by Catherine Donnelly
Generating Change Through Education
Jennifer Elliott, MSW/PhD student, realized early on in her career that education was her path to generating change. She completed two degrees, in Criminal Justice and Psychology, at Canisius College which lead to a role at Gateway Longview as a court liaison and clinical specialist. She evolved into a domestic violence advocate and decided to apply to UB’s MSW part-time program. In addition to applying to UB, she found a position at Trocaire College and started both new experiences on the same day!
“My undergraduate work turned out to be an interesting combination. I gained insight into law enforcement and an introduction to social work. In my job as an advocate, I noticed trends in my black community related to intimate partner violence and wanted to focus on ways to improve outreach and services, said Elliott. “However, as I progressed through the MSW program, I realized that my interests have expanded. Now I want to do more and conduct research that can lead to policy change and interventions.”
Elliott hopes to educate service providers and institutions responsible for assisting clients experiencing intimate partner violence to understand that all clients are not all the same.
“Race/ethnicity is one of many components that matters when working with clients, so all services should be culturally responsive. This includes education as well as social work services,” she said. “In relation to policy, my hope is to work with the federal government to change the criteria of grant funding to reflect mandatory training in cultural competency for service providers as well as other components needed to provide holistic services.”
Elliott is currently working as a Program Coordinator for the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) at Trocaire College. In this role, she manages a grant fostering a community that is capable of responding to domestic and dating violence, stalking, and sexual assault.
“My role is multifaceted. I develop new initiatives, create materials, and coordinate the Interpersonal Violence Intervention Prevention (IVIP) Correspondence Community Response Team (CCRT),” continued Elliott. “Recently, I collaborated with Trocaire’s digital learning department to create a mandatory interpersonal violence orientation for all incoming students that provides education on interpersonal violence, student rights, bystander intervention, safety planning, and resources. To date over 2,000 students have completed the orientation.”
Elliott is able to take her classroom experiences right into the workplace since she has been able to complete her field experiences at Trocaire.
“One benefit of my UB program is my ability to allow work and school to complement each other. That alleviates a great deal of stress from my life! However, I do have time to participate in extracurricular activities and I am very proud of being involved with the UB Association of Black Social Workers,” said Elliott. “Last year I was vice-president, alongside the founding president Gloria James, MSW ’22, and this year I am the acting president. I am excited to get back to campus to work on new projects.”
One of the initiatives from the UBABSW was an innovative "Cocoa and Conversations" event held on April 6, 2022, at the Intercultural and Diversity Center by Elliott and Shanita Glover-Mangam, MSW ’22. It allowed participants to engage in a discussion of healthy and unhealthy relationships. The event won the Award for Student Achievement in Sexual Violence Prevention sponsored by the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering (CBE).
When asked about classroom highlights, Elliott shared three memories.
“First, Dr. St. Vil’s elective on Black and Masculinity really broadened my perspectives on how society reinforces certain aspects of that and how our biases can play a role in how we process information. I also found the advanced intervention course about intimate partner relationships with Professor Frost to be useful since it helped me understand my clientele better and helped me to reframe some of my preconceived notions from my own work,” said Elliott. “Finally, I have to thank Professor Loveland for challenging me to make my MSW my own. She has helped me find my voice and develop a better balance in this profession.”
When asked about personal interests outside of work and the classroom Elliott admitted to being a huge Marvel fan. “My favorite character is Spiderman. Not only was he my intro to the world of superheroes, but my mantra comes from his story: ‘With great power, comes great responsibility I see my power as having the knowledge to empower change.”