Why I'm Here: Meet our Students

Michelle Fortunado-Kewin holding back-to-school sign that says "My first day of 20th grade, 2nd year of DSW. 2020-2021. I am 36 years old, my teacher is Drs. Hitchcock and Maggiulli. I love my dog and going to the beach. I want to be Dr. Fortunado-Kewin when I grow up. Class of 2022 #DontStopWorkingTil2022.

Michelle showed off her back-to-school sign over Twitter.


Michelle Fortunado-Kewin, DSW Student

The UBSSW Doctorate of Social Work (DSW) program launched in 2019. The online program is designed for working professionals, and has just begun its second academic year.

As Michelle Fortunado-Kewin searched for a DSW program, she had a mission: She wants to find—and more importantly implement—interventions to reduce suicide and suicidal ideation in the youth she works with.

Observing mental health issues and challenges in herself and in her own family inspired her to want to help others, said Fortunado-Kewin, 36, who identifies as Filipino.

She found her way to social work in college. Now, she holds a bachelor’s, a master’s, and is a licensed clinical social worker, also credentialed in pupil personnel services (PPSC).

She’s the program coordinator and clinical supervisor for the San Francisco Unified School District’s Student Intervention Team. She’s also a field faculty advisor/adjunct assistant professor at Smith College School for Social Work (Northampton, MA), and also maintains a private practice.

Within the San Francisco school district, she saw higher suicide ideation rates in Filipino students, and sought interventions. “I found information about why this population experiences those thoughts, but not a lot about what we can do specifically,” she said. “I needed to explore these issues more deeply. The topic was perfect for a doctorate.”

She quickly understood that a DSW, versus a PhD was right for her. “The DSW is practice-focused. With a PhD, there can be a years-long gap between research and implementation. I want to impact clients, community, and systems sooner,” she noted.

Fortunado-Kewin learned about the School’s DSW program through a Facebook ad; she was attracted to the comparably affordable tuition, and especially to the School’s human rights, social justice and trauma-informed perspective. “As a person of color and a woman, I’m hoping this degree allows me to have more impactful leadership and planning roles for other people of color,” she said.

“What’s especially helped is the professors’ flexibility and knowledge,” she added. “With the pandemic, and all of us [DSW students] working full-time, the School has been very welcoming and understanding.”