The Columbia School of Social Work has initiated a new scholarship program for incoming Social Work students who received their undergraduate degrees from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The first recipients of the award are Gabrielle Francis and Kyra Roberts, 2022 graduates of Oakwood University and Clark Atlanta University respectively.
The new scholarship program for incoming Social Work students, named after the first Black Woman to receive her MSW from CSSW who also graduated from an HBCU undergrad, is designed to provide more alumni of HBCUs with access to a CSSW degree, which is one of only two Ivy League institutions that confer the social work Master’s degree. All applicants to the School who are HBCU alumni are now considered for the scholarship, which is primarily need-based.
The scholarship is also one prong of the School’s Anti-Racism Action Plan, which aims to increase the number of students and faculty who identify as Black or as a Person of Color and, ultimately, to train more social work leaders who look like and understand the communities they serve. At present, Black students compose 11 percent of the entering class.
“Columbia offers an excellent social work education and we are striving to make it accessible to all,” said Dean Melissa Begg. “I’m thrilled to see the wonderful candidates that the HBCU scholarship is bringing to our classes. Their diverse voices and perspectives will have an enormous impact on the Columbia experience, and, ultimately, the profession.”
Scholarship awardee Gabrielle Francis received a BS in Child Development and Family Studies from Oakwood University in May of 2022. She is a dual degree student, studying Clinical Social Work at Columbia concurrently with General and Special Elementary Education at Bank Street Graduate School of Education.
“Growing up as an Afro-Caribbean, I have made it my goal to be the person that I needed when I was younger,” Francis says. Her career plan is to combine elementary school teaching with individual psychotherapy in the context of a free community center.
Kyra Roberts, who is also studying Clinical Social Work, received her bachelor’s in Social Work in May of this year from Clark Atlanta University, graduating at the top of her program. She hopes to become a clinical social worker and raise awareness of mental health issues.
“I hope to be an advocate for change, to encourage and support people in their journey of help, and to reduce barriers that contribute to health disparities in order to improve health equity,” says Roberts.
Located primarily in the South, the 107 historically black colleges and universities of the United States are institutions founded and accredited prior to 1964 with the main mission of educating Black Americans. Prominent Americans who graduated from HBCUs include Vice President Kamala Harris (Howard University), Wilma Rudoph (Tennessee State University), Rev. Jesse Jackson (North Carolina A&T State University), and Spike Lee (Morehouse College).