Newsletter – Spring-Summer 2015

Congratulations to the Class of 2015!

Alumni Jay Laudato, Executive Director, Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, is honored at PCDC Annual Spring Gala

Before I Die Community Art Project- Coming to Four Sites in East Harlem in Summer-Fall 2015

Belle and George Strell Executive Leadership Fellows Program Launched

New Child Welfare Alliance of Students (CWAS) is forming at Silberman;
Seeking Participation from All Voices in the Field: Students, Alumni and Faculty

The Community Organizing Planning and Development (COP&D) Program Holds “Re-imagining Symposium”

National Institute of Mental Health awards grant to Ph.D. student Jagadisa-devasri Dacus

Introducing Four New Members of Silberman’s Administrative Staff

Professor Irene Chung, and Alma Collazo of Linkage House, Among Winners of Leadership Award from Latino Social Work Task Force at 11th Awards Ceremony

Silberman Aging Organizes its First Annual Conference and Focuses on Innovations in Dementia Care


Third Annual Maria Rosenbloom Memorial Lecture: “The Holocaust and other Genocides: Responding Globally and Clinically”





Congratulations to the Class of 2015!

graduation2015Silberman’s Spring and Summer MSW recipients graduated on May 27, 2015, representing the largest class in the school’s history. The Recognition Ceremony for Silberman graduates was held at Assembly Hall at Hunter College in the morning, with comments from Jacqueline B. Mondros, Dean and Professor and Mary M. Cavanaugh, PhD, Associate Dean, of the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. Vita C. Rabinowitz, PhD, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, Hunter College, provided greetings as well. The keynote speech was delivered by Gladys Carrion, Commissioner of the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS). Irma E. Rodriguez, retired Executive Director of Queens Community House, was the alumni speaker.  A graduation ceremony for all Hunter College graduates was held at Madison Square Garden later in the day.

The graduates from the spring cohort consisted of 70% fulltime, 17% OYR, 9% accelerated, and 4% advanced standing students.  The graduates from the summer cohort consisted of 10% fulltime, 55% OYR, 10% accelerated, and 25% advanced standing students.



Alumni Jay Laudato, Executive Director, Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, is honored at PCDC Annual Spring Gala


Jay Laudato

Jay Laudato, ’92, Executive Director of Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, long recognized for its high-quality health care and related work serving New York’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities, has been honored at the prestigious Primary Care Development Corporation (PCDC) Annual Gala. The PCDC is a nationally regarded nonprofit whose mission is to expand access to primary care in low-income communities.

Jay recalls that it was at Hunter School of Social Work, which was both a challenging and stimulating educational and training environment, where the roots of social activism were planted that would influence his work for years to come.

At Callen-Lorde, Jay’s achievements include: securing mental health licensure, implementing an on-site pharmacy and the opening of the Thea Spyer Center for Integrated Health, a dually licensed medical and behavioral health facility, serving seriously mentally ill community members. Jay is also leading the expansion of Callen-Lorde’s services in the South Bronx, in collaboration with BOOM! Health with its first permanent site there, and in a pilot program with The Department of Homeless Services (DHS) which has provided 40 beds for transgender people.

We congratulate Jay for this well-deserved award.


Before I Die Community Art Project-
Coming to Four Sites in East Harlem in Summer-Fall 2015

BEFORE I DIE PHOTOBefore I Die is a global art project that invites people to reflect on their lives, their ideas, their visions, their dreams, their struggles, and their aspirations. It has become a worldwide phenomenon that has spread to more than 60 countries and has been translated into more than 20 languages. The phrase “Before I Die” is an interactive springboard that uses walls in public spaces to elicit–and share–participants’ expressions on an array of themes and emotions, including love, travel and helping others.

Now the project is coming to our community. In the coming months, four Before I Die walls will be installed in East Harlem as part of the All in East Harlem mission which fosters community engagement, exchange, and partnership. The sites include:

  • SCAN LaGuardia,  307 East 116th Street, NY, NY 10029
  • SCAN Johnson Cornerstone, 1839 Lexington Avenue, NY, NY 10029
  • Union Settlement, 237 East 104th Street, NY, NY 10029
  • Silberman School of Social Work, Hunter College 2180 Third Avenue, NY, NY 10035

Photos and comments about East Harlem’s own Before I Die walls will follow in a forthcoming communication.


