2018 HSSJ Newsletter

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

Message From the Program Director

Michelle Kelso

Dear HSSJ Alumni and Friends,

This is an exciting time to be in the field of human services and social justice! There is so much happening around the nation, including advocacy for women’s rights, immigration reform, racial equality, workers’ rights, health and safety reform and LGBTQ rights, among others. There is good news to report on the job front as well. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment growth in our field is expected to grow 14 percent through 2026, faster than the average for all occupations, adding about 371,900 jobs.

Our HSSJ community is, as ever, incredibly active. In the last academic year, we served at 79 sites! In this newsletter we highlight some of the great work students, alumni and faculty do. This includes a spotlight on our new instructor, Erica Broadus, who teaches a social entrepreneurship course. We also feature Dr. Peter Konwerski, who has stepped down as vice provost and dean of student affairs. We thank Peter for his commitment and service to GW and the HSSJ Program.

In HSSJ, we continue teaching critical skills that allow our students to achieve their academic and career goals. Students complete their degrees with over 300 hours of community-engaged service. For example, students serve at afterschool programs run by Little Friends for Peace; advocate for legislative change on behalf of the Sandy Hook Initiative; write grants for organizations such as College to Congress; and conduct program evaluations for Bread for the City, to name just some of the work happening in HSSJ. The capstone course, thanks to the generosity of donors, created the S.H.I.F.T. Foundation, putting out the 2018 call for proposals for initiatives centered on sexual assault education, prevention and survivor support.

We would love for you to stay connected! You can collaborate with HSSJ student leaders, become a guest speaker, serve as a site supervisor, attend campus events and financially support our various programming. We also welcome other suggestions.

Please also stay in touch by emailing me at [email protected]; joining our private LinkedIn Group: GW Human Services and Social Justice Program; or by sharing your current reads to the GW HSSJ Goodreads Group.

As the HSSJ program continues to grow, we love hearing about your accomplishments, accolades and adventures!

Michelle Kelso, Acting Director

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Program Spotlights 

Spotlighting New Faculty Member, Amy Parks!

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Amy Fortney Parks, PhD, joined the adjunct faculty of the HSSJ program in the fall of 2016. Dr. Parks teaches both sections of Human Interactions–Child & Adolescent Development and Adult Development. She works full time as the owner of a private counseling and assessment practice in Alexandria called Wise Mind Solutions, LLC focused on children, teens and families. She is also the creator of The Wise Family—a comprehensive brand for kids and parents designed to inspire, education and energize families. Amy brings nearly 30 years of experience working with families as both a school psychologist and school counselor for Fairfax County Public Schools, and a specialist in ADHD, executive function and brain-based learning. She speaks frequently across the country to schools, businesses and organizations about how the brain works and how to develop strategies for tapping into a growth mindset, changing our language in and out of the classroom and the impact of trauma on neurobiology.

Dr. Parks is currently writing a book for educators and families about the impacts of the digital age and social media on communication and engagement. More about her work, and a subscription to her weekly blog, Wise Words, can be found at The Wise Family website. When she isn’t in the therapy room or the classroom, Dr. Parks is a mother to four teens/young adults and the wife of a toy store owner.

A Fond Farewell to Dr. Peter Konwerski

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Dr. Peter Konwerski, BA ’91, MA ’94, EdD ’97, vice provost, dean of student affairs and faculty member of the HSSJ Department, is stepping down from his GW positions to pursue other academic and professional opportunities. He has been integral to building and keeping our HSSJ family connected throughout his tenure. 

Honey Nashman, former director of the Human Services Program, reflected on Peter’s outstanding contribution to the program:

For more than 30 years, Peter has played a significant role in the success of the Human Services Program. He has mastered the art of giving back, teaching and promoting human rights and social justice.

He has achieved the perfect balance of doing something meaningful and helping others. Albert Einstein said, ‘Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.’ Dr. Peter Konwerski achieved this.

In 1991, he graduated as an outstanding student. His contributions to the department, university and community have grown exponentially, resulting in numerous awards.

His remarkable career continued after being appointed adjunct assistant professor of sociology where he taught introductory through capstone courses in the Human Services Program.

He developed three innovative service-learning courses including two first year dean’s classes.

