Newsletter – Fall 2014

New Faculty

Two Child Welfare Specialists, Colleen Cary Katz and Colleen Henry, Bring Powerful Research to the Expanding Child Welfare Program

Alexis Kuerbis Adds New Elements Of Expertise in Addiction to Curriculum

Rufina Lee Works to Improve Care for Young Adults Experiencing First Episode Psychosis

Upgrading the Instructional Technology Connection at Silberman

The Inequality Inaugural Lecture: November 13, 2014

Economic Literacy Curriculum Moves to the Next Level

All In East Harlem: Better Together Community Initiative Update

This Year’s Moses Visiting Professor: Kevin Mahoney, PhD

Expanded Amy Watkins Scholarships Awarded This Year

Alumni Updates Fall 2014


New Faculty

Two Child Welfare Specialists, Colleen Cary Katz and Colleen Henry, Bring Powerful Research to the Expanding Child Welfare Program

Dean Mondros is delighted to announce two new faculty members, Colleen Cary Katz, PhD and Colleen Henry, PhD who have been added to the growing team of Silberman’s Child Welfare specialty.


Colleen Katz

“It feels like I’m coming to a kind of child welfare dream team,” says Professor Katz, who is eager to help move the school to its next phase and expand her own work. Katz is an LCSW coming from a clinical social work background. She spent her early career working in the foster care division of Children’s Aid Society, providing psychotherapy for children and youth who had experienced parental maltreatment. “I went back to get my PhD because it wasn’t clear to me how to best serve this population of youth. It seemed extremely important to learn more about trauma, about the kind of decisions traumatized youth make, and about interventions commonly used to treat traumatized youth. This is what I have been studying and what I continue to research.”

Professor Katz is looking forward to working with Gary Mallon, whose skill in bridging the gap between community and academia is legendary. She notes that Silberman School of Social Work was her #1 choice for a teaching appointment (she comes from the metropolitan area and was most recently at University of Chicago), and she looks forward to working with the faculty cohort, child welfare experts and students at Silberman.

As Professor Katz continues investigating child welfare on the clinical level, Professor Henry, who comes to Silberman from University of California at Berkeley, focuses on policy.


Colleen Henry

“Being a child welfare worker motivated me to get my PhD,” she says. “While working in the field, I encountered family after family struggling to care for their children under difficult circumstances. I became convinced that these families needed more than a reactive child welfare system that primarily focused on child safety. What I thought was needed was a proactive child welfare system that focused on child and family well-being. I returned to graduate school to explore ways we could push child welfare in this direction.”

Ultimately, says Professor Henry, it’s important to examine how child welfare policy impacts practice. “Policy drives what acts and omissions come to be defined as child maltreatment, who is held responsible for this maltreatment, and what types of services children and families receive. Our child welfare policies and practices should reflect what we know works best for children and families. When we find existing policies and practices are failing children and families, then we need to work to change them.”

She describes herself as thrilled to be at the Silberman School where she looks forward to collaborating with public and private agencies, and Silberman’s extensive network of alumni to improve child welfare policy and practice throughout the city and elsewhere.



Alexis Kuerbis Adds New Elements of Expertise in Addiction to Curriculum


With a PhD in clinical social work from New York University’s Silver School of Social Work, Professor Kuerbis has worked for the past 14 years in public health research, and has focused her clinical practice and research on substance abusers and their families, particularly those with co-occurring disorders. She looks forward to furthering the addiction curriculum with new topics like addiction in seniors and harm reduction based on her research and her work as a practitioner and supervisor in addiction-focused practice.

Professor Kuerbis says, “My approach in addictions has been primarily in harm reduction, which we call moderation. Because addiction is expressed on a spectrum, we address the fact that some people can moderate and some cannot in our interventions and treatments. This can be especially overwhelming in terms of treatment planning in a mental illness setting, where clients may identify their problem as anxiety, but it is often an addictions problem expressed through their drinking. We need to educate our clients about that.”