Belle and George Strell Executive Leadership Fellows Program Launched


Dr. Donna Corrado, Commissioner New York City Department for the Aging (left) and Dr. Martha Sullivan, Executive Director, Gouverneur Health (right).

The Belle and George Strell Executive Leadership Fellows program was launched with a breakfast reception at the Silberman School of Social Work on Friday, April 17. Donna Corrado, PhD, Commissioner, NYC Department for the Aging; Jess Dannhauser, President and CEO of Graham Windham; Jeremy Christopher Kohomban, PhD, President and CEO of The Children’s Village; and Natasha Lifton, new Senior Program Officer for Children, Youth, and Families at the New York Community Trust were among the many human- service professionals who attended. Dean Jacqueline B. Mondros provided background on how and why the program was created, and Patricia A. White, MSW, discussed The New York Community Trust’s motivation for funding this initiative.

The fellows program, made possible by an endowment from Hunter alumna Joan Depontet and a grant from The New York Community Trust, will begin in September 2015. The nine-month program will consist of monthly seminars and coaching facilitated by key human service leaders, along with extensive networking opportunities.

Silberman has identified Organizational Management and Leadership as an area where creative revitalization is needed for New York City’s human-services community, recognizing that two-thirds of the top management are expected to retire in the next 3-5 years. “Given the urgency in succession-planning needs, the fellows program will position and prepare senior level social work managers (deputy directors and COOs) to exemplify the type of CEO leadership that is needed at this time in human services,” said Dean Mondros. “The program is uniquely dedicated to opening pathways for women and people of color who reflect both the labor force and the populations being served.”

Click here for additional information and application forms. Applications must include a letter supporting the nomination from a sponsoring organization and a personal statement. A review committee representing prominent nonprofit, business, foundation and government agencies will select the finalists.



New Child Welfare Alliance of Students (CWAS) is forming at Silberman;
Seeking Participation from All Voices in the Field: Students, Alumni and Faculty

childwelfare-logoIt was surprising to first-year student Sarah Freeze in fall 2014 that Child Welfare, the largest field of practice at Silberman, did not yet have an official student group to examine critical issues in child welfare with activities outside of the classroom. That is until now.

Freeze, who is a forming member of the new Child Welfare Alliance of Students (CWAS), noted that the group will soon be formalized, thanks to the invaluable leadership of Professor Marina Lalayants, PhD, Co-Chair, Child Welfare Field of Practice; Patricia Gray, LCSW, Assistant Director of Field Education; and Professor Colleen Henry, PhD, who have supported students in planning and launching the group.

The mission of CWAS is to disseminate information about child well-being and promote the diversity of social work practice opportunities in the field of child welfare. Through dialogue, education, networking, and professional development, it will explore promising practices in child welfare, including education and school-based services, child protection, juvenile justice, children’s mental health, and other systems and services that impact vulnerable children and youth.

CWAS has already demonstrated its ambitious commitment to showcasing Child Welfare at Silberman by producing a video:

Please LIKE the Facebook page for Child Welfare Alliance of Students (CWAS) and join the conversation. Detailed information can be found there.


The Community Organizing Planning and Development (COP&D) Program Holds “Re-imagining Symposium”

In May, Dean Jacqueline B. Mondros and Silberman’s Community Organizing faculty convened for a two-day symposium to plan new curriculum designed to “transform” the COP&D practice area. “The school is updating its curriculum to ensure that the students’ education will prepare them to be outstanding organizers in contemporary social movements,” said Nancy Giunta, PhD, Associate Professor, Silberman School of Social Work and Co-Chair, COP&D Program and the symposium.

Giunta added that “the desired transformation is meant to ensure that Hunter’s students are superbly prepared for the COP&D work post-graduation and acknowledged in the field as having received the highest quality, cutting-edge training.”

