Social Work Alumni Profiles

Edith Brown, ACSW, LCSW

To all social work students, I suggest that you continue to sharpen your skills wherever you find your employment, continue to grow and develop into a social worker that allows you to have the passion to do your best in helping your clients reach their potentials.

Read more about Edith
  • Edith retired from Children’s Wisconsin in 2005 and continues to do volunteer work. In October 2019, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wisconsin Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.
  • Why did you want to study social work?
    Initially, I planned to attend UW-Madison to major in home economics, however after my dad had a heart attack in 1954, my plans changed and I attended UWM with a major in English and minors in political science and history. While working as a hospital admissions worker at the old County General Hospital, I was inspired to enter the School of Social Welfare at UWM, graduating in 1964.
  • I worked for Lutheran Social Services, then with Milwaukee County as a foster care supervisor and then as the first woman supervisor of Child Protection and Parent Services. In addition to managing my department, I was also involved in many print and broadcast programs highlighting child abuse and prevention, providing legislative input and writing a child abuse and prevention grant. I also worked for the City of Milwaukee as associate director for community development overseeing grants that went to nonprofit agencies benefiting low-income residents.
  • What has been the best social work job you had and why?
    It was a toss up between Child Protection and Parent Services with Milwaukee County and Children’s, though social work as a profession is one that I love and still have passion for.
  • How did HBSSW help you?
    UWM undergraduate and graduate programs were extremely helpful from the instructors to the discussions of social issues covered in classes and the urban community I still reside in. All these experiences at UWM and in the positions I held helped me do the best job I could wherever I was.
  • What is your best advice for social work students?
    To all social work students, I suggest that you continue to sharpen your skills wherever you find your employment, continue to grow and develop into a social worker that allows you to have the passion to do your best in helping your clients reach their potentials.

Amandla Daniels

I am extremely grateful for my internship experiences. Without those I would not be where I am today. The internship opportunities helped me prepare for my career after graduation. I was able to gain a better understanding of the social work field and explore working with multiple populations.

Read more about Amandla
  • Amandla is the school social worker at the Vel R. Phillips School, located in Milwaukee’s Juvenile Detention Center.
  • Why did you want to study social work?
    When I started at UWM, I never wanted to be a social worker. My dream was to graduate with an art degree and pursue a graduate degree in art therapy as I enjoyed helping others. However, my parents encouraged me to explore other related areas. I ended up taking Social Work 100 with Peggy Maillet and began to understand that having a social work degree makes you more marketable during the job search as social workers can be found in multiple settings.
  • What has been the best social work job you had and why?
    I had three very impactful internships that led me to the best and only social work job that I have had since graduating. The best thing about social work is that there is never a dull day as every day is different. While my job can be demanding, I enjoy the challenge. Each day presents new opportunities to make connections with our students and find new ways to assist students in their academic success. My job allows me to have the autonomy to implement school wide initiatives (creating a trauma sensitive environment, utilizing restorative practices in the classroom, creating a sensory room for staff and students), focus on individual student needs and participate in multiple projects with students. One of the student projects is our podcast – VRP Breakdown, which was featured on National Public Radio (NPR). Hear our staff episode here.
  • How did HBSSW help you?
    I am extremely grateful for my internship experiences. Without those I would not be where I am today. The internship opportunities helped me prepare for my career after graduation. I was able to gain a better understanding of the social work field and explore working with multiple populations. The internships challenged me to step outside of my comfort zone and ultimately led me to the career that I love. The advising center also gave me an opportunity to utilize and strengthen my social work skills through peer advising as I completed my social work degree. Kelby Spann and Kate Masshardt were great advisors and mentors throughout my time at UWM.
  • What is your best advice for social work students?
    Take advantage of the free time that you have. Join clubs that are not necessarily connected to your major, take advantage of the study abroad opportunities, meet with your advisor each semester to ensure that you are on track to graduate, take advantage of the certificate programs (even if it adds another class to your schedule), get to know your professors as they all are great resources for more insight on the profession and participate in as many on-campus as well as off-campus activities as you can. UWM is located in a great city! Don’t be afraid to get out there and explore!

