Nada Shalash graduated from the University of Kentucky College of Social Work in May 2019. While at UK, she earned her Master’s in Clinical Social Work. Nada maintained a 4.0 throughout her entire graduate degree and received the Social Work Student of the Year award. Nada now lives in Chicago, IL., working for a community psychological and spiritual wellness center called the Khalil Center, a non-profit that serves the Muslim community in the Chicagoland area. She also provides individual therapy for adolescents and adults.
Who, if anyone, was instrumental in your success here at the CoSW?
Every semester I had professors that inspired me more than they know and really challenged me to think critically, and I really appreciated it. These professors made me want to become the best social worker I possibly could. Some of these professors include Dr. Biermann, Dr. Lawrence, and Dr. Barnhart. My supervisors Martha Parks and Curtis Montague, at my Integrated Behavioral Health practicum, fostered a learning environment where I was encouraged to try new things and given opportunities to step outside my comfort zone. Dean Miller, who was a professor in the CoSW at the time, welcomed me into the world of social work research and provided me with several opportunities to gain experience. My cohort was also close-knit, and that helped a great deal. My classmates made me laugh frequently, and we developed a bond over the two years. Outside of my professional network, my friends and family were my biggest supporters in helping me practice self-care and encouraging me every step of the way.
What attracted you to the CoSW program? What was your motivation to pursue a degree in this field?
I knew a few people that attended UK CoSW and encouraged me to look into the program. I was also interested in the Integrated Behavioral Health program that UK CoSW offered. My primary motivation in pursuing a social work degree was an interest in the mental health field. Growing up as a Muslim Arab American, there was little to no representation of mental health professionals my friends or I felt like we could relate to. Not only that, but mental health was very stigmatized and against cultural practices. The stigma is decreasing, and therapy is more widely encouraged, especially when individuals from the community know they can see someone of similar background. I really wanted to fill that gap in the community, and that’s what I hope to continue to do. The flexibility an MSW offers students after graduating is something that made me pick this degree over other mental health-related degrees. Further, I loved the social justice aspect of social work. Social work prepares you to advocate for yourself and others.
How did your time as a student here at CoSW prepare you for your future?
The classes and practicum training offered at UK were broad, and I liked that because it allowed me to explore several aspects of social work rather than being forced to focus on a single population/area. The practicum opportunities provided me with experience.
How has life been since graduating?
Life has been great! The adjustment after graduating can be difficult, but every new beginning has its challenges. You go from being a full-time student to a professional applying for jobs! After graduating, I got married, and my husband and I moved to Chicago for better career opportunities. It has been fun living in a new city and exploring all that it has to offer.
What are you currently doing, work-wise?
I currently work for a community psychological and spiritual wellness center called the Khalil Center. It’s a non-profit that serves the Muslim community in the Chicagoland area, and the organization has several other branches across North America. I provide individual therapy for adolescents and adults. Soon I will begin to offer a therapy group for middle and high schoolers that focus on body image and self-esteem. I also work for a private practice called E.M. Branch and Associates that serves adults dealing with a range of issues. In my free time, I love to workout and cook different types of foods.
How does it feel to be a CoSW Alumna?
It feels good to be an alumna! I’ve loved watching the CoSW make the changes they’ve made and continue to improve to best meet the needs of students. This may be hard for some students to believe, but I miss being a student sometimes. Although I consider myself a lifelong learner, there’s something special about being a student. You have the flexibility to challenge yourself without the liability you do practicing on your own, and one of your primary responsibilities is to soak in the information being taught to you.