2017 HSSJ Newsletter

Message from the Chair
Department Spotlights
Program Announcements
Alumni Updates/Class Notes
Donor Recognition

Message from the Chair

Emily Morrison

Greetings from the Director, Dr. Emily Morrison

Welcome to the 2016-2017 Human Services and Social Justice Program Annual Newsletter! We are excited to share with you the wide-ranging endeavors, accolades and real change achieved by our faculty, students and alumni this year. Our featured news includes HSSJ current students bringing home six awards at GW’s Research Day; welcoming new faculty like Jeff Marootian, Amy Parks, Sangeeta Prasad and Gretchen Van der Veer into our program; current junior Kyrah Altman starting her own nonprofit, Let’s Empower, Advocate, and Do, Inc. (LEAD), and winning the GW Venture Prize; and much more! While we cannot include every achievement in one newsletter, we hope you’ll continue to send alumni updates throughout the year. I love hearing from you.

The HSSJ Program continues to grow with every passing year and we are excited to include you in our journey. You can stay connected to the program in different ways. Here are a few ways you can help: volunteer to be a leader in an informal HMSR/HSSJ alumni network and collaborate with HSSJ student leaders; assist in the classroom; review graduate applications; be a guest speaker; serve as a site supervisor; attend campus events; make financial contributions to our capstone course or program; and answer students’ questions about careers, organizations and communities around the world. We especially encourage you to consider donating to the program and the capstone course project (see course spotlight).

We value and appreciate your involvement. If you would like to help, or just stay in touch, please e-mail me at [email protected], join our private LinkedIn Group: GW Human Services and Social Justice Program or even share your current reads (or get ideas for summer reading) to the GW HSSJ Goodreads Group. Have another idea on how you would like to contribute time, talents or treasure? Let me know!

All good wishes to you.

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 Department Spotlights

Welcoming Alumnus Jeff Marootian to Our Faculty!

Professor Jeff Marootian
Professor Jeff Marootian

Jeff Marootian, BA ’01, MPA ’03, joined the faculty of the HSSJ program in the spring of 2017. He was previously appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as the assistant secretary for administration and White House liaison for the United States Department of Transportation from 2013-2017. Jeff is an alumnus of both the HSSJ program and the Master of Public Administration program and also teaches The Politics of Management (PPPA 6085.11) in the Trachtenberg School.

Jeff has worked across the public sector at the intersection of state, local and federal government, and has held senior leadership roles in agencies including the District Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C., and the Metropolitan Police Department. He has also worked in federal politics at the Democratic National Committee and as a member of the re-election team for President Obama’s 2012 campaign.

Jeff has expertise in managing complex organizations, recruiting talent and streamlining service delivery. As the instructor of Fact, Field, or Fiction in the HSSJ program, he focuses on guiding students through the nexus of management science, literature and practical field experience in order to become more effective advocates and leaders. Jeff is passionate about driving social change through public-private partnerships, community engagement and government leadership. While at the U.S. Department of Transportation, he worked to build capacity for President Obama’s transportation agenda including promoting transportation safety, modernizing the national infrastructure and building economic ladders of opportunity in communities across the country.

Jeff was the LGBT outreach director at the Democratic National Committee and is active in local and national LGBT policy organizations. He is a contributing essayist to Out and Equal at Work: From Closet to Corner Office. He has lived and worked in Washington, D.C., since 1997.

Passion in Practice

Lilly Fulmer, a sophomore in the Human Services and Social Justice Department, currently works with the nonprofit BRAWS (Bringing Resources to Aid Women’s Shelters). After having partnered with the organization for her Organizing for Social Justice class in fall 2016, Lilly stayed on the team as an intern, marrying her love for community service and gender equality. BRAWS provides menstrual hygiene products and new undergarments to homeless and low-income individuals throughout D.C.,Virginia and Maryland. Their mission is to change legislation, provide resources and support the populations that are most negatively affected by the high price of menstrual hygiene products. Lilly interns with BRAWS to reach out to both corporate partners and the GW community, garnering support for their cause. Working with BRAWS has helped Lilly focus her passion for health and equality in an engaging and productive way.


Student Founded Nonprofit, LEAD, Inc, Takes GW by Storm

During the spring semester of 2016, GW human services and social justice major Kyrah Altman and international affairs major Nora Hennessey competed in the GW New Venture Competition. As two of the only women and undergraduate students in the competition, their team won $32,500 in grand prizes to fund the startup of their social venture: Let’s Empower, Advocate, and Do, Inc. (LEAD). LEAD, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation with a mission to provide educators, students and organizations with curriculum and training to promote mental health education and wellbeing in adolescents.

