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GCSW Welcomes Four New Clinical Assistant Professors

 

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Pictured Above (Left to Right): Cindy Carter, Yvonne Mendoza (MSW '15), Melanie Pang (MSW '12), and Tamika White 

August 17, 2021

(HOUSTON, TX) - The Graduate College of Social Work is proud to announce that Cindy Carter, Yvonne Mendoza (MSW '15), Melanie Pang (MSW '12), and Tamika White have joined the GCSW as Clinical Assistant Professors. 

Their appointments primarily serve the Field Education program and contribute to the College's teaching and service needs.

We asked the four new faculty members to share their experiences before their appointments to the GCSW, how they hope to shape the student experience, and why they believe their roles are critical to the college's vision of achieving social justice. 

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Name: Cindy Carter, LCSW-S
Pronouns: She/Hers

We're excited to have you join the GCSW in this role. What are you most excited about in regards to your new position at the GCSW

I am so incredibly excited about joining the GCSW Field Education team. I have had the pleasure of serving as a GCSW Field Instructor for nearly five years, and I've loved it. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to continue working alongside GCSW students to support them as they grow in their social work practice and overall confidence.

Additionally, it is inspiring that the Field Office and the GCSW have their pulse on the need for introspection and the necessary growth that is happening within our profession at this time. Given that we are at a crucial tipping point, not only in our profession but in our country, it is an honor to play a role in this movement towards re-imagining Field Education to produce trailblazing social workers ready to do the work of dismantling systems of oppression.

What was it that made you decide to go into social work initially?

I honestly stumbled into social work after being unsure about what to do with an undergraduate degree in Psychology. Still, it ended up being the absolute best decision I've ever made. Growing up a military kid but with roots firmly planted in the Deep South, I've always been painfully aware of our country's racial, social, and economic disparities. I grew up in a household where we discussed social issues often. I've also always known I wanted kids that look like me to know they are seen and valuable because so many adults in my life did the same for me. I came into this work with wide eyes, proclaiming that I wanted to "change the world," make a difference and positively impact lives, but with little direction for what any of that truly meant. Fortunately, our profession allows for space to grow and develop our true calling and passions. Working in our field has given me the skills, language, and deeper understanding of ways to advocate and effect change in a meaningful way.

Social work is an expansive area when it comes to employment and experience. What was your professional experience like before joining the GCSW?

I love that our profession allows for a breadth of opportunity. I've been fortunate to have a career that has allowed me to have such robust experiences in this work. Overall, I have experience as a direct practice clinician, clinical supervisor, and field educator. I started my career facilitating group therapy for residents of a juvenile detention treatment center in San Antonio, Texas. I relocated to Houston to accept an Open Adoption Counselor position, providing counseling services to birth parents and prospective adoptive parents. From there, I transitioned to the inpatient psychiatric setting, where I developed my clinical skills as a therapist on the adolescent unit of the world-renowned Menninger Clinic. For the last five years, I was the Lead Clinician for an innovative therapeutic day treatment program for children and adolescents with chronic medical illness and co-occurring mental health diagnoses. This program allowed children and families from underserved communities to receive high-quality integrative medical and behavioral health treatment they otherwise would not have had access to. In addition, I recently dipped my toe into the world of Higher Education as a Lecturer and Field Liaison for Baylor University's Garland School of Social Work, which solidified my love for teaching and mentorship. 

Can you expand on how you believe your new role supports the GCSW's mission and vision of achieving social justice?

I was immediately drawn to this role because, as a member of the social work community in Houston, I have observed the deliberate direction in which the GCSW is moving. The GCSW is building a program that is at the forefront of producing leaders in our profession who are socially engaged, willing, and equipped to do the work of dismantling systems that are disenfranchising and doing harm to our most vulnerable and marginalized populations. My new role will allow me to help students integrate the critical conversations in their classrooms and amongst their peers with what they see each day in their field placements. In addition, I hope to support students as they are coming to a new understanding of the unjust systems many of their clients engage with daily. I see my role as not only a role of support but also one to compassionately challenge them to encourage self-reflection and foster personal and professional growth. 

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Name: Yvonne Mendoza, LMSW 
Graduation Year from the GCSW: MSW '15  
Pronouns: She/Her

We're excited to have you return to the GCSW in this role. How does it feel about returning to the GCSW in this new role?

I am beyond thrilled to come back to the GCSW in this capacity! It has not entirely hit me just yet; I think it will once I am on campus. I think this captures me right now, "Me siento muy excited!"

What was it that made you decide to go into social work initially? 

We found each other! Along with my lived experiences, it was evident that the design and function of systems in this country are not equitable or equal. Once I realized diversity, equity and democracy were missing - I started to search for it, learn from it, and create it. 

Social work is an expansive area when it comes to employment and experiences. Is there a significant professional experience between the time you graduated from the GCSW and this new role that you think helped prepare you for this opportunity? 

Social work is so broad. I have had many experiences that have shaped me, from working in urban schools to managing disaster work in Puerto Rico. I have learned deeply from each experience. My most notable common thread in each is that I have had the incredible honor to bear witness. I have been able to bear witness to trauma, grief, growth, despair, and resolution. It's highly satisfying and rewarding work. 

How did your time at the GCSW prepare you for your professional career?

I remember my professors with deep respect and all of the books we read. The GCSW refined the innate discipline to succeed in all the work I have done and hope to do. The GCSW also awakened the idea of creating something that does not exist to solve and address social problems. I left the GCSW feeling prepared immensely for these challenges. 

Can you expand on how you believe your new role supports the GCSW's mission and vision of achieving social justice?