At the symposium, discussions centered on fully addressing and supporting important trends such as how the curriculum should help organizers be poised for action in underserved communities, and how dynamic movements such as Black Lives Matter, environmental concerns, and food justice are incorporated. This summer, alumni will be contacted to participate in a survey. For further information, please contact Nancy Giunta,


National Institute of Mental Health awards grant to PhD student Jagadisa-devasri Dacus


Jagadisa-devasri Dacus

The National Institute of Mental Health has awarded Jagadisa-devasri Dacus, a student in the PhD Program in Social Welfare, a dissertation research grant for his study entitled “Identifying the Mental Health Strengths and Resiliencies of Black MSM* in New York City who Maintain HIV-Seronegativity”. This highly competitive funding mechanism is intended to increase the diversity of the mental health research workforce by providing support to individuals from diverse backgrounds who are underrepresented in mental health research. Mr. Dacus plans to defend his dissertation in 2016. His faculty sponsor is Professor Deborah Tolman, who notes that this work will fill a real gap in the literature and be immensely helpful for on-the-ground service and policy. “Mr. Dacus embodies how social work practice can anchor profoundly important and relevant research,” she says.

*MSM refers to black men who have sex with men (CDC).





Introducing Four New Silberman Staff Members


(left to right) Alyssa Bernstein, Ayanna Ferguson, Sharon Richards, Christine Kim

Alyssa Bernstein has been appointed Project Manager, responsible for the management of Homeless Shelter Training Institute, a state-funded training program for homeless shelter workers in New York City and Upstate New York. Prior to joining the Silberman team, she was a program director at a 101 unit family homeless shelter in the Bronx and has worked as a supervisor in a variety of family shelter settings. Throughout her career, she has supervised and implemented critical case management services for over 400 families including trauma informed services for survivors of domestic violence. She is an MSW graduate from the University of Georgia.

Ayanna Ferguson has joined Silberman to coordinate its contribution to the All in East Harlem initiative. In this newly created position, Ferguson facilitates professional collaborations, partnerships and relationships between Silberman faculty, students, community organizations and coalitions throughout East Harlem. She previously managed policy research on behalf of the Children’s Defense Fund while working to engage federal officials to support and strengthen federal child welfare and education policy. She received her MSW from Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she was a graduate assistant in the E. Franklin Frazier Center for Social Work Research, conducting research on international social issues affecting the African Diaspora.

Christine Kim has been appointed as the Training and Continuing Education Coordinator. In this role, Kim helps manage trainings that occur in partnership with government entities as well as with local agencies. She also coordinates continuing education in context of the new New York State social work licensing regulations. She previously worked in jobs related to homelessness, mental health, and substance abuse, and specialized in exploring the human-animal bond in social work practice. Kim has curated a multi-media exhibition for the National Museum of Animals & Society in Los Angeles called My Dog is My Home—The Experience of Human-Animal Homelessness, which, with a corresponding program, was designed to make known the unique needs of homeless inter-species families. She received her MSW at the University of Pennsylvania.

Sharon Richards recently joined the Silberman family as a Professional Development Counselor in the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) Scholarship Program. Sharon liaises with DOHMH, providing both field and academic advisement to scholarship participants, in addition to assisting in the selection of scholarship recipients. Previously the Coordinator of Social Work Services for the Gender-responsive Re-entry Assistance and Support Program (GRASP) at the Office of the Kings County District Attorney, Richards’ area of expertise includes education, young women in the juvenile and adult justice system, as well as mental health and counseling services for adolescents and families. She received her BSW and MSW from New York University.


Professor Irene Chung, and Alma Collazo of Linkage House, Among Winners of Leadership Award from Latino Social Work Task Force at 11th Awards Ceremony


Professor Irene Chung

Heightening awareness of the shortage of Latino social workers needed to serve the Latino community and creating a collaborative effort to address this need, the Latino Social Work Task Force presented Leadership Awards to Professor Irene Chung and to community-based partner Alma Collazo from Linkage House, who was nominated by Silberman Aging: A Hartford Center of Excellence in Diverse Aging.

