Brown School Welcomes New Cohort: Answering the Call of a Changing World

Policy; Public Health; Social Work; Students

In a world marked by family separations, natural disasters, gun violence, and war, Brown School Dean Dorian Traube emphasized to incoming students the vital role of social workers, public health professionals, and public policy experts in addressing society’s most pressing challenges. 

In every one of these events, our professions are essential for resolution and reconciliation, Traube told students at the Brown School’s New Student Orientation event on Aug. 23 in Hillman Hall’s Clark-Fox Forum. “People are waiting for us … to provide lifesaving support and solutions,” she said.

While acknowledging that the road ahead might seem daunting and the journey tiring, Traube made a solemn promise to the new students: “I promise you, someone out there is waiting for you because they need your help.” 

Dean Traube gives welcoming remarks during New Student Orientation on Wed., August 23.
Students attend an informational session during New Student Orientation on Wed., August 23.

Diverse Journeys, Shared Purpose 

The paths that led these students to the Brown School vary widely, a shared purpose unites them – the desire to positively impact individuals and communities.  

George Putney, a resident of St. Louis, is pursuing an MSW with the aim of aiding formerly incarcerated individuals, drawing from his own experiences. “I went from a professional career to being incarcerated,” he shared. “There is a lack of resources for all of those people and that’s why the recidivism rate is so high. In my own small way, I hope to reduce that recidivism.” Following his incarceration, Putney worked with the Washington University Prison Education Project, forging his path to the Brown School.   

Sejal Rajamani, originally from Bloomington, Indiana, took an unexpected turn. After graduating from WashU in May with a degree in environmental biology, she realized all her extracurriculars involved social justice and working with people, not science. She is now pursuing an MSW, envisioning a career that merges her environmental background with social work and environmental policy, combatting issues like environmental racism. “I made the connection that what I wanted to do with my life was advocate for change and impact people’s lives directly as opposed to being in a lab or working with science,” she said.  

Ebun Opata, hailing from London, is enrolled in the 3-2 MSW program and aspires to become the kind of role model she was fortunate enough to have. “I had a high school counselor who had a big impact on my life,” she said. “I am interested in pursuing a career similar to that, so that I can help children in high schools who may be coming from underprivileged backgrounds and need a role model in their lives.” 

Olivia Frolichstein from San Antonio, Texas, chose the Brown School for her MPH program due to its Mental and Behavioral Health Specialization. “That was a big pull because not many places have that.” She is on a mission to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.    

Shannon Chiu of Sunnyvale, California, and Sarah Fracasso Francis, originally from St. Louis, are both enrolled in the MD/MPH dual degree program, which they consider the perfect combination to address community and population health needs. “I feel like I get to do the best of both worlds,” Fracasso Francis remarked. 

Caroline Dellheim, raised outside of Boston, always knew that she wanted to assist children and families through systems advocacy. She believes a dual MSW/MSP degree will provide her with a more comprehensive perspective – exposure to direct service work and also the bigger picture for systemic structural change. 

Kendra Henry, a Buder Scholar from Gallup, New Mexico, and a member of the Navajo Nation initially pursued a nursing degree to help her community. Drawn by the Brown School’s American Indian and Alaska Native Concentration, she is pursuing an MSW with the goal of working as a clinical social worker in Native American communities, providing behavioral health and substance abuse services.  

The Brown School’s New Student Orientation spanned several days beginning on August 21. It offered incoming students a deeper understanding of their degree programs, concentration and specialization information sessions, and crucial meetings with their academic advisors.