Interview with Neva Wallach, NSWM 1st Year Policy Fellow

Q: Tell us a little about yourself. Where do you work?

A: Neva is a graduate student at the USC School of Social Work’s Social Change and Innovation Department and will be earning her Master of Social Work (MSW) degree in May, 2018. She is currently a full-time intern with The Hetty Group. Neva is focusing her passion on technology for social good and criminal justice reform. In the summer of 2017, Neva interned with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Office of Public Safety, where she assisted with developing a web-mapping platform to coordinate crime prevention efforts citywide. She also led a research project on police perceptions in one of LA’s most violent neighborhoods at the San Fernando Valley’s Coalition on Gangs. Neva has also interned with Communities in Schools Greater Los Angeles San Fernando Valley, a nonprofit organization focused on gang prevention and intervention. Neva was named a Dean’s Leadership Scholar at the USC School of Social Work and is Co-Chair of the National Association of Social Workers – USC Unit. Before graduate school, Neva was a high school history teacher in South Los Angeles. Neva holds a bachelor’s degree in Social Studies Education from Boston University.

Q: What attracted you to the NSWM Policy Fellowship Program?

A: In the summer of 2017, I presented at the 29th annual Network for Social work Management Conference in New York City. I left feeling inspired by the community that NSWM brings together, and wanting to contribute more. The applications for the NSWM Fellows opened after my policy-based internship with Mayor Eric Garcetti. I believe that social workers need to be involved with policy work to maximize social change opportunities at the macro level.

Q: Who is your mentor?

A: My mentor, Lauri Goldkind, gets me. She is a fantastic mentor who has wholeheartedly guided me towards a better understanding of myself and the opportunities that lie within and beyond social work. Lauri and I bonded on our interest in harnessing technology for social good. Recently, Lauri invited me to an event in San Francisco to develop a Code of Ethics for Data Science. We were the only two social workers there and it taught me the importance of taking our social work skillsets and values and applying them in new settings. I love having Lauri as a mentor!

Q: What has the mentorship experience taught you?

A: The mentorship experience taught me to push the limits. Just because I knew very few social workers interested in technology, does not mean that they do not exist. Lauri has opened my eyes to an entire network working towards a better world in technology. No one else has believed in this area like Lauri does. It is often difficult to be the first (student, social worker in tech, etc.) and having a mentor like Lauri eased me into taking risks and pushing the envelope. In order to create it, you have to imagine it.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your final poster project. What policy issue are you focusing on?

A: My poster focuses on Measuring the Effectiveness of Child Welfare Hackathons in the United States. My research aligns with the Social Work Grand Challenge of Harnessing Technology for Social Good. Social workers are uniquely positioned to intervene within the tech community to advance socioeconomic policies.

Q: Why did you select that particular issue? What do you hope everyone will get out of your presentation?

A: Hackathons offer a model for interagency collaboration. I hope participants will learn how to use technology as a tool for coordination. Part of our social work ethos is to hold space for diverse stakeholders to gather and create change.

Q: What advice would you give to those who are currently thinking about applying to the NSWM Policy Fellows Program?

A: They can talk to me about how I have maximized opportunities provided through the program! My mentor and I had an amazing experience working together on like-minded interests within and beyond the world of social work.

About the author

Neva Wallach is a second-year student in the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work studying Social Change and Innovation. As a Dean’s Leadership Scholar and Social Change and Innovation Fellow, Neva is interested in the intersection of criminal justice reform and social innovation. She won “Intern MVP” at Communities In Schools in Pacoima for her contributions to gang prevention and intervention in the San Fernando Valley. After interning in Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Office of Public Safety this summer, Neva aspires to further social worker engagement through data and technology. Neva’s vision is to coordinate efforts and help facilitate communication amongst various local and international stakeholders in social change.  

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