Q & A with Jayashree Nimmagadda

Jayashree Nnimmagadda — Submitted photo

Can you please give us an overview of the Atrévete Center for Excellence for Latinx/Hispanic Social Work Practice at Rhode Island College, where you are a professor? 

The purpose of the project, Atrévete: Latinx/ Hispanic Center for Excellence in Social Work Practice, is to recruit, train, and retain Hispanic students and faculty in our MSW clinical social work program.  This project will develop innovative pathways to the graduate program, provide robust clinical experiences in Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), strengthen our curriculum to address issues concerning Hispanic and other minority populations and conduct research on cultural adaptation of evidence-based interventions for mental health issues. 

In reading the latest edition of Rhode Island College Magazine, we see the Center has five major missions. Can you give us some detail on each? 

— Create a pipeline of Latinx students from high schools and community colleges to RIC’s bachelor degrees in social work and eventually master’s degrees, specializing in clinical social work

Although the number of Latinx students in the social work program increased in the last few years, there is a need for more intentional pipeline creation and innovative academic pathways to enrollment. To increase Latinx student enrollment, recruitment activities have been taking place with high schools and community-based organizations in our target area (Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls), as well as the Community College of Rhode Island and the Human Development and Family Studies Program at the University of Rhode Island. In addition, recruitment activities will be strengthened to target Latinx students for enrollment in the RIC School of Social Work’s five-year accelerated BSW to MSW program. We are organizing Social Work Career Days taking place in the spring 2024 semester which will target both RIC students and high school students in our target area.

— Recruit and retain Latinx faculty. 

This past year, the School of Social Work has hired two Latinx faculty members in tenure-track positions and one Latinx faculty member as a faculty fellow.  These are the first faculty to be hired in tenure-track lines in the MSW program at RIC SSW in its 45-year history.

The Center has also developed and implemented a faculty development program. The Faculty Development Center (FDC) hosts bimonthly open writing sessions and quarterly workshops, trainings, and virtual events on various topics to support new faculty progressing towards tenure.

— Build community partnerships to provide experiential learning for clinical social work students. 

Internships where students immerse themselves in an agency, working with clients under the close supervision of an MSW, are central to social work education.  This academic year, we have contracts with Rhode Island Free Clinic and Clinica Esperanza to host student interns.  For next year, we are working with Blackstone Valley Health Center and the Providence Community Health Center to provide student internships.  Each agency also provides a Latinx clinical social worker from their staff as the supervisor/mentor.

— Strengthen curriculum to address issues regarding Hispanic and other minority populations. 

 There is a Curriculum Advisory Committee whose members are Latinx Clinical social workers from the community.  This committee meets biweekly to curate and innovate Latinx-centered content to enhance the BSW and MSW curriculum. In addition, a Latinx mental health course was developed and offered to students in the Social work program.

Another area of focus is developing modules/content for interprofessional educational training.  Students from RICSSW, RIC School of Nursing, Alpert Medical School at Brown University, Pharmacy, Nursing, and Physical therapy students come together to learn from one another and enhance their skills in teamwork. This spring, there will be content related to Latinx communities/case studies integrated into the simulations/training materials. 

— Conduct research on culturally adapted evidence-based interventions for mental-health issues. 

The goal of student research projects is to move towards generating knowledge on culturally and linguistically appropriate mental health interventions. An example of one of the scholar’s topics is,How can culturally adapted cognitive behavioral therapy help Latinx immigrants who experience migration relation trauma?”  Students will present their research findings at a graduate symposium in May 2024. 

This brings us to the Center’s goal of adding as many as 55 trained bilingual providers to the state’s behavioral healthcare workforce. What is the need? 

For a comprehensive analysis of the need for diverse mental health providers in RI, please review the following report put forward by the Mental Health Association of RI

In what cities and regions do you anticipate these providers will be available? 

Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls, Woonsocket – anywhere in Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts.  Over 80% of the social work graduates live and work in this area after completion of their degree.  We expect the same from the COE scholars. 

Any thoughts on what healthcare organizations will be hiring these clinicians? 

Community health centers, community mental health centers, hospitals, accountable entities, family service agencies, primary care practices (this is just a sample).

What else does the Center have on tap? 

We will be launching our Mentorship program in the spring 2024 semester. Latinx RIC MSW Alumni will be providing mentorship to Latinx scholars in the program.

Also, developing curriculum modules for clinical social workers in the community, partnering with agencies to provide trainings for their staff.

And expanding partnerships with community agencies.