After returning home to Massachusetts, Kyrah and her founding team from high school formed a board of directors and incorporated as a nonprofit entity. LEAD’s goals include improving early intervention for mental illness in high school and college-aged youth by empowering students to seek treatment and training educators to identify high-risk behavior in their students. LEAD, Inc. provides school districts with an innovative and multi-tiered model that reduces untreated mental illness while promoting academic performance and healthy behaviors in youth:

1. Providing health educators with a curriculum supplement to incorporate mental health into existing “comprehensive health education” classes.

2. Certifying high school staff and college students in Youth Mental Health First Aid, an eight-hour course designed to give individuals knowledge of risk factors and warning signs of mental illness and addiction, strategies to help people ages 8-24 in crisis and non-crisis situations and an action plan to secure appropriate care and support.

3. Providing school districts with an online subscription to LEAD’s website to access measurement tools and continued education for students, parents and educators.

Since its inception, LEAD, Inc. has spearheaded a campus-wide #LEADnow campaign to certify college students in youth mental health first aid (YMHFA). With the help of five hardworking interns per semester and GW senior and board advisor Alicia Young, LEAD, Inc. has successfully certified 150 individuals in YMHFA and partnered with the GW Multicultural Student Services Center, GW TRAiLS and other student organizations. The National Council for Behavioral Health believes Altman is the youngest of 11,000 YMHFA instructors in the country.

Additionally, Altman and peers worked with Massachusetts State Senator Jennifer L. Flanagan to write bill S.256, “An Act relative to the promotion of mental health education in Massachusetts high schools.” The bill was debated debated in the Joint Committee on Education on April 13, in a public hearing at the State House. The bill is still pending.

Every semester, LEAD hosts public YMHFA courses for GW students and offers private trainings and group rates to student organizations and academic departments. To register, please visit LEAD’s Facebook page and view “Upcoming Events.”

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Program Announcements 


Michelle Kelso spent the fall semester working on her manuscript about Roma and collective memory of the Holocaust in Romania as well as teaching as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Bucharest. She was also interviewed on several national Romanian news program on Digi TV and Realitatea TV regarding the sociological aspects of the U.S. presidential election. This April, she will be speaking at the British Sociological Association on "Reflections on Holocaust Education of the Roma Genocide in Romania." Michelle also became a contributor for The Huffington Post and for University World News.

Emily Morrison received the Morton A. Bender Teaching Excellence Award this past April. She has published three articles this academic year with two different articles addressing faculty approaches to community-engaged scholarship (the second is in press) which she wrote with Dr. Wendy Wagner, and a third article service and service-learning experiences among Pakistani students. She also continues to lead the multi-course, multi-semester research project on understanding the experiences of aging in D.C. with a focus on well-being and changes to one's community, working with Professors Sharon Lambert, Amy Parks, Sara Pula and Wendy Wagner. In November 2016, she was honored with the Maryland-DC Campus Compact 2016 Early Career Engaged Scholar Award for her approach to research, teaching and service. In April 2017, she was awarded the inaugural Chicago Service-Learning Research Fellowship sponsored by the Steans Center at DePaul University to extend research on community-engaged scholarship.

Amy Fortney Parks is the executive director of WISE Mind Solutions, LLC, a Northern Virginia­ based practice focused on children, teens and families. She is also the owner of The Wise Family—a comprehensive brand for kids and parents designed to inspire, educate and energize families! She brings over 25 years of education and experience working with children, adolescents and families as both an educator and psychologist. More information and how to chat directly with her about your family are on her website or connect SOCIALLY @wisefamilies

Sangeeta Prasad joined the faculty in fall 2016, teaching our Interpersonal Relationships course. Dr. Prasad was recently appointed senior advisor and facilitator to the nonprofit Kindred, which is dedicated to a participatory action model of prevention and intervention among mixed race, mixed class parents to address educational inequity. She will be presenting a paper on “Rupture and Repair in Cultural Processing” at the International Self Psychology conference in October. She is dedicated to improving the field's capacity to adequately offer services to low income and minority patients and serves as a therapist to children and their families. Dr. Prasad is thankful to be among talented professors and students who believe in and know the power of true community engagement.