During my sabbatical, Peter was appointed the acting director, and grew the program from 35 to 55 majors and minors. He is the founding director of the University Office of Community Service.            

He consistently received rave reviews as the academic advisor to the program. He served as a liaison to D.C. government, public schools and neighborhood associations. Peter also initiated service-learning efforts with faculty across institutions.                                                                         

Another significant contribution includes his role in George Washington University being awarded the CORAL and several Federal AmeriCorps grants.                                         

Peter’s many contributions to the program will continue to influence students for years to come.            

I feel enormously grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Peter and to call him my dear friend.

Social Change Beginning in the Classroom

HSSJ 4198: Social Entrepreneurship in the Nonprofit Sector is a new course within the HSSJ program, taught by Professor Erica Broadus. The course introduces students to the theories behind social entrepreneurship; the motivations of social entrepreneurs; and the practices, methods and influences of social enterprises. These entities use innovative, entrepreneurial strategies to achieve social impact around the world. Social enterprises are often formed by individuals who see solutions to social problems that are not met by the public or private sectors. They may feel a sense of urgency to right social wrongs, and are driven by knowledge, passion and determination. 

The course begins with in-depth discussions about the differences among and relationships between the for-profit, non-profit and governmental sectors. This allows students to see the opportunities and challenges of each sector to meet human needs. From there, students learn about the many types of social enterprises, and how each requires thoughtful planning to meet social and financial needs. Weekly class topics include ways to transform ideas into viable opportunities, the importance of partnerships, ways to promote sustainability and traditional “business” aspects of a social venture such as marketing, financial matters and organizational management.

Students demonstrate their semester-long learning by working in groups of four to design a social enterprise that facilitates social justice. Their knowledge is further tested by critically evaluating the work of other teams. The project’s purposes are three-fold: 1) to help students understand how problems that affect them or their communities (e.g., physical disabilities, acts of violence, environmental issues) can be opportunities for social change; 2) to encourage students to formulate positive, constructive means of confronting such issues; and 3) to aid students in discovering innovate ways to benefit others who face similar challenges.

Currently, 20 bright, aspiring change-makers are enrolled in the course. They represent many areas of the GW community—business, international affairs, social justice and more. Students are encouraged to speak from their backgrounds and experiences while respecting the thoughts of others. They are also encouraged to think deeply about social issues, to challenge their own assumptions and to consider issues from different angles. “The class is open to undergraduate students at all levels… the only requirement is a desire to learn and affect social change to improve human life.”

See for yourself what students have been saying about the course:  “Social Entrepreneurship has been an incredible complement to my studies thus far. As a student focusing in sociology, so much of my undergraduate coursework has been theoretical. With this course, I feel I am finally able to see how to combine theory and practice in order to truly gain a better understanding of the private, non-profit and government sectors... The knowledge gained here will absolutely serve me in my post-graduate career, and for that I am extremely grateful!”  — Julia Barrett, BA ’18 

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Program Announcements

Faculty Kudos

  • Erica Broadus is a doctoral candidate in the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration, focusing on social policy and gender studies. She is also a Provost Diversity Fellowship recipient, and holds a Master of Public Affairs.

  • Linda Byington joined the faculty in spring 2018. She is currently supervising the HSSJ 4193 Research and Independent Study course. Dr. Byington is also an instructor at the School of Nursing, and has taught similar courses in the School of Education. She holds a doctoral degree from GWU in Human and Organizational Studies. For many years Dr. Byington was a provost and vice president of strategic planning at Davenport University, a multi-campus institution, whose main campus is in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

  • Michelle Kelso published a book chapter "Reflection on Holocaust Education of the Roma genocide in Romania" in Reimagining utopias: Theory and method for educational research in post-socialist contexts (Sense Publishing, 2017). She also continues media appearances on social justice issues, having been interviewed in March about gun violence in America on a Romanian national news television program. You can find more information on the journal website. In spring, Dr. Kelso joined an advisory council to Unsilence, a nonprofit examining human rights issues, social justice and best practices in education.