“It all starts with the social worker,” she continues. “Our students can build their skills by learning how to ask the most appropriate questions to their clients during assessment, and to their supervisors, as they look for guidance along the way.” Professor Kuerbis considers Silberman and its students to be an ideal fit for her because of the school’s investment in the community and its students. “I’m very excited to be bringing more about the latest in addiction treatment to Hunter.”


Rufina Lee Works to Improve Care for Young Adults Experiencing First Episode Psychosis


Rufina Lee, PhD who has joined the faculty this fall, brings to Silberman a body of work and expertise in a fast growing area of interest in the mental health community: early intervention in first episode psychosis (FEP). Identifying young people early in the course of illness and linking them with effective treatment and supports aims to foster recovery and prevent long-term disability. “Our hope is and research shows that early intervention soon after the onset of psychosis can capture young people early enough so they can have better social and occupational functioning, and lead more productive lives,” says Professor Lee, who is training a cadre of mental health workers who will deliver these services as part of a citywide initiative launched by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene earlier this year.

Even though research shows that early intervention for psychotic illness is associated with improved clinical and functional outcomes, many young adults with FEP may not access treatment and support in a timely manner. The new city initiative, known as NYC-START (New York City Supportive Transition and Recovery Team), will offer outreach, care coordination and linkage to treatment and community supports, psycho-education and support services to persons, ages 18 to 30, who have been psychiatrically hospitalized for the first time due to psychosis. Services will be delivered by teams of social workers and specially trained peer workers.

NYC-START includes the provision of brief version of Critical Time Intervention (CTI), which Professor Lee has adapted especially for this purpose. CTI is an empirically supported, time-limited care coordination model designed to enhance recovery and prevent adverse outcomes in people with mental illness during “critical” times of transition in their lives. The adapted model was developed in collaboration with Silberman’s Center for the Advancement of Critical Time Intervention.

Upgrading the Instructional Technology Connection at Silberman

Expanding the use of online resources that are used to deliver curriculum— inside and outside of the classroom— is an important priority at Silberman School of Social Work. According to Mary M. Cavanaugh, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs & Associate Professor, “we have an obligation to create and support a technologically-advanced curriculum that helps students and faculty interact with each other and stay in step with what is happening in social work in terms of policy and practice, as well as to provide tools that enhance our students’ technological skills.”


Such an ambitious undertaking has required a strategic plan and the creation of a new educational technology position at the School. Sha Sha Feng, who comes from a technical and artistic background, has been appointed. She will be working with faculty to develop and support their use of online teaching resources. As an instructor in Hunter’s Department of Integrated Media Arts at Hunter for the past seven years, Feng has a deep understanding of how the faculty can use technology to augment curriculum.

Feng is focused on user-centric design. “To work on curriculum properly, we must have a deep understanding of the content. And in designing course materials, we use technology as an additional tool, but not as a replacement for human communication or as a way to overshadow content. It’s an enhancement,” she says.

Associate Dean Cavanaugh notes that by 2015, 10% of classes will be offered as hybrid courses, partially online and partially in the classroom, which will provide students with new learning options. As part of the school’s technological reboot, a new website has been launched that features new navigational features that improve levels of accessibility and searchability. “The new website not only provides users an easier entry to its content, but it also helps with electronic presence, distribution and ease of access to information to and from Silberman,” says Cavanaugh.


The Inequality Inaugural Lecture: November 13, 2014


The Inequality Inaugural Lecture took place at Silberman School of Social Work on November 13, 2014 at 6 PM. According to Professor Mike Fabricant, Chair of the Lecture Committee series, the lectures were designed to “fill a critical void in the present discourse on inequality.”

Well over two hundred students, faculty and community practitioners attended the first annual Inequality Lecture at Silberman. The series, curated by Professor Michael Fabricant, addresses the alarming growth of inequality over the past generation and its implications for the delivery of social services, education, health care and criminal justice in the city and the nation.

Speakers at the inaugural event included Jennifer Jones Austin, MA, CEO and Executive Director of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies; Larry Davis, MSW, PhD, Dean, School of Social Work, Donald M. Henderson Professor, and Director of the Center on Race and Social Problems, University of Pittsburgh; Bruce Jansson, PhD, Margaret W. Driscoll/Louise M. Clevenger Professor of Social Policy and Social Administration, School of Social Work, University of Southern California.


