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Meet Our Students

Cohort 2016

Serena Ahmed
Serena Ahmed

Serena Ahmed is a first-year Macro concentration student at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, specializing in Political Social Work. Serena's diverse family background has led her to a commitment of organizing with, and bridging divides between, vulnerable communities for progressive and sustainable societal change. She isparticipating in the Austin Legislative Internship Program to learn in depth about the policy process in order to become a more effective advocate for and with working-class communities.

Tyler Anderson
Tyler Anderson

Tyler Anderson is a second-year Macro concentration student specializing in Political Social Work. During her time at the GCSW she has been a Hillman Foundation Scholarship recipient, the Co-Director of the M.A.C.R.O. Network, a member of the Student Association, and a member of University of Houston’s Sexual Violence Prevention Education Student Advisory Board. Tyler is interested in women’s issues, particularly reproductive and economic justice for women and girls. Tyler is participating in the Austin Legislative Internship Program to gain insight into the legislative process and experience working across the aisle to accomplish common goals. She loves her home state of Texas and wants to give back in a meaningful way by actively participating in the legislative process.

Fabeain Barkwell
Fabeain Barkwell

Fabeain Barkwell is a second year Clinical concentration student at the Graduate College of Social Work. With a background in psychology and public health, Fabeain has become an adamant advocate for people dealing with mental illnesses and mental health related issues. Fabeain has three years of experience working with patients dealing with traumatic brain injuries and with the Mental Health and Mental Retardation Authority as a field case manager. Fabeain hopes to gain a confident understanding of how to navigate policy, create sustainable change across large communities, and improve access to care for populations dealing with mental health problems.

Melissa Davila
Melissa Davila

Melissa Davila is a first-year Advanced Standing student at the University of Houston Graduate College Of Social Work. She is pursuing the Macro concentration, with a specialization in Social Work Practice with Latinos. While she was completing herbachelors in social work at the University of Houston-Downtown, she participated in a study-abroad program led by the Criminal Justice Department through which she learned more about policy and explored different legislative approaches other countries had implemented to prevent human trafficking. Through her social work education, Melissa has learned, and witnessed first hand, the power of social change and empowerment in helping individuals, agencies and communities, and she is eager to continue to learn more.

Arielle Day
Arielle Day

Arielle Day is from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Child and Family Studies from Louisiana State University in 2015. She is currently a second year student in the Macro concentration at the Graduate College of Social Work at the University of Houston. Through internships and volunteer opportunities, Arielle has gained experience working with many vulnerable populations including: individuals suffering from substance abuse, the homeless, children with learning disabilities, foster care youth, and individuals with chronic health conditions. She has experience in community education and outreach, fundraising, writing psychosocial assessments, case management, and conducting research. Arielle has made a career commitment to enhancing the well-being and functioning of individuals, families, and communities.

Mimi Duong
Mimi Duong

Trang-Thu (Mimi) Duong is a second-year student at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, with a Clinical concentration and a specialization in International Social Work. She is a Global Leaders of Behavioral Health Education for YOUTH Fellow and scholarship recipient of the Phi Alpha Honor Society and the Hillman Foundation. She has conducted extensive DFPS research for the Child Welfare Education Project. Mimi served in the Peace Corps for Youth in Development from 2011–2013, and has four years of overseas community organizing experience with immigrant and refugee families. Mimi speaks Vietnamese and Moroccan Arabic fluently. She hopes to learn legislative strategies to support therapeutic accessibility for trauma mong immigrant families, and advocacy skills for racial justice and gender equity.

Andrea Elizondo
Andrea Elizondo

Andrea Elizondo is a dual degree candidate in the University of Houston’s Master’s of Social Work and Master’s in Public Policy programs. She is pursuing a Macro concentration and specializing in both Political Social Work and Social Work Practice with Latinos. During her time at the GCSW, she has served as an Ambassador, a member of the Sexual Violence Prevention and Education Student Advisory Committee, President of the Policy Insiders Advisory Committee, and the Graduate Fellow for the Center for Mexican American Studies. Andrea has strong interests in serving the Latino immigrant community, especially unaccompanied youth and migrant families. She has research interests in immigration policy and sexual health. Andrea is also fluent in Spanish. She is looking forward to being part of the 2017 Texas Legislative Session and hopes this experience will make her a better political advocate for Houston’s immigrant community. Andrea is also hoping this will give her the stepping-stone she needs to run for office someday.

