2019 HSSJ Newsletter

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

Message from the Program Director


Dear HSSJ Alumni,

Our HSSJ community is, as ever, incredibly active. In this newsletter, we will recognize the outstanding service and scholarship that we have contributed to our field and the D.C. metro area. In particular, we would like to recognize our students Adam Graubart, Venkata Jagan Doodala and Zaniya Lewis who do amazing research, social entrepreneurship and service activities. We would also like to extend a special thank you to Dr. Emily Morrison for her long-time service as program director. Dr. Morrison remains in the program continuing her scholarship, teaching and advising.

In the spring, we undertook a study to determine where our graduates in the past five years have gone after leaving the program. The post-university paths of our alumni demonstrate a rich tapestry of experiences. For those working, the vast majority hold or have held jobs within our HSSJ field, most of those in nonprofits. Alumni also work in education (at schools and institutions), business (often in corporate philanthropy/grants giving), health and government. For those pursuing graduate studies, they concentrate primarily in fields that correspond to HSSJ, such as public policy/administration, education, social work, law and public health, among others. A few alumni have done prestigious gap year programs, such as Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, Teach for America and KIPP, while two received distinguished Fulbright awards.

It was amazing and inspiring learning of all the wonderful work our graduates do. We love hearing about your accomplishments! Please stay in touch by email or join our private LinkedIn group: GW Human Services and Social Justice Program.

Please consider staying involved with HSSJ by becoming a guest speaker, a site supervisor, attending campus events and financially supporting our program. In particular, we currently seek matching funds for our capstone course philanthropy project that we do in partnership with the Learning by Giving Foundation.

Thank you for all that you do!

Michelle Kelso


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Program Spotlights


The Learning by Giving Foundation (LxG) awarded Professor Michelle Kelso’s HSSJ Senior Capstone Class a third-place prize of $1,000 in their blog competition. Students wrote blog entries about their experiences partnering with LxG in an experiential philanthropy project to award a grant to a metro area nonprofit.

LxG partners with over 30 schools in their philanthropy endeavors each year to offer students the opportunity to participate and understand giving. The capstone class chose to focus their award on organizations that serve immigrant communities in the DMV to fund educational and professional opportunities. They put out a call for proposals, receiving over 20 submissions. Students were able to award their $9,000 prize to the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC) last May. TASSC’s mission mirrored the students' mission, specifically speaking to their desire to fuel socioeconomic mobility through education in their application. TASSC was chosen because of its strong programmatic proposal, attainable goals, clear objectives and innovative vision.


Adam Graubart points to a research poster of his senior thesis

Adam Graubart, BA ’19, recently won the Julian Clement Chase Prize for his senior thesis “Tzedek: DC Synagogues Building Movements for Social Justice,” which he completed with his advisors, Professor Emily Morrison and Professor Michelle Kelso. This award is given to students who present exceptional research that demonstrates engagement in the District of Columbia. In his research, Adam drew a link between social justice work among the Jewish community in D.C., conducting primary research through interviews and focus groups. Adam sought to examine how specific congregations demonstrate their values through their actions.

As an alumnus of the HSSJ program, Adam reflects fondly back on his experience. Throughout his time in the HSSJ program, Adam found that he was “constantly challenged to integrate theory and practice,” which he believes can lead to great insight. Furthermore, he encourages current students to “take advantage of that idea by challenging themselves in their fieldwork.”

Currently Adam is doing a gap year before he begins rabbinical school at Hebrew Union College in July 2020. Since graduating, he has been working in Massachusetts and plans to travel to South America to work on vineyards. We wish him the best of luck in the future, and offer our sincerest congratulations for this amazing prize!



(left to right) Jagan Doodala and Christian Trummer
Jagan Doodala (right) with Christian Trummer 

Congratulations to Jagan Doodala, BA ’19, on winning the $7,500 Quinn Prize for Best International and Social Entrepreneurship Venture at the GW New Venture Competition. Jagan and his research partner Christian Trummer, a GW mechanical engineering student, created the WATTerWagon that increases water carrying capacity and has the potential to eliminate strenuous labor in hauling water for hundreds of millions living in rural, water-scarce regions.

Jagan and Christian created the WATTerWagon after examining the many hazards to women and children in rural Asia and Africa who have to trek miles just to find a clean water source. While there are already many NGOs which work to provide clean water to these areas, Jagan noticed a flaw in those aid efforts. Specifically, they do not account for gaps in transportation or carrying capacity. Rather than turning a blind eye to this issue, the team worked tirelessly to formulate a sustainable and affordable solution: the WATTerWagon. Their invention uses assistive motors powered by a solar-powered charging battery system; therefore, allowing faster transportation of high quantities of water as well as decreasing the number of water-runs and time it takes to complete these water-runs. Inevitably, this will also help decrease the risks to women and children who are responsible for these trips.