Chung is recognized for her extensive academic and clinical contributions to cross-cultural practice and in her acknowledgments noted the Silberman School of Social Work’s support in providing a nurturing environment that promotes cultural competence in teaching, practice and scholarship. Collazo, who has been instrumental in helping Latino older adults throughout her career and has played a major role in helping shape a vision to meet the housing needs of older East Harlem residents, has been working on a community-based research project that addresses memory and aging knowledge gaps among Latino older adults. The Latino Social Work Task Force was formed in 2000 as collaboration between the Puerto Rican Family Institute (PRFI) and NASW-NY.





Silberman Aging Organizes its First Annual Conference and Focuses on Innovations in Dementia Care

Silberman-Aging-ConferenceOn May 8, more than 80 professionals from various agencies attended a one-day conference on Innovations in Dementia Care: A Celebration of Practice, Research and Advocacy in Diverse Urban Settings. In its ongoing collaboration with community organizations that specialize in working with older adults, Silberman Aging has outlined plans for accessible education and training opportunities in several vital areas that were identified by community providers in a needs survey, as well as by Silberman Aging’s Community Council and Conference Committee.




At the conference, leading practitioners in the field presented on a range of topics including:

  • Caring for dementia patients and their caregivers at home
  • Supporting caregivers and their care recipients
  • Assuring quality support for geriatric veterans
  • Macro-level advocacy on behalf of caregivers
  • Academic-community partnerships
  • Community-based participatory research addressing memory and aging knowledge among Latino older adults.

Silberman Aging is planning to provide many more trainings to agencies as well as to caregivers, older adults, and other professionals and community stakeholders to increase awareness on recognizing signs of dementia in order to facilitate diagnosis and early intervention and support. With its mission to strengthen community capacity to achieve social justice for older adults in diverse, urban communities, Silberman Aging strives to help transform services to satisfy the unmet needs of people of color, immigrants and LGBT older adults.

Silberman Aging is a Hartford Center of Excellence in Diverse Aging, and the conference was co-sponsored by the Hartford Center of Excellence in Geriatric Social Work and New York City’s Department for the Aging.

For more information about Silberman Aging, please email or call 212-396-7613, or visit


Silberman Student Profile: Sascha Altman Dubrul

Sascha Altman DuBrul

Sascha Altman DuBrul

Sascha Altman DuBrul, who will begin his second year at Silberman as an OYR student in the MSW program this fall, has a mission attached to his social work education: to help transform mental health practice by challenging traditional approaches. Having written extensively as a result of his own experiences as a patient in the mental health system, he co-founded The Icarus Project (, a community-support network of people living with and/or affected by experiences that have been diagnosed as psychiatric conditions. DuBrul has worked on “envisioning a new culture and language that resonates with our actual experiences of mental illness rather than trying to fit our lives into a conventional framework.” His peer reviewed article, The Icarus Project: A Counter Narrative for Psychic Diversity, was published in the Journal of Medical Humanities in the fall of 2014.

DuBrul has transitioned from his work on the Icarus Project as a peer, to approaching the challenges of mental health practices as a clinician. In his second semester, he wrote a paper for Clinical Practice Lab entitled T-MAPs: Transformational Group Practices outside the Mental Health and Criminal Justice Systems, which provides a roadmap to theories he was introduced to in Practice Lab mixed with his practical experience leading mutual aid support workshops.

As an advocate, DuBrul has spoken, guest lectured and facilitated workshops at numerous colleges and universities. Learn more about his work at


Third Annual Maria Rosenbloom Memorial Lecture: “The Holocaust and other Genocides: Responding Globally and Clinically”


The Gitterman Family, whose generosity funds this event, Dean Mondros and Gloria Rich (r).

The Third Annual Maria Rosenbloom Lecture screened the compelling documentary, “Watchers in the Sky,” which presents riveting stories of people living and dying during genocides, from Nuremberg to The Hague, from Bosnia to Darfur, while telling the story of Raphael Lemkin, who coined the word “genocide” in his monumental 1944 study “Axis Rule in Occupied Europe.” He believed the law could protect the world from mass atrocities. Dr. Martha Bragin, PhD, Associate Professor and Chairperson of Global Social Work and Practice with Immigrants and Refugees, was the respondent.