Kate C. Goedtel-Bennett, MSW, LCSW

My graduate career at HBSSW allowed me to explore the field of clinical social work more
in-depth while also forging lasting relationships with fellow students and instructors in the program.

Read more about Kate
  • Kate is a well-being lead clinician / Certified PCIT Level 1 Trainer at Children’s Wisconsin and the Institute for Child & Family Well-Being.
  • Why did you want to study social work?
    Growing up, I always found myself in “helping” roles and knew that I wanted to be in a field where I was working directly with individuals to promote positive change. My undergraduate career focused on criminal justice and psychology; however, shortly after my graduation I became a mom, and my passion quickly shifted to early intervention with children and families. Social work was what I had been looking for all along!
  • Where do you currently work?
    I have been working at Children’s Wisconsin (formerly Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin) in different areas of social work for over 10 years. In 2016, Children’s partnered with UW-Milwaukee to form the Institute for Child & Family Well-Being, and I have continued as part of that clinical provision and training team since it began.
  • What has been the best social work job you had and why?
    I truly enjoy my current role as a child & family therapist, and even more so the opportunities I have to train other clinicians in evidence-based interventions such as Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT). It’s no secret that our state is experiencing a shortage of quality mental health practitioners for children and adolescents, and I feel grateful that I am able to contribute to enhancing empirically supported clinical practices and expanding the availability of services to families in our community.
  • How did HBSSW help you?
    I absolutely would not be doing the work that I am doing today had it not been for HBSSW. The flexibility of coursework and scheduling allowed me to continue to work and also be home to spend quality time with my family. My graduate career at HBSSW allowed me to explore the field of clinical social work more in-depth while also forging lasting relationships with fellow students and instructors in the program. I was introduced to PCIT as part of my graduate internship in 2011 and have continued to work directly with Dr. Dimitri Topitzes and Dr. Joshua Mersky to grow access to PCIT and other evidence based interventions throughout our community and Wisconsin.
  • What is your best advice for social work students?
    My best advice is to establish a routine of self-care that works best for you while you are a student, so that you can carry this practice into your field placements and future roles. Social workers are helpers by trade, but you can’t pour from an empty cup. It’s imperative to learn the balance between your own empathic presence in your work and also to recognize your limits and boundaries.

Stacey Pendzich, LCSW

I have worked with individuals providing psychotherapy, psychiatric inpatient social work, mental health crisis intervention as well as implementing community programs and developing plans to improve individuals’ well-being. I will continuously advocate for all individuals to have equal access to resources to meet their basic needs.

Read more about Stacey
  • Stacey currently works at Outreach Community Health Centers as the director of community services. She previously spent 13 years with Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services in the Behavioral Health Division and the Housing Division.
  • Why did you want to study social work?
    I chose to study social work because I was always drawn to helping individuals in need. I went to college several years after high school and had the opportunity to think about what I really wanted to do as a career. Social work really resonated with me. Individuals living with behavioral health, substance use and those experiencing homelessness, have been my primary focus throughout my career. I have worked with individuals providing psychotherapy, psychiatric inpatient social work, mental health crisis intervention as well as implementing community programs and developing plans to improve individuals’ well-being. I will continuously advocate for all individuals to have equal access to resources to meet their basic needs.
  • What has been the best social work job you had and why?
    I have learned so much from each job experience I have had. I truly enjoy working with individuals in crisis. It is hard for me to identify one job as my favorite. My first job, working on an inpatient forensic mental health unit, definitely set the tone for me in my career and the population I truly enjoyed working with. I thoroughly enjoyed working in the Milwaukee Metro area emergency rooms as well. I found it very rewarding to be able to help individuals when they were at their most vulnerable.
  • How did HBSSW help you?
    HBSSW was so supportive throughout my whole graduate experience. It was so helpful to learn the different areas of social work. For me, the psychopathology course with Paul Zenisek solidified the direction my career would take.
  • What is your best advice for social work students?
    Try your best to experience as many areas of social work that you can. I learned through my clinical field placement that working with children was not a direction I wanted to pursue. That experience was invaluable to me. I graduated with the intention of obtaining my 3,000 hours immediately and pursuing private practice. I obtained my 3,000 hours on an inpatient forensic mental health unit. Once I received my LCSW, I started working in private practice. I quickly realized that private practice did not spark the passion in me that working with individuals in crisis did. Throughout my career, I have also had the opportunity to incorporate the macro aspects of social work. I would have never thought that was an area I would find so fascinating. As a student and as you start your career, take every opportunity you can to find your passion.