  • Emily Morrison received $60,000 from the Corporation of National and Community Service (CNCS) to research civic engagement among older adults. Dr. Morrison has presented the findings to community members, as well as national and local government leaders at CNCS, the mayor's office, DC Age-Friendly Taskforce and DC Commission on Aging. Dr. Morrison also was awarded the inaugural Steans Center Fellowship to expand research on faculty approaches to community-engaged scholarship, which she started with Dr. Wendy Wagner. She is on sabbatical in spring 2018.

  • Sangeeta Prasad is 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 is dedicated to improving the field of psychology’s capacity to adequately offer services to low income and minority patients and serves as a therapist to children and their families.

  • Wendy Wagner and the students in Intro to HSSJ are interviewing senior citizens across D.C.’s eight wards to gather data about social isolation. Community partners at the DC Office on Aging, We Are Family and the West End Senior Village have joined the class to guest speak and are looking forward to the students’ research reports at the end of the semester.

Current Students 

Congratulations to Victoria Rowe, BA ’17, who was awarded the Julian Clement Chase Prize this past year. The Julian Clement Chase Prize is awarded for undergraduate writing focused on the District of Columbia. Victoria won with her research paper titled, “Seek First to Understand: Exploring the Implementation of Culturally Relevant Education in the District of Columbia.” She previously was awarded 1st place at GW Research Day 2017 in the Education, Business and Organizational Studies category. Read more about the prize and Victoria’s research. 

Alumni Panel at GW

Past HSSJ graduates participated in an incredible Alumni Panel on February 21st, 2018. This annual event brings together GW Alumni of the HSSJ and students in our senior capstone course in the HSSJ Program. The event is a highlight for current students since they get a chance to ask questions directly to graduates of our program who have been working in an array of roles across the non-profit, public service and philanthropic sectors. The panel is accompanied by an informal networking time, outside of the structured, hour long panel Q&A format. This year we had a record number of alumni join us to meet students, which allowed our ratio to be nearly one alumnus/a to every two students—giving current students incredible access to connect and engage with our talented and committed alumni leaders.

Alumni Andrew Breza, BA ’09, Elizabeth Treble, BA ’08, MPA ’09; Joshua Meyer, BA ’02, MBA ’12; Sarah Barrie, BA ’13; Shanna Helf, BA ’16; Ashley Trick, BA’15, MPA ’18; Andy Siegel, BA ’15; and Elizabeth Barnett, BA ’11, MPH ’13, shared their career and professional insights about working and serving in the non-profit, social enterprise and philanthropic sectors. A big thank you to all who attended! 

Course Spotlights

 Program Planning and Evaluation 

In partnership with the Koshland Science Museum, students from this course participated in Extreme Event: Rock City, a role playing game this past fall. Extreme Event is a role-playing game that gives participants a taste of what it takes to build community resilience in the face of disaster. Players work together to make decisions and solve problems during an engaging, fast-paced disaster simulation. Students had a great conversation about how the lessons learned during the game apply to what they do on campus. Students were encouraged to think about ways of incorporating moral and ethical decisions into group processes, as well as how to deepen strong communication skills and networking, which can positively affect group cohesion and resiliency not only in disasters but also in quotidian projects.

Organizing for Social Justice in Human Services Visits the Hill!

A group of HSSJ capstone students stand in front of the U.S. Capitol Building
The HSSJ 1117 class in front of Capitol Hill

In March 2018, the HSSJ 1177 class went to Capitol Hill to visit Congressman Don Beyer (D-Va). Taught by Dr. Michelle Kelso, the course critically reviews U.S. history, focusing on social policies and the movements that inspired them. It also concentrates on several avenues to achieving social change, such as grassroots organizing and working effectively with elected officials.

Congressman Beyer spoke with HSSJ students about the importance of working for social justice causes, sharing his current legislative efforts to address climate change and prevent gun violence. Students posed questions to Beyer about his long career in public service and sought his advice on social activism.

“We asked how we, as students, could make a change,” said Sabrina Hart-Meyer, BA ’21. Beyer gave several responses, foremost noting that more young people needed to vote, as those under 25 have the lowest voter turnout rates.

Hart-Meyer was impressed with Beyer’s commitment to youth participation in politics, “Beyer said it is the voices of the young that will play a significant role in changing the landscape of our country into one with increased inclusivity and willingness to help the disadvantaged and marginalized.” Hart-Meyer added that the discussion with the congressman left students “feeling even more energized and inspired to use our knowledge of the inequalities in society to make change.”