My hopes and intentions are to help the field office and students on their educational journey. This journey will undoubtedly involve hard conversations but is always and rooted in deep compassion. I pledge to the three main ingredients I have pursued since my BSW: diversity, democracy, and equity. I am committed to challenging the faulty systems currently in place, and with significant vulnerability, listen, sit, and REcreate. 

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Name: Melanie Pang, MSW
Graduation Year from the GCSW: MSW '12 
Pronouns: She/Her

We're excited to have you return to the GCSW in this role. How does it feel about returning to the GCSW in this capacity?

I am so honored, humbled, and a little nervous, which I think are all good signs that I'm where I need to be! To be invited to join the faculty who have taught me so much on the same campus where I first started my social work journey feels like coming home and is a testament to how wonderful it is to be a part of the Houston community. UH and the GCSW are magnetic! 

What was it that made you decide to go into social work initially? 

I had completed a communications internship at the Houston Food Bank just after finishing my undergraduate coursework. The experience opened my eyes to writing about what was happening in the world and helping to shape it. I remember the first social worker I ever met was Dr. Beverly McPhail, an alumnus of the college and the Director of the UH Women's Resource Center at the time. She provided something I had never had before: a space for me to talk openly about my struggles. She offered me endless support as I found and cultivated an LGBTQ community. She was there for me during stressful times: thinking about making ends meet and working a few part-time jobs trying to get through my undergraduate experience. I don't know that I would have found social work without her and her shared compassion for my experiences. Thanks, Beverly. You're my role model. 

Social work is a vast area when it comes to employment and experiences. Is there a significant professional experience between the time you graduated from the GCSW and this new role that you think helped prepare you for this opportunity?

In every organization I've worked in, I've witnessed systemic changes that have massive ripple effects. Such events ranged from internal policy changes that impacted staff shift priorities, a pandemic that made us double our service delivery, or community-wide crisis response work needed after policy changes that target a specific community. Change is inevitable. My built-up skill to respond to change thoughtfully in diverse ways has helped prepare me to accompany people as they embark on their journeys to becoming social workers while juggling the many crises that can come up in life. 

How did your time at the GCSW prepare you for your professional career?

Believe it or not, I did not enjoy school until I started my MSW program. The curricula of the GCSW helped me understand power, systems, and trauma better. I had not even begun to acknowledge a lot of my trauma until I came to the college. It reminds me of how privileged I am that I get to pursue healing, explore my mind, heart, and life so that I can imagine and build a future. The GCSW has helped me understand that sharing my power with the community can be done in many different ways, which is essential because the waves of change in my life force me to adapt and provide long-term service for all involved. 

Can you expand on how you believe your new role supports the GCSW's mission and vision of achieving social justice? 

Relationships are social change. As a clinical assistant professor and field education faculty member, I believe this role can help facilitate better relationships: better connecting students to each other, their communities, their values as anti-racist leaders, and their dreams. Suppose we can enrich our relationships by reorienting them toward justice here at UH. In that case, we can do it everywhere we are and create movements that will make people-centered policy more sustainable. 

Anything else you would like to share? 

I am so grateful for this opportunity to contribute and share in the joy and struggles of growing this social work community. And of course - Go Coogs! 

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Name: Tamika White, LMSW
Pronouns: She/Her

We're excited to see you in this new role. What are you most excited about in regards to this new role at the GCSW?

I am very excited to meet the students and to invest in their future. I cannot wait to observe their responses as they increase their self-awareness and unlock their limitless power to create effective change. I will enlighten them on the numerous career possibilities within the field of social work.

I am looking forward to hearing success stories of students receiving employment from their field placements, students learning the steps to obtain their licensure in their home state, and students identifying the appropriate path to achieve their dreams. I want to challenge the students to continue to make success a moving target. I want to see the students learn, grow and reach higher heights in the social work field than they could have imagined.

What was it that made you decide to go into social work initially? 

My family volunteered in the community frequently. My mother started multiple food pantries at local churches. My parents and I regularly volunteered to help others who needed resources and services. My family instilled in me at a very early age, "To Whom Much Is Given, Much Is Required" (Luke 12:48).  

Social work is an expansive area when it comes to employment and experience. What was your professional experience like before joining the GCSW? 

I completed my Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Social Work at Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 2007. I completed my MSW in Interpersonal Practice with Children, Youth, and Families with a School Certification at the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor in 2008. I have had an opportunity to practice and observe social work in settings internationally, nationally, and locally. I also studied social work abroad in 2008 at Helwan University in Cairo, Egypt. 

One notable experience was in New Orleans, where I worked at Benjamin Banneker Elementary School. I served as a School Social Worker for Post Hurricane Katrina relief. 

I've also served locally in various organizations in various roles within the healthcare system and was a guest lecturer at the University of Houston- Downtown in Fall 2016 and Spring 2017. 

In July 2020, I joined the GCSW as a Hybrid and Online Field Coordinator. While serving as a Field Coordinator, I also worked as a Field Liaison and Field Instructor. I co-taught 6306 Practice Skills Fall 2020, volunteered with the admissions committee, and worked with the Field Practicum Advisory Committee (FPAC).

Can you expand on how you believe your new role supports the GCSW's mission and vision of achieving social justice? 

The new role of Clinical Assistant Professor will allow me to join committees that will eventually reshape the GCSW program, enhance the curriculum and establish equal access and opportunities for students around the globe. It will allow me to work closely with distance field instructors and agencies to develop rapport and explore diversity, equity, and inclusion within their organizations. Through education, I can ignite a passion for essential skills that will allow students to excel in any competitive social work setting. Learning tasks, assignments, and discussions will lead students to eradicate social issues systemically.

Anything else you would like to share? 

I am so very grateful for this opportunity. I look forward to making valuable contributions to the team.