opportunities to our BSW, MSW, and Ph.D. students each academic year. These scholarships not only help students meet their financial obligations but also  recognize their academic achievements and contributions to the social work profession. Congratulations to our scholarship recipients!

BSW Award

Raymond and Mary Borecki Buck Endowed Scholarship Fund

Mary Borecki Buck is an UConn School of Social Work alumna committed to supporting the education of future generations of social workers. This scholarship, created by Mary and her late husband, Raymond, will provide financial support to a student enrolled in the Bachelor of Social Work program.

Gianella Gutierrez

Gianella Gutierrez

Attending and paying for school for the last year has been very difficult due to unfortunate circumstances and the pandemic. With this scholarship, I am able to place more focus on my education and future goals without worrying about working extra hours at work. Without the financial burden, I can focus on graduating as a BSW student at UConn and eventually getting my MSW in clinical social work. After achieving this goal of mine, I hope to work in an organization or state department that focuses on child welfare. This passion of working with children grew during my volunteer work at the Boys & Girls club where I volunteer as a teacher assistant.

MSW Awards

Dr. Albert Alissi School of Social Work Scholarship Fund

This scholarship was established in memory of Dr. Albert S. Alissi, faculty emeritus, to provide financial assistance to a student conducting group work practice.

Natasha Whyte

Natasha Whyte, Individuals, Groups, and Families concentration

As a first-generation college student, it is an honor to be the recipient of the Dr. Albert Alissi School of Social Work Scholarship Fund. Thank you for your kindness and generosity, especially during these challenging times. Your scholarship has alleviated my financial burden and allowed me to pursue my goal of becoming a school social worker. I look forward to providing children and adolescents with the social and emotional support necessary for academic success and upward mobility. While doing so, I will never forget the knowledge and skills that the University of Connecticut provided me with. I cannot wait to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others. Thank you again for your support.

Albert Brown Jr. Scholarship

This scholarship is awarded to a student currently conducting their field placement at the UConn Counseling & Mental Health Services.

Nancy White, Individuals, Groups, and Families Concentration

Thank you so much for the scholarship! During this academic year I worked at the Student Health and Wellness mental health program as a practicum student. This experience allowed me to see how integral it is for staff to be working towards the common goal of student health and wellness. I learned so much from the students that I worked with and I am grateful for the experience.

After graduation I will be working as an outpatient therapist at a community mental health practice in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The clients will be from all backgrounds, ages, conditions. I look forward to being able to contribute to my community by helping people with managing their mental health conditions.

Donna Millette-Fridge Scholarship

This scholarship was established in memory of Donna Millette-Fridge by the School of Social Work in recognition of her commitment to helping the mentally ill become self-sufficient.

Amanda Brenner

Amanda Brenner, Policy Practice concentration

Thank you so, so much for awarding me a Donna Millette-Fridge Scholarship. I would like you to know that I honor her memory and the opportunities she is giving me today. I am equally passionate about work with those with mental illness. I have spent my entire year writing and testifying on mental health policy for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. I hope to focus directly on mental health advocacy after graduation, perhaps on the national level. I will bring my UConn education and my lived experience along with me and a great respect and tribute to Donna in whose name I now work.

Esther R. Pahl Fellowship for Social Work Excellence

Esther Pahl is a 1952 graduate of the School of Social Work. She credits her UConn social work education for her long and meaningful career caring for others. She established this scholarship to provide meaningful support to a student in need with an interest in working in a mental health setting.

Mackenna Jacovich

Mackenna Jacovich, Individuals, Groups, and Families concentration

Your thoughtful contribution to my education is very much appreciated. Seeing my own story and work so far in social work as worthy of such a reward has really helped me realize my worth as a future social worker. In my field experience with Emergency Mobile Psychiatric Services (EMPS), I worked with children experiencing suicidal ideations or who had recently attempted suicide. Providing a safe place for these children to tell their stories and express their feelings without judgment has been such a rewarding and fulfilling experience. I hope to continue my work in this area and provide best treatment practices to children and adolescents at risk of suicide. Thank you again for your gracious fellowship.

Frank V. Carollo Scholarship Fund

Mr. Frank Carollo was a 1953 graduate of the UConn School of Social Work who worked part-time while attaining his education. He established this scholarship to assist students who find it necessary to work to supplement their living expenses while attending school.

Katherine Mcmullan, Policy Practice concentration

Melissa Keilty

Melissa Keilty, Policy Practice concentration

Your generosity has been a privilege and an honor to receive. This scholarship will aid in the beginning of my career by providing a sense of calm in the calamity that is being a youth of this day and age. My academic goals include finishing my Master of Social Work and someday pursuing a Doctorate. I selected a degree in social work for its abundant usefulness in a wide array of fields, for its application in various personal and systemic contexts, and for its value-based conceptions. I am a devout participant within various causes which advance justice in human and ecological systems. Your donation helps me maintain my ability to be flexible and gives me encouragement that my hard work is noticed, and appreciated.