Beyer also encouraged students to keep doing social justice work, as they do for the HSSJ Program. He warned, however, that the road to change can be long, citing the example of the civil rights movement, encouraging students to be patient, yet persistent.

“Visit your congressional representatives,” Beyer said. “If you can personalize a story, it is the person-to-person aspect that can make a difference.”

Ashley Hilgado, BA ’19, appreciated the advice. “Growing up, I wasn’t aware of how to do this type of advocacy in politics,” Hilgado said. “The visit with Don Beyer allowed me to be more excited to visit my representatives about social justice issues that I care about. Now I will be a better advocate.”

Human Interactions: Adult Development

Dr. Amy F. Parks teaches the Human Interactions series for HSSJ-Child & Adolescent Development in the fall and Adult Development in the spring. The culminating project for the Child & Adolescent class is a group project involving research around a specific topic in the child/adolescent development domain. Each group member is responsible for becoming an expert in a segment of the topic, then the group creates a “family-friendly” handout that could be viewed by youth and families. The final segment of the project is a class presentation. An excellent example of a group presentation revolved around the issues that LGBTQ youth experience within the American education system specifically in regards to bathroom laws and mental health.

Our students, in addition to studying the primary themes in the field of child and adolescent development, examine contemporary issues that impact today’s youth including LGBTQ issues, mental health, attachment and suicide. HSSJ students complete the Human Interaction series with a strong foundation of developmental themes, along with significant depth of exploration and understanding of age-related and societal concerns.

Program Achievements

HSSJ Students presented at the Nashman Center’s Symposium on Community-engaged Scholarship in December 2017. Workshops included presentations on social justice, advocacy, community engagement and empowerment, non-violence, diversity and cross-cultural communication. Congratulations to all who participated!

Awards Spotlights 

Congratulations to Julia Resnick, BA ’18, for receiving the Honey W. Nashman Outstanding Senior in Human Services and Social Justice Award for 2017-2018! 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. Julia spoke about her contributions to the HSSJ program and GW community:

During my freshman orientation, I heard someone describe the HSSJ program as a ‘real world school.’ From the outside looking in, the term ‘real world school’ probably doesn’t make much sense, but I’ll do my best to describe it.

The HSSJ program gifted me four years of learning by doing--teachers were replaced by D.C. residents and classrooms were exchanged with volunteer and internship opportunities. I had the chance to work at incredible organizations, such as Safe Shores (a child advocacy center), N ST Village (a home and community of empowerment for homeless and low income women), IONA senior services, multiple food kitchens and organizations like Vital Voices Global Partnership and Planned Parenthood. Being an HSSJ major allowed me to connect theory to practice by putting down my textbook, going outside GW’s campus and contributing to society through the act of service.

It has been a true privilege to have worked alongside such ambitious classmates and dedicated professors, and I feel forever indebted to the program for providing me with the opportunity to learn, wonder, question, act and grow.

Congratulations to Valentina Barrera Vasco, who took home 1st place during GW’s Research Day 2018!

Below is a description of her project!

  • Educational and Cultural Studies (Day 1) Undergraduate Presenters, 1st place: Valentina Barrera Vasco, "Principals' Experiences with SEL Implementation”: The project was a qualitative interview process to gain insight into D.C. elementary school principals' experiences seeking to implement Socio-Emotional Learning (SEL) practices in their schools. The goal was to understand their experiences in the context of their school-wide decision-making and leadership following former Chancellor Wilson's decision to explicitly include SEL as a priority in DCPS' strategic plan for 2017-2022, "A Capital Commitment."

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Alumni Updates/Class Notes

Faculty and students of the HSSJ program are deeply saddened to hear about the passing of alumnus Naomi Friedman Rabkin, BA ’96. After graduation, Naomi accepted a position as director of programs at the Leichtag Foundation in San Francisco, Calif. She was the creative architect of programs within the foundation, played a critical role in grantmaking and philanthropic strategy, was integral to the design and development of Leichtag Commons and provided important counsel and direction as a senior leader of the foundation. She remained in this position until her passing. Our sincere condolences to Naomi’s husband Michael Rabkin, her daughters Jolene and Talia, her mother Marcia Friedman and her brother Daniel Friedman. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in her honor to charities that represent her values including foundations that support research into triple negative and/or inflammatory breast cancer such as TNBC Foundation and The IBC Network. Read more information.