Gretchen Van der Veer is one of our newest faculty members. She has been working on issues related to civic engagement, capacity building and leadership development in the nonprofit sector for over 25 years. She currently serves as the CEO/executive director of Fair Chance, a social change organization fighting generational poverty by investing expertise and capacity building in strategically selected community-based nonprofits. Believing that every child deserves a “fair chance” to succeed, Fair Chance has a unique model at the grassroots in local communities to strengthen the existing nonprofit ecosystem, facilitate collaboration and put more children and youth on a pathway out of poverty.

Wendy Wagner’s three co-edited books were released by Jossey-Bass from August 2016 to January 2017. Leadership for a Better World: Understanding the Social Change Model of Leadership is an undergraduate textbook. The Social Change Model: Facilitating Leadership Development is a volume for leadership educators in the curriculum or co-curriculum. Leadership Development through Service-Learning is a volume in the New Directions for Student Leadership series. Wagner and Morrison also published their research study in the top journal in the field—The Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning—on “Exploring Faculty Perspectives on Community Engaged Scholarship: The Case for Q Methodology.”


Rebecca Levy is a senior honor's thesis student in HSSJ who presented at GW Research Day 2017. Her study on weight bias in elementary schools was featured in GWToday.

Congratulations to Abril Castro, Danielle Ciaurro, Anna Coughlan, Olivia Idris and Nkechi Okwo, who were accepted into the combined BA/MPA program with the GW Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration for the upcoming year!

Adam Graubart points to a research poster of his senior thesis
Congratulations to Adam Graubart, who was awarded the Newman Civic Fellowship representing GW within his cohort. The Newman Civic Fellowship is a one-year fellowship for community-committed college students from Campus Compact member institutions.


Capstone 4195 Course: Our graduating Human Services & Social Justice class is involved in operating the capstone class foundation, InspireUp. The name of the foundation draws upon our mission, which seeks to promote equity in the education system by supporting programs which inspire students. This year we are hoping to support organizations that are actively involved in, "providing educational services, cultivating positive relationships, and fostering student potential." More details regarding the foundation can be found on our website

The course relies on the generation donations of alumni, family and program supporters. Without these, we cannot continue to provide these engaging and active-learning opportunities to all students. All donations that are made to the capstone project are tax deductible and 100 percent of the funds are distributed to vetted community organizations that are chosen by the class foundation. This is a double win for folks who want to help students learn and donate money to worthy nonprofits in the D.C. metropolitan area, but may not have the time to research the organizations for themselves. Donations to the capstone class foundation can be made directly to the George Washington University and specified as an allocation to the HSSJ Program. Every bit helps us continue this important work of learning about philanthropy.

Adult Development Course: The HSSJ course Adult Development has, as a part of its curriculum, a culminating project call the Life Plan Project. It is described in our course syllabus as an opportunity for students to combine their emerging understanding of issues in adult development with a potential map of the choices they may consider making in future decades. With consideration for theories of personality, social roles, attachment/relationship development and moral and faith reasoning, students draw from a complex web of related course material.

The Life Plan Project requires that students consider a career, social and financial plans for each decade of life, and goals for each stage of adult development, with reference to contemporary research and class learning. They must also make a plan for retirement and later life that takes into consideration insights drawn from the senior research project and their weekly service learning.

To prepare for this project, two class workshops are conducted to give students the opportunity to work in small groups to create a mind map representing the decisions and issues to be considered in each decade (e.g., 30s, 40s, etc.), and to brainstorm and process ideas. The resulting mind maps are then shared with all students through the Blackboard course room as a means of aiding in the development of an outline for each decade of content. Additionally, information is available for students regarding a breadth of topics related to the journey through adulthood, including health and life insurance, career training and development, family planning, relationship/social development and retirement and end of life issues.

Students in this semester’s two sections of Adult Development have approached this project with both excitement and trepidation. Initial discussions of the project were met with groans. However, as we have moved through our course curriculum, students have been able to be more appreciative of the opportunity to approach this task with a broad foundation. The additional opportunities to speak with community seniors, and to interact with adults in a variety of life stages through service learning, has provided material for deep conversations and thoughtful reflection on the adult roles they may expect to play in their futures.

Written by Professor Amy Parks.


Senior Wellbeing Research Project Update: Our Senior Wellbeing project has successfully concluded another semester of undergraduate interviews! As mentioned in our earlier description of the study, America’s senior population is the fastest growing demographic group in the nation. According to Census research, this population will reach 83.7 million by 2050, cementing the importance for understanding the issues that face senior wellbeing nationwide. In total, 202 undergraduate students over four semesters have conducted a total of 167 interviews, with 41 students having participated in the project through two different classes. Having students participate in the project in more than one class teaches students how to approach the research process using more than one theoretical perspective, as well as bolsters their community-based research skills. Initial student feedback shows that their confidence and competence in conducting meaningful interviews grew from their first experience to their second experience.