Lexie Soja

Lexie Soja, Individuals, Groups, and Families concentration

Thank you for your generosity in awarding me this scholarship. This additional support will alleviate some of the financial demands that can be difficult to prioritize when having to maintain a full academic course load. My goal is to pursue a career in medical social work. I hope to continue working with and advocating for vulnerable populations who are disproportionately impacted due to healthcare disparities. I will forever be grateful for the support that allowed me to continue my education and forward my career.

Charmain Yun

Charmain Yun, Community Organizing concentration

What an honor. Thank you so much for your generosity and support of social work students. I have been working part time and fulfilling full time school requirements over this past year. It has been so fulfilling, but as you can imagine, also tiring. Your scholarship doesn’t just help financially but also serves as an affirmation to the work that I have been doing. It’s been a hard year for so many, especially the clients and people we serve. The pandemic only highlights the disparities in our society. I plan to use my Masters in Social Work in the work of equality, systematic change, and advocacy for the people I serve.

Ivor J. Echols Endowment Fund

Friends and colleagues of the late Dr. Ivor J. Echols, faculty member and prominent member of the African American community, established this award in her honor on her retirement.

Jada Hines

Jada Hines, Individuals, Groups, and Families concentration

I would like to thank my donor for their generosity, as well as those that have selected me for this scholarship. As a teenager I felt as though I had to manage my mental health alone. I knew I wanted to be a social worker so no child would feel as alone as I once did. My goal is to become a school social worker that is present and available for all students, regardless of if they appear to need social services or not. I want students to know who I am and what I can do for them before my assistance is even needed. UConn has given me the opportunity to become more confident in myself and what I can achieve in the future, which is something I will always be grateful for.

Karen Kellerman and Peter Arakas Fellowship in Social Work

Karen Kellerman and Peter Arakas are both proud graduates of the UConn School of Social Work. They created this scholarship to provide financial support for MSW students.

Celina Fernández-Ayala

Celina Fernández-Ayala, Community Organizing concentration

Thank you for your generosity! The scholarship provides much needed financial support during these uncertain times. I decided to pursue an MSW out of my commitment to social justice, especially in Black and Brown communities in my hometown in New Haven, CT. As a Mexi-Rican, I witness disparities in nearly every aspect of Black and Brown life and am committed to working alongside my community to transform society. My career goals include opening my own non-profit that provides traditional social services, but also functions as a space for Black and Brown artists, dancers, singers, writers, and actors. In fact, I dance salsa and sing classical music in my rare spare time.

Mary Porter Wright and John Wright Fellowship in Social Work

Mary Porter Wright is an alumna from UConn School of Social Work.

Lilianna Rubio

Lillianna Rubio, Individuals, Groups, and Families concentration

I can't thank you enough for your generosity. Having gone from full-time to part-time due to the pandemic, this scholarship has given me the peace, and financial relief, that I needed to continue my studies and graduate on track for the summer. I chose to complete my degree in social work as a way to not only give back and provide an opportunity that I was once provided as a foster child, but also to fight for human rights and help give a voice and empower the powerless. I hope to one day provide therapeutic services to young children as well as immigrant and refugee families.

Mary Ellen and John D. Killeen Master of Social Work Scholarship Fund

Mary Ellen Killeen is a School of Social Work graduate who established this fund to provide financial support for students enrolled in the Master’s of Social Work program.

Briee Preston

Briee Preston, Individuals, Groups, and Families concentration

I want to say I am extremely grateful for being chosen for this scholarship award. I have never been awarded a scholarship, so this means so much to me. This scholarship truly helps with my financial situation as I continue to struggle to get through. The pandemic has not made life easy for me, and I constantly face making financial sacrifices. My most recent concerns have been school finances, so again this is a complete blessing. Thank you for your generosity and for considering me; I truly appreciate it.

Miriam Silverman Memorial Scholarship

The Miriam Silverman Memorial Scholarship was established in her memory by her husband and friends to provide financial support to students in need.

Shalamiesha Gilbert

Shalamiesha Gilbert, Individuals, Groups, and Families concentration

Thank you for your generosity in your donation that has helped make my goal of achieving an MSW. It took me many years to finally apply to Graduate School and when the pandemic hit and my family’s income decreased, I wasn't sure if this was the right time to move forward with school. I decided to proceed despite the financial hurdles, and this scholarship will help ease my financial burden. I have always felt deep satisfaction through volunteer work and activism. In the back of my mind I knew I wanted to help others, but was unsure how to turn it into a career. Social work is my opportunity to turn my love of helping people into a career.