Professor Bragin joined the faculty after 25 years of experience working with governments, non-governmental organizations and the United Nations in addressing the catastrophic effects of global war, as well as, closer to home, community violence on children and families in New York City. She noted that “survivors of the Holocaust in Europe had gained considerable experience in understanding and addressing the complex psychological and social effects of human rights violations around the globe. They found ways to support other populations to heal and make mental and social use of their experience to move forward.”

Following the film, she led a discussion about trailblazing social work practitioners, the obstacles they faced in helping people, and various strategies used over time to address the needs of those affected by genocide.

Professor Bragin is also a member of the IASC Reference Group (UN-NGO) on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings that developed and monitors the use of the first official guidelines for mental health and psychosocial support in humanitarian crises. She is the recipient of the Hayman Prize for published work on traumatized children and adults.



Sharon  Mass-Achs, Ph.D., MSW, LCSW, ACM, reports that after 25 years at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles as Director of Case Management, Hospice, Palliative Care, she has retired. “I remain as Past President of the American Case Management Association an organization of 5,500 social workers and nurses which informs and advocates for case management practice, in health care systems. My years at Hunter School of Social Work were the springboard for a vital and exciting career.”

Nicole Bernier, LMSW, says that “after graduation, I obtained my social work licensure, completed post- graduate training in sex therapy, and recently received a promotion from Case Manager to In-reach Specialist. In my new position, I recruit individuals with serious mental illness from adult homes into supported housing to increase their quality of life. Pibly Residential Program, Inc., S.H.O.P.”

Bruce Birnberg, MSW, LCSW, joined Stein Hospice as Executive Director in November 2009 and served for 17 years as Associate Director at JFK Family Medicine Residency Program in Edison, New Jersey.

Alexis Cate, MSW, LMSW is employed with Staten Island Mental Health Society in its outpatient mental health program working with children, adolescents, and young adults (ages 5-26), combatting various psychosocial concerns. She is also employed with Silver Lake Psychotherapy, a private practice.

E. Jean-Marie Catlett, MSW, LMSW, has been working at Big Brothers Big Sisters of NYC for three years as a program manager, and was recently promoted to Associate Director of Client Intake. “I’m excited to take on this new role and to continue growing professionally!”

Courtney Engelstein, LMSW, is a 2012 graduate of the two-year program, currently working at New Directions Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Treatment Program in downtown Brooklyn. “I conduct intakes, provide weekly psychotherapy, run Motivational Interviewing groups, and have just started a new Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention group. I am getting ready to finishing the trainings for the CASAC test.”

Randi Goldfarb, LCSW, says, “I am the Founder & President of Zak & Nat™ and the creator of the newly released Keep Calm Kit™ – a box full of great stuff to help young children and the adults in their lives effectively manage the range of tantrum behaviors, and learn life skills in the process! My company, Zak & Nat™ is dedicated to bringing social and emotional learning to life… and making it fun! We create appealing and useful activities for kids and adults to use together to promote healthier and happier interactions. Equipped with social and emotional tools, children and the grown-ups in their lives can build stronger relationships, transforming everyday challenges into opportunities. We think that is pretty cool. Please check out: to learn more!”

Shane King, LMSW, is currently working in a Residential Facility for Foster Care as a Casework Supervisor. “My goal is to engage teenage girls in services, contact parents, and help caseworkers navigate systemic barriers in efforts to return teenage girls back home to their families. I enjoy the work and embrace the challenges of managing caseloads, documentation deadlines, safety planning for high-stake cases, and collaborating with stakeholders.”

Naomi Somerstein Kreutzer, LCSW, ’88, is a social worker at Barnabas Health Hospice and Palliative Care Center in West Orange, NJ. She lives in Westfield, NJ.

Laura MacLeod, MSW, ’07, is still teaching group work at Silberman and hoping to do more with Continuing Education, (especially now that CEUs are needed for licensing). She is also bringing social group work into ‘for profit’ world with her company: From the Inside Out Project.