In analyzing the data gleaned across all of the interviews, several statistically significant findings have emerged related to senior wellbeing and neighborhood cohesion. Community wellbeing had the strongest correlation with neighborhood cohesion (p £ 0.01), followed by physical wellbeing (p £ 0.05). Cohesion in a community comprises things like seeing neighbors and friends talking outside, caring for one another (e.g., watching children, help with yard work), and watching out for one another (e.g., calling if they see a problem). Community wellbeing is defined as having a sense of engagement with the area in which one lives and physical wellbeing involves a sense of good health and enough energy to get things done on a daily basis.  The findings affirm and offer evidence that these two dimensions of wellbeing are particularly important to cultivating a sense of neighborhood community.

In asking senior participants to rank order the dimensions of wellbeing that were most to least important to them, spiritual wellbeing topped the list (49%). Physical wellbeing was a close second (30%), followed distantly by social, intellectual/career, community, and financial dimensions of wellbeing. By understanding what matters most to seniors regarding their sense of wellbeing and what promotes neighborhood cohesion, community partners, city leaders, area seniors, and other stakeholders may identify ways to cultivate experiences that promote wellbeing throughout the lifespan.

Emily Morrison Awarded Grant for Pilot Study From Guardians of Honor and the Corporation for National and Community Service: Assistant Professor Emily Morrison was awarded a $60,000 contract from Guardians of Honor and the Corporation for National and Community Service to assess the feasibility of measuring civic engagement at the local level, and inform future efforts. This exploratory project planned for Washington, D.C., will contribute to the development of a larger feasibility study focusing on the methodology that the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) may employ in future efforts to measure and assess civic engagement and volunteerism within communities across the United States. Specifically, CNCS is interested in how to gather quality formal and informal indicators of civic engagement and volunteerism. Phase 1 of this project involves community-level data collection regarding 1) what constitutes, hinders and facilitates civic engagement among older people; and 2) how organizations like Age Friendly and WAVE operate with an eye towards engaging older people in volunteerism, leadership and collaboration with other villages/organizations to affect civic involvement. Stay tuned for more information!


Congratulations to Leah Cohen and Rachel Naugle for receiving the Honey W. Nashman Outstanding Senior in Human Services and Social Justice Award for 2016-2017! The award is given to a senior in the program who has a major GPA above 3.7 and has consistently demonstrated excellence in his or her academic performance. Normally, this award goes to one senior; however, the committee was impressed by both Leah and Rachel and their outstanding scholarship, leadership and commitment to social justice. Read on to learn of their contributions to the HSSJ program and GW community.

Leah Cohen: My time in HSSJ brought me to Miriam’s Kitchen, Francis Stevens Elementary School, Tanzania and back into the GW residents halls. As I moved imperfectly through these experiences I learned to challenge my own assumptions, ask questions and listen. The HSSJ Program helped me develop a framework for interpreting and participating in the world around me and I hope adding my voices to the conversation helped others do the same. The things I have learned through HSSJ showed me the power of thoughtful service on a large scale and in random moments and have left me hopeful as I transition out of GW.

Rachel Naugle: Throughout my time at GW the Human Services and Social Justice major has given me many different opportunities to serve the GW community, the D.C. community and beyond. I had the support from my HSSJ professors and classmates to apply to an internship at the White House for the fall 2016 semester. With my experience at the White House I was able to learn more about how a Human Services and Social Justice degree can operate in the federal government. I feel so lucky to have this experience in my portfolio as a means of bringing what I learned with Human Services and Social Justice to a larger group of people.

Congratulations to all students that took home a prize during GW Research Day 2017! Below is a list of our recipients and their projects!

  • Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Prize (Day 1 & Day 2) Undergraduate Presenters 2nd Place: Charleene Smith, "Black Reproductive Freedom: Contraceptive Counseling.”
  • Overall Research Day Prizes, Education, Business, and Organizational Studies: 1st: Victoria Rowe, "Seek First to Understand: Exploring the Implementation of Culturally Relevant Education in the District of Columbia."
  • Media and Cultural Studies: 2nd: Sara Policastro: “Market Manager Relationships Around Financial Incentive Programs at D.C. Farmers' Markets
  • Special Prizes
    • Nashman Prize 1st Place: Sara Policastro, "Market Manager Relationships Around Financial Incentive Programs at D.C. Farmers' Markets."
    • 2nd Place: Charleene Smith, "Black Reproductive Freedom: Contraceptive Counseling."
    • Diversity and Inclusion Prize: 2nd place: Theresa Cal, "Unwanted Sexual Contact and the Implicit Objectification of Women"

The HSSJ Program is honored to congratulate the following students who have been offered teaching positions after graduation this spring. They continue to put HSSJ values into practice!