Meryl Adler-Waak, BA ’82, MA ’83, graduated from GW at a later age and it changed her career immensely. She held her first directorship position at GW University Hospital in 1993. She assisted GW medical students with the Adopt-A-Doc Scholarship. “Love GW!”

Shafkat Anwar, BA ’01, MD ’05, recently accepted a position at the University of California, San Francisco, as associate professor of pediatrics and radiology. He will serve as pediatric cardiology director of Cardiac MRI and director of 3D-Modeling & Advanced Imaging of Pediatric Heart Disease.

Susan Branco, BA ’95, is currently an assistant professor and interim department chair in the Counselor Education Program at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, Washington, D.C., campus.

Andrew Breza, BA ’09, fell in love with the district while at GW and still lives in the city. He's the director of Data Insights & Analytics at Bulletin Media, which works closely with professional associations (Peter's Tocqueville readings must have had an effect).

Katrina (Ray) Burkgren, BA ’10, works at Booz Allen Hamilton supporting federal, state, local, territorial and tribal stakeholders improve public safety interoperability, allowing emergency responders to communicate effectively before, during and after emergencies and disasters.

Haven Bills, BA ’16, is on the Community Impact Team at Southface, a nonprofit in Atlanta that promotes sustainable homes, workplaces and communities. The experience he gained through his service learning classes absolutely helped him get an interview and then the job!

Courtney (Fron) Hirsch, BA ’02, is a life, business and soul coach partnering with individuals, couples, families, small businesses and groups. She coaches from the energetic mindset that, “Everything happens for us, not to us, while sharing the motto that SHIFT Happens!”

Rabani Kapoor, BA ’17, is currently working for the Invest India, a nonprofit under the Ministry of Commerce in India.

Alexa Lee, BA ’12, is a licensed clinical social worker in Connecticut working for Kids in Crisis, an agency which provides 24/7 support and respite for at-risk children and youth. She is placed in a local high school to address student mental health needs and substance abuse.

Lauren Mouacdie, BA ’17, works as a development associate at WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease—the nation's only patient-centered, women's heart health nonprofit. She works to bring in funding through corporate outreach and grant writing!

Arjun Pablay, BA ’09, is living in New York City and has been working in the financial services sector for the past six years. Presently, Arjun works for an asset management firm focused on financing for middle market companies.

Lillian Rountree, BA ’91, is the new director of development and communications for Urban Pathways, working to ensure that homeless and at-risk New Yorkers have the housing, services and support they need to be self-sufficient.

Jeff Marootian, BA ‘01, MPA ‘03, was confirmed to serve as the director of the District Department of Transportation this past January.

Kim Votruba-Matook, BA ’06, is running her own business, The Artful Educator, where she creates art infused with educational content to inspire meaningful conversations with the children you cherish every day.

Laura Wood, BA ’13, worked for Young Playwrights' Theater for five years, and now serves as an assistant manager of corporate and foundation relations.

Lisa (de Saxe) Zerden, BA ’02, PhD, has been selected to receive the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) Distinguished Recent Contributions to Social Work Education Award for 2018. She is senior associate dean for Master of Social Work education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Social Work.

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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 program from January 1, 2017 – December 31, 2017.

Stephen Nathan Butler *

Kate A. Hornyan, BA ’09, MPA ’12

Andee Jorisch #

Henry Jorisch #

Michael Z. Jorisch, BS ’14, MS ’16 +

Camille F. Kim, BA ’18

Stephen Alan Klatsky, Esq., LLM ’76, GWSB ’87

Stephanie K. Mayer, BA ’11

Shannon M. McGuire, BA ’15, MPA ’17

Daniel P. Mulhollan *

Christopher R. Percopo, BA ’05

Melinda J. Pollack, BA ’97

Elliot R. Santinoff *

John M. Vorperian *

Alan Weinstein *

+ Faculty/Staff
# Parent
~ Student
* Friend

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