Economic Literacy Curriculum Moves to the Next Level

economic literacy

Silberman School of Social Work along with six other New York schools of social work – Fordham University, Lehman College, Long Island University, New York University, Touro College, and Yeshiva University – have collaborated over the past three years to develop an online curriculum entitled Advancing Economic Literacy. Specifically targeting social work students, professionals and other human service workers, the curriculum seeks to strengthen the ability of providers to provide clients with access to financial resources and guide them to the knowledge that will help them strengthen their financial capabilities.  At Silberman, the curriculum has been widely taught through its social policy curriculum under the leadership of Mimi Abramovitz, Bertha Capen Reynolds Professor of Social Policy.

“We’re living in tough economic times, and the downturn is becoming more serious. Poverty not only includes the traditional poor, but now includes a new category of those who are ‘newly-poor,’ many of whom were members of the middle class,” says Professor Abramovitz.

“The gap between the rich and poor tripled in the last 28 years,” she adds. “Social workers sit at the intersection between the individual and society and this curriculum gives them the tools to speak to many key elements of financial literacy, and to find resources and learn what is possible for their clients. Money is one of the hardest topics to discuss, even for social workers, and this curriculum will give them insights about their own knowledge as well how to apply what they know in their practices. ”

Funded by The New York Community Trust since 2011, the Economic Literacy Curriculum will be launched in an expanded version in 2015 that will improve its accessibility through easy-to-use navigation. Visit the new ECOLIT SOCIAL WORK WEBSITE.


All In East Harlem: Better Together Community Initiative Update

At the June 21 Conference at Silberman, more than 175 East Harlem stakeholders from human service organizations and agencies, educational centers, community groups, and government representatives exchanged ideas and opinions about how our school can support the East Harlem community in an innovative long-term model of a university-community partnership.

After the conference, the school analyzed the results of initial priorities identified by working groups, each co-facilitated by an academic and a community leader. The discussions included needs in employment and economic development; housing and public spaces; youth and schools; early childhood; older adults; health; art and culture; public safety; family resilience; and food access. Many participants emphasized the importance of culture in East Harlem, especially as it is expressed through the arts. Music, dance, and art are seen as ways to reach youth, families, and older adults, and as a possible economic driver for the neighborhood.

Those results were disseminated again to participants, who added further ideas and priorities. Neighborhood stakeholders defined areas where they would like Silberman to help coordinate and support collaborative activities in specific ways including: serving as a hub for community activities; providing more internships; training and technical assistance; support for advocacy and policy development; and more faculty conducting applied research and program evaluations in partnership with community organizations. In the coming months, we will pursue activities that were identified by the community.


This Year’s Moses Visiting Professor: Kevin Mahoney, PhD

mahoneyOlder Adults & Families and Global Practice, Director, National Resource Center for Participant-Directed Services

In recent years, Silberman School of Social Work has demonstrated a major commitment to the field of aging and was one of just five schools selected nationally to be a Center of Excellence in Geriatric Social by The Hartford/GSA National Center on Gerontological Social Work. The appointment of Kevin Mahoney, a luminary in the field of aging, as its Moses Professor for 2014-2015 year, underscores its goal to creating the best possible center for social work education and research on aging in the city of New York and beyond.

The Moses Visiting Professorship was endowed by Henry and Lucy Moses in 1981 at the School to bring a scholar of distinguished reputation to work with faculty and students in a particular area of study. Says Professor Carmen Morano; “Professor Mahoney will help us further develop our Center for Excellence in Aging so that will be sustainable over time and his background in person-centered trainings and research helps keep us in step with new best practices in the field.”

Renowned for his research on participant direction of home and community-based services and supports for people with disabilities, as well as financing of long-term care, Professor Mahoney’s work promotes greater control by recipients of the types of services they receive and how they will be delivered. He is on the Boston College Graduate School of Social Work faculty, has worked in gerontology and long-term care and has held policy-making and administrative positions in state governments and universities.

