Samantha Basilone’s experience in her first-year internship at Fordham’s Master of Social Work (MSW) program opened her eyes to the impact she could have within the profession.
From a middle-class, suburban upbringing, Basilone wasn’t exposed to populations much different economically than hers. However, interning last year at a nonprofit in Ryebrook, NY, she worked with clients from multiple backgrounds and saw the daily inequity they experienced. It was jarring.
“I worked with unhoused clients who didn’t have the money to pay for medication, and they can’t get an appointment with like a primary care physician, let alone a psychiatrist,” she said. “This was not something I was exposed to growing up. In social work, you have to look at the whole person and their whole situation.”
Social work allowed Basilone to make a difference in her clients’ lives. And now, she will continue to find new ways to impact her community as this year’s Latino Coalition Scholarship recipient. As a scholarship recipient, Basilone will receive a tuition stipend and access to the Coalition’s mentorship program.
“I’m excited for what I’m going to learn from my mentors in terms of working with Latinx populations as a Latinx provider,” she said, “and the connections that I’ll make that will give me a step forward coming out of grad school.”
“She’s an absolutely outstanding student,” said Fordham GSS Clinical Professor Dana Marlowe, Ph.D., who nominated Basilone for the scholarship. “She specifically wants to work towards having eating disorder care and treatment equitable and culturally informed for Latinx and BIPOC populations. She is so committed to this, and it is so important. I believe that this scholarship will help her to reach this very important goal.”
A Calling’s Expansion
As a psychology undergraduate at Fordham, Basilone set her path for strictly clinical work. However, after graduating during the pandemic and taking some time to consider her career, she leaned toward more social-justice-centered professions.
“It was really on social media that I was exposed to much more justice-oriented approaches,” she said, “and focusing on ensuring that everybody has equal access to mental health care.”
Basilone’s first professional supervisor was also an adjunct in Fordham’s MSW program. Feeling unsure about whether clinical psychology aligned with her passions, Basilone spoke to her boss about possible next steps. Social work came up.
“She spoke to me about her experience in social work, the impact she was able to make, and the broader scope
of work that I could do,” Basilone said. “I didn’t feel like I was going to be able to make the difference that I wanted to see as a clinical psychologist. That’s really how I decided on social work.”
Having already been a Fordham student, Basilone knew the quality she could expect in the classroom and around the University’s culture. She also cites GSS’s study abroad program (which she participated in last summer) and small class sizes as additional factors in her decision to apply for the MSW program.
“I knew the culture of Fordham,” she said. “I knew that I loved the quality of professors who are dedicated to their work. My undergraduate professors were intelligent and knowledgeable about what they shared with us, and they offered it in a way that excited me.”
Basilone entered the MSW program with an interest in clinical work but an excitement for how she could expand on her undergraduate knowledge to make a bigger impact. She found that social work’s “macro” based work, or work with the broader community and policy, gave her that ability.
“I don’t think I could be an effective social worker if I didn’t have exposure to the macro approach,” she said. “And I think Fordham really does a good job of balancing the macro, the mezzo, and the micro, so you get a holistic education.”
Having grown up in a Spanish-speaking household, receiving the Latino Social Work Coalition Scholarship is particularly meaningful for Basilone.
“I wanted to call my mom right away,” she said. “I felt really proud.”
The tuition stipend also helps her manage the financial stressors that can come with pursuing graduate education.
“It lightens the load a little bit,” she said. “It helps me worry a little bit less about trying to fit in a few extra hours at work every week. Maybe I don’t have to push myself so far to my maximum, where I’m more likely to burn out. I’m able to take a step back and really prioritize school and my internship.”
An additional benefit of the scholarship is the mentoring program offered. Basilone will meet monthly with a panel of mentors to learn and network with fellow Latinx professionals to enhance her career.
“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to connect with professionals who are already in the field and work in various different concentrations,” she said, “and having people I can look to for support, opportunities, and recommendations.”
If you’re keeping track, Basilone is a busy person. Along with her schoolwork, she manages her field internship, job, and now the requirements of the scholarship — which include the monthly mentorship sessions and a GPA minimum, among other things. How does she find balance?
“It’s definitely something that I struggle with,” she said. “I do have a monthly calendar that I set up at the beginning of each month to visualize it. I’m a very visual person.”
She’s also found that self-care—an ever-eluding concept in the helping professions—to be vitally important to her success.
“Being in tune with my body has been super important since I started grad school,” she said. “When am I feeling lethargic? Like I can’t focus? I may have to cut back.”
Finding Your Own Path
Looking ahead, Basilone is interested in working with people struggling with eating disorders. So, she still has clinical ambitions. However, much like she expanded her educational ambitions into the social work field, she wants to find ways to work with a macro mindset and expand access to treatment for those without it.
“I’m still interested in clinical therapy, but more so in clinical interventions,” she said. “I’m outraged that so many people don’t have access to those interventions and that the interventions aren’t designed for so many different people.
“I think I would have a moral dilemma providing clinical care and not doing other work within a community or within a program to expand the access to that care.”
Such is the way of social work. When we fix the systems, it makes it that much easier to empower the individual. Basilone is excited to enter a profession that allows her to pursue different interests and help on many scopes.
“I want to do something really new. Something that’s community-based and emphasizes peer support. Because I think that that’s important, especially when you’re working with cultures or people who are not really represented,” she said.
“Maybe that looks like opening my own treatment center or designing a program that can be implemented into different communities, and designing it with communities and people of color or Latinx people who have lived experience of eating disorders. There are so many potential routes I can go.”