Cathleen Pollack, MSW

Youth empowerment is a passion of mine and I spend everyday helping students know their strengths, develop healthy coping strategies and learn to identify their means toward resiliency and success.

Read more about Cathleen
  • Cathleen has been a school social worker for Milwaukee Public Schools for almost 20 years.
  • Why did you want to study social work?
    From an early age, I felt strongly about social justice. Coupling this with my empathic nature and admiration of resiliency, I believe the draw to social work was a natural one. Prior to graduate school, I worked in corporate management and enjoyed building various skills in others. I wanted to return to social work so I could focus on youth empowerment in education.
  • What has been the best social work job you had and why?
    My best social work job is my current one as a school social worker in a public middle school. Youth empowerment is a passion of mine and I spend everyday helping students know their strengths, develop healthy coping strategies and learn to identify their means towards resiliency and success. I’m honored to work with the students and families in the Milwaukee community and want to collaborate and help build strong foundations for the students to thrive. With skeletal budgets, this work also includes advocating for resources to allow equity in building strong public schools.
  • Youth positively respond to community building and restorative practices, which has provided an effective focus in my role. It is rewarding to witness students sharing their voices, revealing their talents and displaying their leadership. “Rewrite the narrative” is a motto voiced by our staff and a perfect one to share with the students.
  • In addition to the vast and varied roles of a school social worker, I was able to create and coach a chess team, which has been rewarding and another means to build skills (and have some fun!).
  • How did HBSSW help you?
    I continue to quote lessons I learned from HBSSW instructors and professors, often finding myself repeating them to the graduate SSW field students I work with as part of my liaison role with Wisconsin universities. Or, saying them to myself when a moment of courage is required! After 20 years, it validates the extensive education I received in the BSW/MSW programs. And, experience has taught me that those quotes and lessons learned were significant and accurate.
  • What is your best advice for social work students?
    My best advice for social work students is to take the clinical track along with your desired area of speciality. My clinical course work, field placement and later employment was invaluable in my professional development. Mental health/trauma awareness and expertise is essential to effectively practice in all areas of my role.

Antwayne Robertson, MSW

I feel like our job is to share ourselves with others. The best advice I can give to current and future students is to be true to yourself, your heart and try not to compromise.