Murry Shapiro Endowed Scholarship Fund

Paul Shapiro, a retired assistant attorney general and former Mayor of Mansfield, Connecticut, established the Murry Shapiro Scholarship in memory of his late father, a former member of the Group Work faculty who taught at the School of Social Work.

Gina Squitieri

Gina Squitieri, Individuals, Groups, and Families concentration

I have endured numerous struggles throughout my lifetime and being a recipient of this scholarship reinforces the fact that other individuals recognize my hard work and resilience through it all. I have accepted an internship as a social work intern at UConn’s hospital in the ICU, fulfilling the main objective I set out for when I applied to this program. Words cannot express how grateful I am to be able to make a difference next semester in the lives of individuals whose health is in critical care and you supported me through this. There are not enough thank yous in the world to express my gratitude.

Nancy Tarr Berdon Fund

The family of Nancy Tarr Berdon established this award in memory of Tarr Berdon, a noted professional social worker in the New Haven area committed to working with the poor.

Ashante Malone, Individuals, Groups, and Families concentration

I am beyond grateful to have been chosen as a recipient of the Nancy Tarr Berdon scholarship. After completing the Master's Program at UConn, I will remain at the Department of Children and Families where I am currently employed and plan to transition to a social worker. I chose to further my education after being employed by DCF for several years. I am limited in how much I can directly assist families with my current role and I had such a desire to do more and that prompted my decision to return to school.


Holly Savitsky, Individuals, Groups, and Families concentration

Thank you most sincerely for your generous scholarship. For a student like me, a single mother who has spent most of her life in poverty, scholarships are life changing. In the social work field there’s so much to learn, so many important details that help us understand how to best help people. In the future, I plan to work for a nonprofit agency. I’d like to do outreach work to people who struggle with barriers to care such as chronic homelessness, substance misuse, disabilities, and mental illness. I’d also like to include activism in my work, since the systemic ways in which people are being oppressed are going largely unchallenged.

Peter Petrella Fellowship for the School of Social Work

The Peter Petrella fund supports fellowships for incoming or continuing graduate students enrolled full-time in the School of Social Work. Students may be incoming or continuing and must demonstrate academic achievement. Priority will be given to students who demonstrate financial need.

Matthew Stayner

Matthew Stayner, Individuals, Groups, and Families concentration

Thank you very much for this honor. This scholarship will make a huge difference in my ability to continue my education without having to worry as much about my financial situation. After earning my MSW, I hope to work within a community agency, ideally one that follows the integrated care model. I would like to work with adolescents and adults from vulnerable and underserved populations, who struggle with mental health and addictions. I believe that the integrated care model provides the best service for members of the community, as it allows clinicians from different disciplines to work together and form a team that addresses a clients’ needs holistically.

Shirley & Howard Dickstein Scholarship Fund

This scholarship was established by Shirley and Howard Dickstein to assist students with their expenses while attending school.

Kailey Bousquet

Kailey Bousquet, Individuals, Groups, and Families concentration

Thank you so much for your generosity in awarding me with this scholarship. I always dreamed of finding a career path that would provide me with opportunities for lifelong learning and giving back to others, and I am happy to say that I have found that in social work. Within my first year, I have learned more about our world and myself than I had before, and I will always be grateful for the knowledge and experiences the program, my professors, and my peers have provided me with. The School of Social Work at UConn is full of like-minded, determined, individuals and I absolutely love being a part of this community!

Kimberly Persaud

Kimberley Persaud, Community Organizing concentration

I want to thank you for your generosity and for providing this scholarship to me. I want to work in and with my community to help families and provide services to children with Autism. With my current internship, I work with my Hartford community and engage with families who have children with Autism and need early intervention for developmental delays. I am currently partaking in community organizing to develop a resource outlet for families. My goal is to remove the stigma addressed with Autism and create an environment where parents acknowledge their families' strengths and feel empowered to foster their child's development. Another goal of mine is to ensure families get the necessary mental health resources they need and adequate early intervention services for their children.

The LeBoeuf Johnson Master of Social Work Scholarship Fund

George LeBoeuf is a recent graduate of the School of Social Work, who, along with his wife, Shevonn Johnson, created this scholarship to support the educational needs of students enrolled in the Master’s of Social Work program.

