From the Director:

It’s Graduation Season (again)!

I have always loved the pomp and circumstance of graduation ceremonies. The flowing gowns, the glorious tams, the bustling crowds, the processional lines, and the riveting guest speakers have always connected me to the power of the past and sense of purpose for the future. The graduation ceremony alone often calls me to reflect upon the resilience, resistance, and resolve had by those who don the regalia. 

As I consider the symbolism of graduation as a metaphor for life, I honor those friends from the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community who have demonstrated that same resilience, resistance, and resolve to create the paths of possibilities and purpose for themselves and others. This edition of MFP Connect recognizes them, including MFP’s own trailblazer, Ameera Bhanji. Although Ameera transitioned from MFP earlier this month, her resilience, resistance, and resolved paved the way for so many others, including current MFP fellows. I am ever grateful for her contributions. This special issue of MFP Connect is dedicated to Ameera in recognition of her work, dedication, and amazing representation of excellence. 

This edition is also the space in which we acknowledge Mental Health Awareness Month. There is a special segment on mental health that we hope you find helpful. Please remember to take care of yourselves: mind, body, and spirit. Finally, we share important information about upcoming MFP activities, including the deadline for MSW MFP applications on June 1, 2023. Please read all the details and join us in celebrating Ameera, our AAPI friends and our mental well-being.

In Fellowship,

Kesslyn Brade Stennis, PhD  
Director, Minority Fellowship Program 

Embracing the Resilience of AAPI Communities: Recognizing the Powerful Protective Factors for Mental Health

by Ameera Bhanji, LMSW 

As a South Asian woman, I have personally experienced how the strengths of Asian American communities can positively impact mental health. Many Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) cultures prioritize family, community, and spirituality, which have helped me develop a strong sense of identity and belonging and served as a source of support in times of stress. My community emphasizes a strong sense of collectivism and interdependence, and families often come together to support one another during difficult times. This can be especially helpful for individuals experiencing mental health challenges, as they have a built-in support system to turn to.

As a mental health professional, I believe it is crucial to acknowledge the strengths of marginalized communities in the context of mental health. Recognizing and building upon these strengths can help to counterbalance the negative effects of systemic oppression and create more culturally responsive and trauma-informed care. It is important to move beyond a deficit-based approach that focuses solely on the challenges and obstacles faced by marginalized communities and instead, highlight their resilience, coping strategies, and cultural practices that promote wellbeing. By doing so, we can create a more inclusive and equitable mental health system that respects the diverse experiences and backgrounds of all individuals.

These strengths are all around us, just waiting to be recognized and celebrated! For example, some Asian American and Pacific Islander cultures place emphasis on traditional healing practices, such as meditation, yoga, and herbal remedies, which can be especially beneficial for mental health and wellbeing by promoting relaxation, reducing stress, and increasing self-awareness. 

Furthermore, despite facing racism and marginalization, many AAPI individuals have developed coping mechanisms and strategies to navigate these challenges, such as seeking support from their community, engaging in activism, or practicing self-care. This history of resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity can serve as an important source of strength and inspiration for those struggling with mental health issues.

By recognizing and building upon these strengths, mental health professionals can provide culturally responsive and trauma-informed care that is respectful of the diverse experiences and backgrounds within AAPI communities. It is crucial to create a space that values and incorporates traditional healing practices, as well as one that acknowledges the resilience and strength AAPI individuals and communities bring to the table. 

As we celebrate AAPI Heritage Month, it's important to reflect on the unique strengths and protective factors within our community that support mental health. I implore you to take a moment to think about the strengths you have observed in your own community, and how these can be harnessed to promote wellbeing and resilience. By recognizing and building on these strengths, we can work towards creating a more supportive and inclusive community for all.

Master’s Application Open  

The call for applications for the upcoming master's fellowship period (2023–2024) is now open! If you're interested in applying, make sure to submit your application before the deadline of June 1, 2023, at 5:00 PM (EDT). To learn more about the fellowship's benefits, application components, selection criteria, and more, check out the MFP webpage, where you can also find a recording of one of the two information sessions that were held over the past month.

In the upcoming weeks, we will be hosting two Q&A sessions to support your application process. Please note that these sessions differ from the previous information sessions as there will be no presentation or set agenda. Instead, the Q&A sessions are designed to create a space for applicants to ask any questions they may have and receive direct responses from the MFP staff. We encourage you to attend and take advantage of this opportunity to address any concerns you may have about the application process.

Unable to join? Please email your questions to [email protected] and expect a response from a member of the MFP staff team in 2–4 business days.

2023 MSWs in the Making 

Asia Locke PictureCSWE's MFP is thrilled to present "MSWs in the Making"—a must-read booklet that showcases the amazing talents, passions, and career aspirations of our current cohort of master's fellows. These 34 incredible individuals are set to create real change and make a lasting impact in the lives of people and communities they serve through their post-MSW practice. As you dive into their stories, take a moment to imagine how their unique experiences and goals could align with exciting opportunities in your own professional sphere. Trust us, this booklet is a real game-changer that you don't want to miss!



MFP x FAUNA Mental Health Foundation

Are you a mental health practitioner looking for resources to support your work with diverse communities? Look no further than FAUNA Mental Health Foundation. This nonprofit organization provides culturally relevant and inclusive mental health resources for the Asian and BIPOC communities.

In a recent webinar held by CSWE's MFP in partnership with FAUNA's founder Adora Du, attendees gained valuable insights into the organization's mission and how it can be used as a tool for practitioners at all stages. Adora shared her personal and professional journey, highlighting the importance of community mental health and research.

FAUNA Mental Health Foundation offers a range of resources, including articles, podcasts, webinars, and workshops, that practitioners can use to enhance their cultural competence and provide better care to diverse communities. Whether you're a student, a new practitioner, or an experienced professional, FAUNA can be a valuable resource for your practice.

Don't miss your chance to discover this incredible organization and support their mission. Head to FAUNA's website to learn more and find the resources you need to promote accessible and inclusive mental health for all.


The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) is currently accepting proposals for research related to occupational and professional regulation, with an emphasis on social work regulatory best practices. The RFP, which is available by request, was developed by the association’s Regulatory Research Committee. The committee will also be reviewing and evaluating proposals. Deadline for proposals is May 31, 2023. ASWB anticipates announcing funding selections in late summer 2023. Learn more and request a copy of the RFP here.