Erin Eriksen
Erin Eriksen

Erin Eriksen is a second-year Macro concentration student, with a specialization in Political Social Work, at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. A native Houstonian, Erin received a BFA in Photography and a Minor in Art History at the Lesley College of Art and Design, in Cambridge, MA. In 2010, she started working for Urban Harvest in Houston, where she eventually became the Community Gardens Coordinator. Erin headed up a project for Urban Harvest in conjunction with the City of Houston to turn vacant lots into community gardens. Until recently, Erin served on the Board of Montrose Grace Place, a drop-in center for homeless LGBTQ youth in Houston. While interning for the Texas Legislature, Erin is eager to understand the process and how the laws passed impact communities.

Chenelle Hammonds
Chenelle Hammonds

Chenelle Hammonds is a second-year student at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She is pursuing a Macro concentration with a specialization in Political Social Work. She is also enrolled in the first cohort of the University of Houston’s joint MSW-MPP degree program. Chenelle is participating in the Austin internship to acquire a better understanding of the intricacies of public policies and the policymaking process in order to serve clients better in the future. From this experience, she hopes to gain career experience, better communication skills and charisma, and unique learning opportunities.

Elizabeth Hann
Elizabeth Hann

Elizabeth Hann is a second-year Clinical concentration student at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She is participating in this session as part of both the GCSW’s Austin Legislative Internship Program and the Texas Legislative Internship Program run by former Sen. Rodney Ellis. She recently served as the Houston summer site coordinator for the national AFL-CIO Union Summer program. Elizabeth was born and raised in Houston, and she holds a bachelor's degree in Behavioral Science from Concordia University Texas.

Kate Kirages
Kate Kirages

Katherine Kirages is an Advanced Standing student, enrolled in the Macro concentration and specializing in Political Social Work, at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. Kate is a member of the Phi Alpha National Social Work Honor Society and an Ann Parham Scholarship recipient and has been active with the GCSW Hispanic Student Association and M.A.C.R.O. Student Network. During her undergraduate studies, Kate volunteered at the campus autism clinic and completed her internship working with home health and hospice patients. Kate has a strong interest in advocating for women’s rights, immigrants and refugees, and how policy shapes our communities. She believes competent and educated social workers at the forefront of public policy will have a positive impact on policies affecting clients, and that the Austin Legislative Internship is an invaluable opportunity to influence policies promoting social justice and equality.

Joel Kissell
Joel Kissell

Joel Kissell is a second-year student at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, pursuing a Macro concentration. Before joining the program, he served five years in the Military Police Corps of the United States Army, including tours in Iraq and South Korea. Joel hopes this experience will contribute to a career in advocacy and policy implementation.

Kylie McNaught
Kylie McNaught

Kylie McNaught is a second year, part time student at the University of Houston’s Graduate College of Social Work. Kylie is concentrating in Macro social work with a Political Social Work specialization. For the past three years Kylie has worked as a housing case manager, serving veterans experiencing homelessness in the Greater Houston Area. Her background in housing and participation in community planning for the Houston homeless community piqued Kylie’s interest in how policy is created. She is hoping through the Austin Legislative Internship Program to gain a better understanding of the Texas Legislature and to be an active participant in the creation of laws that directly affect the lives of all Texans.

Elsa Mendoza
Elsa Mendoza

Elsa Mendoza is currently a second year, part-time student at the University of Houston’s Graduate College of Social Work, concentrating in Macro social work with a specialization in Political Social Work. Elsa has over six years experience working as a legal assistant on cases in criminal, civil, probate, and family courts in Harris County and various surrounding counties. Her interest in policy stems from her background in legal work, as well as working as a caseworker for a domestic violence shelter during her undergraduate career. During the Austin internship, she hopes to gain knowledge and skills that will allow her to be an effective macro social worker in the near future. She dreams of being capable of creating policies that protect vulnerable populations.

Tiffany Williams
Tiffany Williams

Tiffany Teate Williams is in her final year at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, with a Macro concentration and a specialization in Political Social Work. She is particularly interested in child welfare policy. Tiffany has interned at a residential treatment center for minor victims of sex trafficking where she witnessed first hand how policy affected their lives. Tiffany is pursuing the Austin Legislative Internship Program so she can gain experience in learning to navigate the political process in order to be an effective advocate for vulnerable populations.