Read more about Antwayne
  • Antwayne is director of Waukesha County Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Why did you want to study social work?
    It was a calling based on my growing up experience. I was always attracted to working and connecting with people and trying to be helpful. I think, looking back at the types of relationships I’ve had – I always cared about people and kids and what’s best for them. I was always sensitive as a child to what my friends went through. I grew up in a single family household on AFDC, what public assistance was called in the 60s, and I remember being treated differently. When I lived on 13th and Ring (Milwaukee), I would frequent the corner store on Burleigh to purchase milk and bread. The store owner would direct me to the back of the line to allow “paying customers” to go first. I would wait until all paying customers were gone before he would allow me to purchase. He called food stamps “funny money.” These type of experiences shaped who I am today.
  • Social Work was a natural fit, but it was a journey. As I would say, “I took the scenic route.” When I attended school in Eau Claire, I was thinking about becoming a lawyer. Then I tried history, and then business administration, but nothing fit. I recall my advisor asked me to take an interest test and with the results of that she recommended that I take social work, psychology and sociology. Subsequently, I found my natural niche. Those courses made sense and touched a core. I think that my upbringing and life experience had an impact on my interest, compassion and focus.
  • Where do you currently work?
    I am the director of the Waukesha County Department of Health and Human Services. I have been with Waukesha County since 2004, but in my current position since 2013.
  • What has been the best social work job you had and why?
    My best social work experiences can be described in phases. When I worked in group homes and a residential facility, I really loved working with youth males. They taught me about relationships, trust and the importance of having family connections. Many of these youths did not have a supportive family and many ended up aging out of the system with nothing but the clothes on their backs. The resiliency of these young men taught me a lot; how to create a healthy family in their own way and how to survive with minimum guidance and support. When I came to Waukesha County as a social worker in 1986, in the Adolescent and Family Services Division, I worked with youth who struggled with school attendance (truancy) and who exhibited destructive behavior (drug and alcohol abuse, running away and suicidal tendencies). Working with these individuals and hearing their stories — these were survival stories. Many of these youths were either physically abused, sexually abused or severely neglected. Their behavior was a cry for help. They would challenge me every step of the way. You had to earn their trust. If you can offer and create a culture of security and comfort consistently, you can earn their trust.
  • When I was a supervisor and a site manager with the state branch of the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare, from 1996-2004, I worked with impoverished families whose children were confronted with chronic neglect and substance abuse. At that time, many parents were addicted to crack cocaine. It was the families’ ability to overcome all these barriers to be reunified with their children that reinforced my reason to be in this profession. Being a public servant in Waukesha County has allowed me to foster relationships with community based organizations, the business community and other governmental agencies. Strengthening the county’s service delivery system allows us to maximize resources to ensure the safety of children, vulnerable adults and the well-being of families.
  • How did HBSSW help you?
    First of all, it was the instructors. I was very fortunate to have quality instructors and ad hoc instructors who were committed to my professional development. I have a long-lasting relationship with Professor Gwat-Yong Lie. To me, she epitomizes the mission and vision of the social welfare program. I have been fortunate and blessed to be a part of it. I believe the culture of this program provided me a sense of community. Everyone felt a part of something bigger with a common goal. Even though the program provides diverse areas of study, there’s a common goal that we’re here to help others. That was a wonderful experience.
  • What is your best advice for social work students?
    “The meaning of life is to find your gift; the purpose of life is to give it away.” I feel like our job is to share ourselves with others. The best advice I can give to current and future students is to be true to yourself, your heart and try not to compromise. What I mean by “not to compromise,” do not compromise why you wanted to be in this profession from the beginning. I understand serving individuals/families can be complicated, but always remember you take one person, one child, one family at a time and give each your best. Even though there are societal challenges and influences, never give up and be a strong advocate for your profession and those you serve.

Dawn Shelton-Williams, MSW, LCSW

Social work provides the opportunity to help address social injustices that so many people encounter on a daily basis. Advocacy and lobbying to change laws are extremely important. As a social worker, my work with people and community is a way to give back to my community.