Daniel Herman, PhD, Professor and Associate Dean for Scholarship & Research, adds that Professor Mahoney’s work is highly relevant to healthcare reform, presenting a new model that is being adopted across several domains  of health care and social service delivery. Participant-directed services involve the way recipients are funded so that they can which services they need and how those supports will be delivered.


Expanded Amy Watkins Scholarships Awarded This Year

Amy Watkins winner_Retouched

Tammie Williams, Roxanna Henry, Maha Akhtar (left to right)

Each year, the Amy Watkins Scholarships helps make it possible for students in financial need to realize their commitment to social justice through a Master’s Degree in Social Work in Community Organizing. This year, two students, who have worked in youth development with teen girls, have been awarded partial scholarships. Congratulations to Tammie Willams (’15) and Maha Akhtar (’16) for joining a distinguished list of students honored through the Amy Watkins Scholarship.

Tammie has been an impressive advocate and resource for families with children with special needs and Maha has been working in community and youth development with the Muslim community in Queens.

“As a selection committee, we are truly energized by the stellar pool of candidates,” said Chana Widawski (’00), co-founder of the scholarship. “This year, our funding is allowing us to support two exceptional students with partial scholarships, one of whom will graduate in May. Our goal is now to award two full-tuition scholarships each year. We always welcome new donations as these outstanding students are making huge impacts and truly need our support.”

Tammie and Maha join 15 recipients who share Amy’s vision and who continue to serve as strong leaders and agents of justice in the community.

A 15-year Anniversary Celebration and Fundraiser was held on May 7, 2014 at the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space. Fellow students established the Amy Watkins Scholarship Fund as a tribute to Amy’s life and to the ideas she dedicated herself to as a social worker before her tragic murder in March 1999. To learn more about the scholarship and to make a donation, please visit


Alumni Updates Fall 2014

Mary Beth Anderson (LMSW, JD, OYR grad) was invited to present a workshop on Helping People with Serious Mental Illness Avoid and Escape Homelessness at the 2014 National Conference on Ending Homelessness, held in July in Washington, D.C. Mary Beth is the director of the Urban Justice Center Mental Health Project. Since becoming the project’s director in January 2014, she has obtained $500,000 in funding for project staff to provide services for people with mental illness reentering the NYC community from prison or jail.

Rebekah Adens (M.Div., LMSW) is a school social worker. She reports that this past April, she presented her senior project about race and the social work educational community along with her work about race in charter school networks (specifically, building skills with professionals to engage with race and power in trans-racial interactions) at the annual conference of the National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) in

Kristy Aristy (LCSW, CASAC-G, FDC, SAP) is the Assistant Vice President/Cayuga Centers and is proudly working with Unaccompanied Alien Children to reconnect with their families.

Alexis Cate (MSW/LMSW) is a General Preventive Therapist with Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services as of July 1, 2014. She also passed her licensure exam on June 20th, 2014 and received her NYS Social Work License on July 17, 2014.

Stacey De Fries (MSW) is a full-time lecturer and field faculty instructor at the University of Washington, Seattle. Stacey serves on the board of the Washington State Clinical Social Work Society and chairs the board’s Associates Committee. Faculty profile:

Courtney Engelstein (LMSW) joined the clinical staff at New Directions Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Treatment Program in November, 2013. She works as the Intake Specialist, conducting intake assessments, ongoing individual counseling, and Motivational Enhancement Therapy groups.

Rosemary Farmer (nee Baker) (MSW, PhD, LCSW) has just retired as a professor at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Social Work. “I will continue with my private practice of clinical social work and pursue my interest in social work practice and the neurosciences.”

Daniel Farrell (MSW/LCSW) is Vice President of Programs/HELP USA, where he oversees multiple homeless shelters and homeless prevention and rapid rehousing programs. An Adjunct Professor at Silberman and doctoral candidate at NYU’s Silver School of Social Work, his most recent publication is: Farrell, D. C. (2013) Relational theoretical foundations and clinical practice methods with people experiencing homelessness. In J.R. Rosenberger (ed.), Relational Social Work Practice with Diverse Populations.