Brianna Johnson

Brianna Johnson, Individuals, Groups, and Families concentration

I am so grateful for the opportunity this grant will award me. I began my career path 12 years ago when I first graduated UConn with my BA in Human Development and Family Studies. Since then, I have been working in the Applied Behavior Analysis field throughout the state of Connecticut. I received countless referrals for children that were labeled as “behavioral” and therefore “needed me.” These children did not need to be changed, they needed to be heard, and loved. I am hoping that furthering my education in Social Work, I will be able to make a bigger difference in not just individuals lives, but to teach others what it truly means to give help.

Ph.D. Awards

Rollin Williams/Y.C. Wu Research Dissertation Fellowship

The School of Social Work Ph.D. program offers the Rollin Williams/Y.C. Wu Research Dissertation Fellowship each year. The scholarship is intended to provide support to an incoming doctoral student who demonstrates the potential to make significant contributions to social work scholarship, education, and practice. All incoming doctoral students are eligible for the scholarship regardless of other financial supports.

One award of $10,000 per year for two years based on enrollment and good academic standing (for a total award of up to $20,000) will be made to a student entering the Ph.D. program. Students may receive this award once during their tenure in the Ph.D. program and are encouraged to use the award as a general stipend. The Ph.D. Program Director, in consultation with the Doctoral Committee, selects the scholarship recipient.

Cristina Wilson Scholarship

The Cristina Wilson Scholarship aims to support Ph.D. students' financial needs as they complete their degrees.

Davidson Dissertation Stipend

The Davidson Dissertation Stipend provides funding Ph.D. student travel related to completing their dissertations.

Phd Student Grace Felten

Grace Felten, MSW, Doctoral Candidate

2019–2020 Rollin Williams/ Y.C. Wu Dissertation Research Fellowship

2020–2021 Davidson Dissertation Stipend

My goal is to be a professor of social work at a Research I institution and to partner with international NGOs to provide research that will inform policy. Currently, there is little focus on migration and reproductive health, even with the professions’ commitment to serving the most vulnerable and advocating for human rights. I intend to help bridge connections between social workers and other humanitarian workers in this area and support them through my research using a human rights lens. Additionally, I hope this leads to the prioritization of reproductive health in humanitarian settings and to viewing reproductive health in a more comprehensive manner.

This scholarship has allowed me to continue my dissertation research conducting an exploratory qualitative case study to examine the impact of forced migration on the reproductive health of refugee women in Greece and to gain insight into the experiences of humanitarian workers trying to support refugees in severely constrained situations. I will use these funds for travel costs and other research-related expenses in order to conduct approximately 40 semi-structured, in-depth qualitative interviews with refugees and staff and/or volunteers working with refugees in Greece and to record relevant observations during visits to refugee camps, community centers, NGO offices, and informal spaces.

Phd student Jenna Powers

Jenna Powers, MSW, Doctoral Candidate

2019–2020 Rollin Williams/Y.C. Wu Dissertation Research Fellowship

2020–2021 Cristina Wilson Scholarship

I am incredibly honored and appreciative of receiving the 2019-2020 Rollin Williams/Y.C. Wu Dissertation Research Fellowship and the 2020-2021 Cristina Wilson Scholarship. Both of these awards will be instrumental in me achieving my goals upon earning my Ph.D. Upon graduation, I hope to continue teaching and conducting research with the foster youth community, both of which will be strengthened by my engagement in participatory action research (PAR) and community-based participatory research (CBPR) projects.

The Dissertation Research Fellowship has enabled me to pursue PAR and CBPR aspects within my dissertation study's data collection, analysis, and dissemination. This has provided me exposure to and practice with these participatory research methods. The Cristina Wilson Scholarship will make it possible for me to attend a conference where I can disseminate my dissertation research findings as well as learn from and network with other researchers conducting PAR and CBPR. As a result, both awards will directly benefit my research and teaching upon graduation.

Regina Lester-Harriat, LMSW

Regina recently joined the School of Social Work faculty as an assistant professor-in-residence. She earned her MSW in 2008 from UConn and was a long-standing field instructor for the School. While a student, Regina studied casework with a focus on women and children in families. She is a former school social worker with nearly two decades of experience working in public, charter and independent school systems. This spring, Lester-Harriat is teaching Practice with Individuals, Groups and Families and advising students. In addition, she is slated to teach the Direct Practice in Schools course next year. With her rich practice experience, she will be able to integrate her real-life experiences into the classroom. “I’m happy to be returning to UConn where it all started for me,” said Lester-Harriat.

Lester-Harriat’s research Interests include the role of religion in building emotional resilience in women; building emotional resilience in children and adolescents; trauma-informed practice with children and adolescents; child and adolescent mental health disorders; child and adolescent substance abuse; teens and suicide; and the experience of African-American families in the foster care system.