Mara McLaughlin-Taylor, MSW, has transitioned from direct work in non-profit organizations to inspiring college students to engage with their communities. As a Service Program Manager, she is now in her second year with the nationally-recognized Service Program of Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina, helping over 800 students navigate their path and passions through service.

Hope Lovell Newman, LMSW, who is a career counselor, announced that she and her mentor have published a career assessment instrument called Career Vectors, which is available on Amazon:

Shelley Orren-king, MSW, LCSW-R, who is a private practitioner and training consultant, reports, “At the Gestalt Center For Psychotherapy and Training, I am committed to holistic clinical social work and actively teaching, supervising, and leading our internship programs. I am an active participant on two committees: 1) our research initiative examining Gestalt as evidence-based treatment and 2) our Race and Diversity initiative supporting advanced training for our whole community. On a personal note, I am raising my 14 year old son who is my light and inspiration.”

Jennifer Petersen, LMSW, ’11, spent last summer in Rwanda helping young entrepreneurs grow their businesses through an organization called African Entrepreneur Collective. She is currently wrapping up a job with the Montana House of Representatives and plans to continue pursuing political social work.

Mary Pulido, PhD, Executive Director of the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, reports: “Results from my research, funded by NIH, on child sexual abuse prevention, have been accepted for publication for the American Journal of Public Health.” Pulido, M.L.; Dauber, S., Tully, B, Hamilton, P., Smith, M., & Freeman, K. (2015). Measuring Knowledge Gains Following a Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Program among Urban Students in a Cluster Randomized Evaluation.

Rolanda Pyle, LMSW, Social Worker Consultant, submitted a quote that was used on the November 12th page of the Women’s Advantage Business Calendar, a calendar of daily ideas to enhance business and life. Her quote was selected out of 5,000 submissions. It was: “What the caterpillar calls the end of his world, the Creator calls the butterfly! Don’t give up!” She has published two books. More information can be found on her website, She can be reached at

Diana Benjamin Rodriguez, MSW, LCSW, CADC, reports that she has developed an effective integrative residential and outpatient program that uses both cognitive (top down processing) and experiential (bottom up processing) approaches to addressing the underlying core issues leading to or exacerbating chemical addictions. She is the Clinical Director at Sagebrush Treatment.

Lisa Rodriguez, LMSW, School Social Worker at the Bronx Studio School for Writers and Artists, was invited to provide public comment to the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics Commission meeting held on Tuesday, April 14, 2015, at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She spoke on the essential need of social/emotional wellness for New York City Public school students and the vital role social workers play in addressing these needs. Shared ideas will be recorded for future consideration to the Commission.

Anna Steffens, LMSW, was recently promoted to the title of Community School Coordinator – working for SCO Family of Services at East Brooklyn Community High School (a transfer school in Brownsville). “I’m excited about building new skills in this role, and always happy to connect with folks who are interested in school social work and working with adolescents more broadly.”

Amir Thornell, MSW, is active in the violence and abuse prevention community with Steps to End Family Violence program. Thornell is a RAPP Coordinator in a middle school. The Relationship Abuse Prevention Program is a school based prevention, intervention, and strength based program for students.

Tammea Tyler, MSW, teaches part-time at Brooklyn College in the sociology and children’s studies department, and also does some work at Rutgers. She reports, “I enjoy teaching and I constantly encourage the undergrads to consider Hunter School of Social Work. Hunter’s anti-oppressive lens informs my teaching and my lessons have a strong social justice framework. My full time job is still executive management for a large nonprofit.”

Desiree Woehrle, LMSW, reports that “after three years at Brooklyn Community Services, as a recovery specialist, I have been promoted to research coordinator with Dartmouth College in order to conduct a cognitive remediation study aimed at improving the cognitive functioning of adults living with a severe mental illness.”

Charles Whittington, LMSW, says that, “after all the work put in at Hunter (some of us for a little longer than others), I got the position I was aiming for! It all paid off, it paid off!” He is Social worker Level 1 (Psychiatry) at H.H.C.