From the Director:

Happy Social Work Month! March is absolutely one of my favorite months of the year. It is the time of year when I get to boldly celebrate my profession and women’s history. How exciting! Even more exciting is how we will celebrate both in this issue of the MFP Connect. 

For the first time here, you will meet and hear the voice of one of our own MFP alums, Dr. Halaevalu F. O. Vakalahi. Dr. Vakalahi is the new President and CEO of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), and she represents the best that our MFP has to offer. She wholeheartedly embraces her status as an MFP alumna, and we are thrilled to have her join us in this issue. 

Furthermore, we get to hear the voice of another MFP fellow, Alizay Sajjad. In her entry, Alizay highlights the sacred observance of Ramadan and reflects on the “intersection of Ramadan and mindfulness.” I invite you to read her insightful entry and learn about Alizay and Ramadan.  

Finally, you will read about some ongoing and brand-new initiative at CSWE’s MFP. You will learn about how we are closing our doctoral application cycle and launching the MSW application cycle this month. In addition, we are ecstatic to share information with you about our inaugural Research, Policy, and Practice Summit taking place on June 26–29, 2023, in Alexandria, VA.  Whether you are a current fellow and attend the full 4 days or are an alum who plans to join us for the 1-day open session, I am certain you will benefit from this student summit. REGISTER TODAY! 

One final reminder—We want to remain in contact with you! Please read the information in the newsletter about how to update your contact information. We don’t want you to miss one piece of information about the MFP’s upcoming 50th anniversary or other volunteer opportunities.  

Thank you so much for all that you do for social work! Let’s keep making our presence known! Happy Social Work and Women’s History Month! 

In Fellowship,

Kesslyn Brade Stennis, PhD  
Director, Minority Fellowship Program 


Social Work Month Spotlight: Dr. Halaevalu F. O. Vakalahi 

SW Month Spotlight Valu Video thumnailThe Council on Social Work Education’s (CSWE) Minority Fellowship Program (MFP) is commemorating Social Work Month this March with the theme “Social Work Breaks Barriers” by shining a spotlight on CSWE President and CEO, Dr. Halaevalu F. O. Vakalahi.

As an esteemed alum of the MFP, Dr. Vakalahi credits the fellowship with positioning her to break barriers in terms of representing her community in academia and empowering her “to dream in bold.” Be sure to check out her video on CSWE's YouTube channel.

Ramadan Reflections From Alizay Sajjad 

Starting on March 22, 2023, Muslims worldwide may search the sky for the new crescent moon or follow a pre-determined date based on astronomical calculations to mark the beginning of Ramadan. Islamic Networks Group, “a peace-building organization providing face-to-face education and engagement opportunities that foster understanding of Muslims,” describes Ramadan as a time for Muslims to commemorate the revelation of the Qur’an and fast from food and drink from sunrise to sunset. For billions around the world, this exercise in self-control and spiritual rejuvenation cultivates closeness to God, gratitude, and compassion. 

Alizay Sajjad, current MFP Fellow and MSW candidate at Columbia University, reflects on the auspicious observance of Ramadan, highlighting the observance’s connection to mindfulness, mental health, and the essence of social work.  

“I always look forward to Ramadan. The food, the community, and the blessings it brings seem to hold extra special significance for me during this month. The first few days are the most difficult. "No water, even?" people ask, and I always wonder to myself, “Why am I doing this?” Because yes: no water, even. No water, no food; from sunrise to sunset.  In the first few days all I think about is hunger, which makes the fast feel unbearable.

Tashee L. Brown photoA lecture I attended shifted my perspective on fasting during Ramadan. In the lecture, the Imam acknowledged the hunger that is felt during the fast. But he recommended focusing instead on the day’s prayers and being grateful for the gift of having access to food to think about. The message was to take time to pause, look around, and appreciate what you have instead of focusing on what is lacking. Hearing that sentiment changed how I experience Ramadan. While fasting is a big part of it, the Imam offered a needed reminder that the holy month is more of a time to practice gratitude and be present. It is a month of mindfulness.

