Advice from a Social Work Doctoral Student

When considering studying for a health care profession, it helps to talk to someone who has experience in the field. Interested in a career in social work? Tyese A. Brown, LMSW, MA, may be able to help! She is a second year CSWE MFP fellow and current doctoral student at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College and the CUNY Graduate Center. Tyese offered some insight into why she chose to pursue social work and how she is trying to shape the future of her local communities. (EHC): Thanks for your time! Let’s start with a general question: What led you to social work?
Tyese Brown (TB): I️ was inspired to enter the social work profession primarily through my experience as a research assistant in graduate school at NYU. I️ was pursuing a master’s degree in Educational Psychology and conducted interviews with Black and Latinx adolescents about their friendships and peer support networks. I️ was able to connect authentically with the youth and genuinely felt compelled to help them more than just conducting interviews. While the primary investigator on the study advised me to apply to doctoral programs, upon completion of my degree I️ decided to seek employment in direct service. I️ was hired to work at a community-based organization as an after-school program director for 250 elementary-aged youth in Bushwick, New York.

EHC: How did you decide to get involved with social work specifically?
TB: I️ was promoted to Clinical Director of a substance abuse prevention education and counseling program. My master’s degree in Educational Psychology was acceptable to the state agency that funded the community-based program. However, I️ soon realized that I️ needed to acquire clinical training in order to work with counseling staff to develop service plans for group and individual counseling services.

EHC: Please briefly describe the Minority Fellowship Program and how you got involved.
TB: I️ learned about the Council on Social Work Educational Minority Fellowship Program (CSWE MFP) while researching doctoral programs. I️ first applied before I️ was accepted to the PhD program in social welfare. Unfortunately, I️ was not accepted; however, my PhD program officer encouraged me to reapply the subsequent year because there were quite a few CSWE MFP in the program. They each highly recommended participation, so I️ applied and was accepted during the second year of my doctoral program.

The CSWE MFP alumni, peer fellows and staff are amazing. They are highly supportive and provide a safe space for inquiry, advisement and professional coaching. The opportunity to be connected to a network of alumni is invaluable. I️ highly recommend participating in the CSWE MFP program.

EHC: What are some of the small and big picture tasks you work on for your academic studies (including field experience)?
TB: The small picture tasks that I️ work on for my MSW required consistent meetings with my field advisor and diligence with drafting process recordings. The big picture tasks required me as a one-year residency student (OYR) to balance full-time work with full-time coursework and my field placement.

EHC: What advice/tips do you have for students interested in going into the social work profession?
TB: I highly suggest that students going into the social work profession seek opportunities to innovate creative interventions within the communities that they may serve. I️ was fortunate to create a gender responsive, culturally informed empowerment program in the community based organization where I️ worked, in addition to my existing responsibilities as Clinical Director. In 2002, I️ founded Sister S.A.G.E. (Strengthening Advocacy for Girls Empowerment) a safe space to experience intensive personal development through service, sisterhood, self-exploration and cultural empowerment. I️ acquired private and public funds to provide services to an under-served group of Black and Latina girls in Brooklyn. My advice to emerging social workers is to seek opportunities to fill in the gaps in service delivery that exist within systems.

SAGE alumni group photo

EHC: What do you wish you knew before you chose to study this field?
TB: I️ wish I️ would have decided to pursue social work earlier. Psychology is a discipline that can problematize the loved experiences and seek to “diagnose,”“cure” and “treat” the challenges of the individual. However, social work is an anti-oppressive, practice-based field that focuses on structural deficits which contribute to issues that people experience. Social work is a holistic discipline that requires empathetic, non-judgmental and ethical care. It suits me.

EHC: How do you stay up-to-date on happenings in the mental health/healthcare field?
TB: I️ am a member of the National Association of Social Work (NASW) and Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) and receive their newsletters. The CSWE MFP issues monthly newsletters as well. I️ also receive information from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) through my work with the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (NYS OASAS). My association with professional organizations keeps me up to date.



Thank you for sharing your personal and professional insights. I wish I had majored in Social Work in undergrad. Your insights has solidified my interest in applying to grad school.

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