Read more about Dawn
  • Dawn is a quality specialist at Aurora Family Service, which is part of the Advocate Aurora Health system. She’s also in private practice at Sebastian Family Psychology Practice, LLC.
  • Why did you want to study social work?
    I became a social worker because I like to work with people. Relationships are extremely important in life. I enjoy assisting people in transforming their mental well-being by enhancing relationships and social connections; providing education to people on the importance of mental health and wellness; and advocating for people who are often seen as invisible or voiceless in our society.
  • Social work also provides the opportunity to help address social injustices that so many people encounter on a daily basis. Advocacy and lobbying to change laws are extremely important. As a social worker, my work with people and community is a way to give back to my community.
  • I chose the clinical track in social work because the area of mental health fascinates me and to help address the disparities that still exist in the field. My clinical interests and expertise include working with women of color who suffer from anxiety, depression and racial trauma.
  • Where do you work?
    I’m currently employed as a quality specialist at Aurora Family Service, which is part of the Advocate Aurora Health system. I’m also in private practice at Sebastian Family Psychology Practice, LLC. My clinical interests include working with women of color (particularly African American) who suffer from anxiety, depression and racial trauma. I also present workshops with a colleague and friend on racial trauma and its impact on people of color.
  • What has been the best social work job you had and why?
    The best social work job I have had is as a clinical practitioner (psychotherapist). It is the work that I like to do. I like assisting people in addressing challenges and barriers to their mental well being by using their internal strengths. I learn so much from my patients and the resiliency that they possess to survive day to day. I also have over 15 years of managerial and leadership experience in the field. When I was promoted to management, I decided to do private practice as a way to stay connected to psychotherapy because of my love for it.
  • How did HBSSW help you?
    The Helen Bader School of Social Welfare helped me by providing me a solid and grounded foundation in social work. As a graduate student in social work, I had a great academic team (professors and field placement instructor) who encouraged me to reach my optimal potential in school while providing me with the educational tools and skills I needed to succeed in field. I also received great messages from faculty on what I could achieve in the field as a social worker. I had a positive experience in graduate school with the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare.
  • What is your best advice for social work students?
    The work of social work is not easy; but the reward is priceless. My advice to social work students consists of several things. They are:
    – Believe in yourself and what you can accomplish.
    – Build relationships and connections in the field and community.
    – Practice from a culturally humble approach; partner with your clients in the work, because they are the experts of their lives and have strengths and are resilient.
    – Become a member of our professional association, the National Association of Social Workers – the benefits are awesome!
    – Get a mentor in the field. Mentor/mentors are valuable on the social work journey.
    – Keep abreast of your skills and knowledge through professional development.
    – Self-care

Quinn Wilder

Working with people in communities that are victims of ongoing violence requires not only experience, commitment and academic preparation, but the emotional, spiritual, and personal preparation required of trauma work, including well-developed self-care skills.

Read more about Quinn
  • Quinn works in the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare at the Milwaukee Child Welfare Partnership. He is part of a team that provides training for foster, adoptive and relative care providers as well as group home staff statewide.
  • Why did you want to study social work?
    My first academic passion was psychology, with a focus on helping individuals in a clinical setting, but I came to realize the profound influence of the social conditions that define and shape our realities, including our own identities, and so I studied how power shapes those social conditions, and how individuals can collectively build power to counter being defined and shaped by other forces. Eugene Debs was an early influence for me in this regard, with his quote at his sedition trial in 1918 where he said, “Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”
  • Another influence was Bob Dylan’s A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall lyrics, especially these from the last verse: “I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
    Where the people are many and their hands are all empty
    Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
    Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
    Where the executioner’s face is always well-hidden
    Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
    Where black is the color, where none is the number
    And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it
    And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it”
  • What has been the best social work job you had and why?
    Besides my current job, the opportunities I was able to take advantage of at the Youth Work Learning Center, which included managing and directing the center, designing and conducting action research with youth workers, and writing and teaching curriculum for youth workers. This was extremely challenging and satisfying work that I am proud of.
  • How did HBSSW help you?
    The MSW was very closely aligned with my beliefs and mission regarding the significance of committing oneself to social justice work as a career as well as a lifelong endeavor, and it has helped me to make that a reality.
  • What is your best advice for social work students?
    I think it is important, especially for those planning to do social work in Milwaukee, to realize that because of the deep and chronic inequities that marginalized groups and people in Milwaukee have been suffering from for generations now, under conditions more reflective of and in ways even worse than found in third world countries — this produces often unimaginable trauma. Working with people in communities that are victims of this ongoing violence requires not only experience, commitment and academic preparation, but the emotional, spiritual, and personal preparation required of trauma work, including well-developed self-care skills.