  • Emily Benn (KIPP NYC)
  • Laura Blackberry (KIPP DC)
  • Rebecca Levy (Teach For America)
  • Abigail Marco (Urban Teachers)
  • Abbie Martin (Teach For America)
  • Victoria Rowe (Teach For America)
  • Brian Wasik (Teach For America)

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 Alumni Updates/Class Notes

Sanjana Ballal-Link, BA ’07, is the managing director of Teacher Leadership Development for Teach for America Nashville. She manages the coaching team that supports 150 Corps members in over 60 schools in Nashville.

Lisa Clark, BA ’86, is currently a chief customs and border protection officer at CBP headquarters in Washington, D.C. She manages an overseas program that screens U.S. bound maritime cargo for terrorism.

Kate Hornyan, BA ’09, started a new position in October at the March of Dimes. She is fundraising for their five annual walk events called the March for Babies—and is happy to have two interns from GW this semester (including one in the human services major).

Natalie Kaplan, BA ’09, MPA ’11, began her career working for D.C.'s Department of Human Services from 2012-2016. In June of 2016, Natalie joined Montgomery County's Housing Opportunities Commission working with their Legislative and Public Affairs Division.

Aizhan Kul-Mukhammed, BA ’13, has returned to Kazakhstan after working for two years at a Washington-based think tank. Back at home, Aizhan launched a health promotion program at underprivileged schools, and a reproductive literacy program at crisis shelters for women.

Rebecca Miller, BA ’11, is the director of primary care transformation at the largest public safety-net system in the country, NYC Health + Hospitals. Rebecca is a Duke-trained integrative health coach and is a healthcare MBA candidate.

Maura Molish, BA ’15, is the development associate at the Foundation for the Children of the Californias, a San Diego nonprofit which supports a pediatric specialty medical center in Tijuana, B.C.

Ariella Neckritz, BA ’16, worked part time for PAVE, then got hired in August at Jewish Women International as the prevention programs manager. She writes and facilitates workshops on healthy relationships, consent and bystander intervention for middle school, high school and college students. Next year she will be working on the first Orthodox Judaism consent education curriculum. She also helps run a training network for domestic violence and allied professionals. Ariella feels very lucky that she gets paid to professionally SASA.

Blythe Purdin, BA ’04, earned her certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in Educational Leadership in 2016. She has been an elementary teacher in Massachusetts for over 10 years, and hopes to move into an administrative position in the future.

Magnolia Sexton, BA ’13, graduated from GW's Elliott School of International Affairs with a Master of International Policy and Practice, focused on management for international development.

Ashley Trick, BA ’15, recently started a new role as the immersion service program associate within The Honey W. Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service. She advises the GW Alternative Breaks program and coordinates all one-time service events.

Kim Votruba-Matook, BA ’06, founded The Artful Educator where she creates illustrative educational art that promotes literacy and quality conversation between kids and their caregivers. Her product, The Artful Alphabet, was featured in GW Magazine's 2016 Holiday Gift Guide!

Maya Weinstein, BA ’16, was recognized on April 7 by the Department of Justice for her efforts to support victims of sexual assault. As an undergraduate, she helped victims find the resources and support they needed, and motivated other organizations to plan educational events on preventing sexual assault and treating its survivors.

Lisa (de Saxe) Zerden, BA ’02, is the senior associate dean for MSW Education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is currently the PI of two HRSA projects related to expanding behavioral health services.

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 Donor Recognition

The Human Services and Social Justice Program would like to gratefully acknowledge the following generous donors who made a gift to the school from January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2016.

Melissa B. Dishart, BA ’13

Kate A. Hornyan, MPA ’12

Shannon M. McGuire, MPA ’17

Christopher R. Percopo, BA ’05

Melinda J. Pollack, BA ’97

Kathleen A. Rodrigues, BA ’16

Victoria A. Rowe, ~

Rochelee Shing, BA ’13

Connie Song, MPA ’17

Stephanie St. Clair, BA ’12


+ Faculty/Staff

# Parent

~ Student

* Friend

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