If I could summarize Ramadan in two words, they would be “reality check.” In addition to the intersection of Ramadan and mindfulness, this month is a time to give back. Islam as a faith is very social work oriented. It encourages followers to stand against injustice, give back to their communities, work with competence, and be more aware. We are supposed to be doing that all the time personally and professionally as social workers; often Ramadan serves as that reality check of what are you doing for the people around you. This mirrors the self-reflection social workers are constantly doing.

I do not think you have to be a Muslim or celebrate Ramadan to give yourself a reality check, so I encourage you to take a moment to look within yourself. What do you have to work on, who are you, what are you doing for the people around you, are you drinking enough water, have you slept? There are so many things to think about, and I hope you do that for yourself. 

And to those folks who do not know much about Ramadan, go out there and learn! We need more culturally competent social workers because no one likes to be asked how they are alive despite not drinking water while fasting. Ramadan Mubarak.

Master’s Application Opening Soon!  

The MFP staff is pleased to announce the upcoming opening of the 2023–2024 master’s fellowship application period! The application will open on March 15, 2023. The deadline for submissions is June 1, 2023, at 5:00 PM (ET). A series of information sessions will be held at the following dates and times:  

Additionally, application support question and answer sessions will take place:

To receive an email notification of the application opening and details about upcoming information and application support session, please share your information here by March 13, 2023, at 9:00 AM (ET).

Doctoral Application Closing – Submit Today! 

The application period for the 2023–2024 doctoral fellowship is open, but only until March 15. Access added details and application instructions here

Please direct questions about application requirements, eligibility, and award information to [email protected].

Research, Policy, and Practice Summit 

Planning is underway for an in-person Research, Policy, and Practice Summit in Alexandria, VA, June 26–29, 2023.

The Research, Policy, and Practice Summit (RPP) will bring together fellows from CSWE’s various student-centered educational initiatives to engage in experiential learning and training opportunities. This summit promises to be an exciting opportunity for CSWE students who are affiliated with our programs to network with one another and invited scholars; visit Capitol Hill; visit historic locations in Washington, DC; and learn about RPP matters. The summit will center on the theme, “Decolonizing Social Work Education: Moving Beyond Conversations.” 

Sessions include but are not limited to: “Using to Support Advocacy,” “Contemporary Practice Issues in Mental Health in BIPOC Communities,” and “Public-Use Data: Resources for Secondary Data Analysis.” Summit participants will represent CSWE’s Minority Fellowship Program, the Interdisciplinary Minority Fellowship Program, the Doctoral Policy Fellowship, the Substance Use Disorders Education and Leadership Scholars Program, and CSWE’s Student Board Members.

CSWE’s MFP will cover the cost of registration, lodging, travel to/from Alexandria, VA, and some other expenses for current fellows. Fellows are asked to look to CSWE Spark for exciting details and important deadlines.

If you are a social work student, faculty member, or scholar-practitioner, you are invited to register for the RPP Summit by March 31, 2023, and join us on June 28, 2023! 

If you are current fellow you are invited to register here instead. 

Update Your Contact Information

Have you changed jobs in the last few years? Changed your primary email address? CSWE’s MFP relies on current contact information for our internal database, which we use to contact alumni and help us prepare our reports for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Please use this link to share your updated contact information. Additionally, you are encouraged to reach out to MFP alumni you are connected with and request that they share their updated information too. Thank you in advance for supporting MFP staff efforts to enhance connectedness within the MFP community. 


IPEC Faculty Development Institute

Interprofessional faculty teams and their collaborative academic and/or practice partners committed to promoting interprofessional education for collaborative practice (IPECP), as well as individual educators and practitioners looking for tools and strategies to lead, develop, and implement IPECP are invited to register for the Interprofessional Education Collaborative’s Faculty Development Institute. Find detailed information and register here.

University of Michigan Mixed Methods Program

Are you a student proposing, conducting, or writing a mixed methods dissertation or thesis? Join the University of Michigan Mixed Methods Program for a summer workshop focused on the mixed methods dissertation/thesis process. The workshop will take place virtually June 14–16, 2023. Participants at all stages of the dissertation/thesis process are encouraged learn more and register to attend! 

NASW Social Work Month Networking Event

Asia Locke PictureThe National Association of Social Workers (NASW) invites all social work students to a special Social Work Month networking event! Meet fellow advocates from across the country, expand your social work toolkit, and win some social work swag. Registration can be found here.