Currently, Jagan is working closely with emergency department (ED) physicians at INOVA Alexandria Hospital in Northern Virginia to help research factors that go into frequent ED use. Through his time in the HSSJ program, Jagan has found that “my experiences have been pivotal in understanding how best to tie service into my academics, my extracurriculars, and most importantly, on how to lead an everyday life of service.” In the future, Jagan wishes to pass on his experiences and knowledge and will pursue graduate studies in health.

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Program Kudos 

Michelle Kelso was appointed the director of Human Services & Social Justice Program in July 2019. In fall 2019, she received two grants: one from the EVZ Foundation with Dr. Petre Matei on a project to assess Roma Holocaust survivors living standards in Romania, and the other from the Romanian government fora  project titled “30 years on: The 1989 Romanian Revolution. A Study of Democratic Developments.” Her co-authored article with GW Associate Professor of Sociology and International Affairs Daina Eglitis, titled “Ghost Heroes: Forgetting and Remembering National Narratives of the Past,” was published in Acta Sociologica in spring 2019. 

Emily Morrison’s co-edited book How to keep your doctorate on track: Insights from students’ and supervisors’ experiences is in press and set to release this February. This past April, she presented her research “Developing meaningful patient-doctor relationships: the dance of trust,” at Mälardalen University in Sweden. She most recently presented “Supporting Community-Engaged Faculty’s Boundary Work: Findings and Implications for Faculty Development” with Wendy Wagner at a conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

Sangeeta Prasad is a psychologist who engages in long term family work in a mixed-income practice. She currently works for the nonprofit Kindred as senior adviser and parent group facilitator. Her areas of experience include early intervention to prevent the continuation of transgenerational trauma in families and cultural training focused on adapting psychological practice to better meet the needs of minority communities. Dr. Prasad’s experience in cultural training stems from her internship at the National Asian American Mental Health Institute (RAMS), her experience co-creating and supporting grassroots domestic violence interventions for BREDS India and direct service work with members of oppressed communities over the past 15 years.

Erica Walls has returned to the HSSJ department after finishing her PhD in the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration, focusing on social policy and gender studies. During her time away, Dr. Walls was diagnosed with breast cancer and is thankfully in remission. She sought and found help from the D.C.-area nonprofit Breast Care for Washington, which seeks to lower the breast cancer mortality rate in the District. Dr. Walls is now an advocate for the nonprofit and is interested in becoming a board member in the future. She is glad to have returned to such a warm welcome and is excited to continue her teaching with us, in addition to her research on women's leadership and social entrepreneurship. Welcome back, Dr. Walls!

Zaniya Lewis received the Knapp Fellowship for Entrepreneurial Service Learning for the 2019-2020 academic year. Her fellowship project, The Climb is Our Story,” is a program that will be facilitated by YesSheCanCampaign and The Multicultural Student Services Center at the George Washington University in partnership with School Without Walls and GW. YesSheCanCampaign is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that uses live events and technology to provide educational resources to girls, young women and youth nationwide. The goal of this program is to ensure that local high school students are well-prepared for college and their careers.

Savannah O’Sickey was selected for the Teach for America program. She will be placed in a D.C. elementary school beginning in the fall of 2020.

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Class Notes

  • Jenna Brown, BA '13, lives in Washington, D.C., where she is a major gifts officer for a progressive political organization.
  • Kayla Dawes, BA '14, is in her second year as a New York City teaching fellow. At the end of her program, she will be certified as a bilingual special education teacher.
  • Rachel Kahn, BA '19, was recently hired as a program coordinator at Youth on Their Own in Tucson, Ariz.
  • Maura Molish, BA '15, is working in university relations and development for San Diego State University, while pursuing her master's in social work, also from San Diego State.
  • Blythe Purdin, BA '04, moved to the island of Nantucket in fall 2019 and accepted a kindergarten teaching position at Nantucket Elementary School.
  • Elizabeth Weinstein, BA '04, is a senior director, foundation partnerships at UNICEF USA in New York City.

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Donor Recognition


The Human Services & Social Justice Program would like to gratefully acknowledge the following generous donors who made a gift to the program from July 1, 2018 – June 30, 2019.

Kate Hornyan, BA ’09, MPA ’12
Christopher Percopo, BA ’05
Blythe Purdin, BA ’04
Portia Wade, BA ’77

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