Rachel Fine (MSW) was hired as the Academic Director of SquashDrive, an afterschool nonprofit that serves Oakland, California youth from fourth grade through college.

Erica Gaeta (LCSW), who lives Massachusetts, is launching, an online and in-person counseling service/blog/resource for women who suffer from gynecological pain conditions. “My framework is rooted in Somatic Experiencing, a body-based trauma therapy that will guide individuals on an investigation of their body sensations, their pain, and open doors for growth and healing.”

Shane King (LMSW) is Supervisor for Case Planners. “I resigned from my evidence base position as a Multi-Systemic Therapist to become a Supervisor at the Jewish Board Children and Family Services. I am currently working on hours to complete my LCSW and working on continuing to grow personally and professionally.”

Naomi Somerstein Kreutzer (MSW) is a social worker at Runnells Specialized Hospital in Berkeley Heights, NJ. “Sending my youngest child Rebecca, off to SUNY Binghamton to study accounting. Oldest child Rachel is a 2nd grade teacher with Teach for America in Tulsa, Oklahoma. No 3

Esther Levy (LCSW) reports that after almost eight fulfilling years in outpatient and school-based mental health, she’s been enjoying her position as a psychological counselor at a NYC college. “I was also blessed with a baby boy in April 2013.”

Daniel Mager (MSW) is a Senior Staff Writer/Central Recovery Press and has authored “Exploring Steps: Guides to the Twelve Steps for Individuals and Families” (Central Recovery Press, Las Vegas, NV, 2014), a series of booklets that integrates the time-tested wisdom and spiritual principles of the Twelve Steps with current counseling theory and practice approaches. A separate booklet explores each step for those with addiction disorder and their families.

Anthony Mallon (MSW from Hunter, PhD from Michigan) was appointed Interim Director of the UGA SSW Institute for Nonprofit Organizations

Elizabeth McInnes (LMSW), Case manager/Libertas Center for Human Rights, has been working at the Libertas Center for Human Rights, a torture treatment program located at Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens, NY for over three years. At Libertas, which provides comprehensive services to asylum seekers and refugees, she is the sole case manager, provides therapy to clients, and also works on planning and program development.

Kendra Pollidore-Mulzac (MSW) is currently working as a social worker in a foster care setting with youth and their families from birth to 21. “Since graduation I have gotten married and we are expecting our first baby”.

Nicole Rochat (LMSW, CHHC), Director of Social Work, Office of the Appellate Defender, is now also a Certified Holistic Health Coach and has completed a two- year apprenticeship in herbal medicine. She works full time in a law firm, and is a student coach for Institute of Integrative Nutrition and an External Supervisor for Columbia University School of Social Work. She also has a small private practice. .

Blaise Sackett (LMSW) has been the Director of the East New York Clubhouse in Brooklyn, NY for the past 9 years. The Clubhouse is a community center serving people with severe and persistent mental illness.” It helps them to overcome barriers to independence by assisting with core personal and community goals in the realms of communication, public benefits, education, employment, housing, improved health and socialization,” she says. As a faculty member of Clubhouse International, she has assisted Clubhouse programs and colleagues around the world by making accreditation visits to 14 programs in 5 countries and 6 states in the U.S.

Antonia Salerno (LMSW, CUNY BCC) reports that after helping formerly homeless individuals transition into supportive housing as an Employment Specialist at the Center for Urban and Community Services, she now assists incoming freshman with remedial needs at Bronx Community College as an academic advisor for the CUNY Start Program.

Christopher Torsiello (LCSW) reports that after working in the Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program and Mobile Crisis Team at Beth Israel Medical Center, he has opened a psychotherapy practice in downtown Manhattan, and provides mental health care to a diverse community unable to access care at clinics with unaffordable rates.

Dee Unterbach (DSW, LCSW). A psychotherapist & Region Two representative to NASW/CT, she will present “a psychodynamic understanding of Freud’s ’Mourning and Melancholia’ ’’ to the New Haven region of NASW/CT.