Joseph McBride Memorial Award Winners
2019: Zoe Gould and Sierra Cribb
The eight Joseph McBride Memorial Award was given to two people for the first time, Zoe Gould and Sierra Cribb. Zoe grew up in Larchmont, NY and graduated from Oberlin College with a degree in English Literature. Before starting her social work career, she spent four years in the world of publishing. At Penn, Zoe has had the opportunity to work at the U School, a high school in the Philadelphia school district, and has recently begun an internship at the Bryn Mawr College Counseling Center. Her studies concentrate on adolescent and young adult mental health, with a focus on the processes of meaning-making and identity-formation. Zoe is interested in how we use personal, societal, and historical narratives to define and explore our sense of self and our environment. As a gender-non-conforming student, Zoe is committed to amplifying the voices of LGBTQIA+ people seeking mental health services across settings. She advocates for the power of the mind-body connection and teaches a monthly Queer and Trans yoga class in the Kensington neighborhood where she lives. Zoe hopes to use her social work degree to serve and support youth in and around the Philadelphia area.
Sierra is originally from Columbia, SC and moved to Philadelphia after graduating from Georgetown University. At Georgetown, she pursued a double major in Anthropology and African American Studies with research focus in minority mental health management and stigma, emotional intelligence, and sociocultural identity creation. She is in her second year of the Master of Social Work and Master of Public Health dual-degree program through SP2. Her graduate studies have expanded her interests to include exploring substance dependency treatment modalities. A dancer at heart, Sierra hopes to explore the intersections between physical activity, mental health management, and treatment outcomes. As a First-Generation Low Income Student (FGLI), Sierra serves as a mentor to Penn undergraduate students through the Graduate School Mentoring Initiative (GSMI) and the Black Graduate and Professional Student Assembly (BGAPSA).
Both recipients were described glowingly by their professors. Professor Greenfield, who had Dad as a professor sixteen years ago, called her student Sierra a “rock star.” In her field placement, Sierra demonstrated Dad’s traits of “a vibrant passion for social work, courage to directly meet challenges, and a sense of humor and warm personality that draws people in.” She added that Sierra “is going to go far in the field of social work.” Professor Shown described Zoe as a “special student” and someone with the “best sense of humor and personality,” while Professor McAtamney said that Zoe is in the top 1 percent of students she has encountered in twenty years of social work. McAtamney praised Zoe’s work at her field placement, writing that “Professor McBride would approve of her restorative approach and her ability to diffuse intense situations,” and stated that “she is a tremendous asset to the school and will be greatly missed come June.” Based on the nomination letters and what we’ve learned about these students, there is little doubt that they have amazing careers ahead of them as social workers.
2018: Andreana Barefield
The seventh Joseph McBride Memorial Award was given Andreana Barefield. Andreana grew up in New Jersey, graduated from Rutgers University, and worked as a substitute teacher in Camden before starting at Penn. Her interest of study focuses on working with communities susceptible to human trafficking and exploitation, particularly within Black and Latinx populations. At Penn, Andreana has served on the executive board of The Latin American Graduate and Professional Student Assembly (LAGAPSA), and later helped create the first Afro-Latinx student organization on campus. During her studies, her professional interests have grown to include grassroots initiatives, community-led organizing, cognitive-behavioral group therapy, and International social work collaborations. In the last two years, Andreana has worked with Indian non-profits, the Durbar Mahila Samanway Committee and its sister-affiliate, Balaram Day Street Anandam, to assist in the progression of sex workers’ rights movement and the transgender movement in red-light districts of Kolkata. In the future, Andreana hopes to pursue her doctorate and continue to work with marginalized black and brown communities, both in the U.S. and abroad.
Andreanna’s nominating professor described how evident “her warmth, empathy, humor and willingness to talk about and address challenges in social work” were during their time together in class. Professor Engstrom emphasized that Andreanna brings to her work and interactions with peers a lively sense of humor coupled with a “deep understanding of the injustices and pain that social work strives to address.” A social worker with a sense of humor and deep empathetic commitment to the profession is a perfect embodiment of Dad’s life and work and we are honored to award her this scholarship.
2017: Lori Zaspel
The sixth Joseph McBride Memorial Award was given to Lori Zapsel. Lori has lived in Philadelphia for nine years and grew up in Wilmington, Delaware. She graduated from University of Delaware in 2005. Having previously worked in various industries, her route to social work was somewhat circuitous. It was ultimately her volunteer work at Girls Rock Philly and Peter’s Place (a grief center for children and families) which demonstrated the breadth of work that social workers can do and piqued her interest enough to spur a return to school at the age of 33. Lori realized that there was a way to combine her interest in “a good death,” including healthy grieving, with social justice. Lori’s first year field placement was at DaVita Dialysis in Cobbs Creek and her advanced year placement will be with Joan Karnell Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital. Lori was chosen as a 2017 Bridging the Gaps participant and this summer is a part of an interdisciplinary team at Earth’s Keepers and Sankofa (Bartram’s Garden) urban farms, mentoring youth workers and working towards food sovereignty. Ultimately, her goal is to open a grief center in West Philadelphia that would serve the community with therapy, support groups, education, and death positivity advocacy.
Professor Werner-Lin, who is working with Lori on a research project, wrote that Lori is an “extraordinary writer, conceptual thinker, and passionate developing social worker.” She brings her “creative, insightful, collaborative, and curious” personality to her work and is “vibrant in very possible way,” especially in her work with bereaved children. We, too, are impressed with Lori’s work so far and look forward to watching her career develop.
2016: Gabriel Salas
The fifth Joseph McBride Memorial Award was given to Gabriel Salas. Gabriel grew up in Jersey City, NJ and spent six years working and living in New York City before he came to SP2. He considered both teaching and medicine as career paths, but ultimately went with his calling of becoming a social worker because of desire to help those in need at a grassroots level. Gabriel has diverse interests as a young social worker. He is committed to working with the veteran population. He has worked with veterans experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia and he participates in the Pearls Program that helps veterans deal with issues of depression. Gabriel also devotes his time and energy to working with the undocumented population. At Penn, he serves on the executive board of The Latin American Graduate and Professional Student Assembly (LAGAPSA) and has organized a forum on campus to give a voice to undocumented students on campus and the challenges they face as students and members of the Penn community.
Professors Gonzalez and Lindren described Gabriel as someone who is a “leader, but to know him is to know how gentle, compassionate and how steady he is as a person.” He is always the first student to commit to any event on campus. They added that Gabriel “gives us energy and excitement about the future of what our profession will do.” We too are excited about Gabriel’s work and commitment to social work.
2015: Catherine Revak
The fourth Joseph McBride Memorial Award was given to Catherine Revak. Catherine grew up in southern New Jersey and despite an early interest in social work she was discouraged from such a career path. Following high school, Catherine joined the US Air Force where she served honorably for four years. After her stint in the military, she worked for fourteen years in the financial industry. During her time in the military and financial industry, Catherine’s interest in social work shone through as she worked for the rights of the LGBTQ community in both institutions. Her LGBTQ activism took her to DC to lobby congress about repealing DADT, and also to the Philadelphia Steering Committee of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) as the Membership Outreach Co-Chair for the Philadelphia Region.
Never having given up on her childhood dreams, at age thirty-six she returned full time to school to complete her undergraduate degree in Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and wrote her senior thesis work on Military Sexual Assault, specifically between men, with a concentration on military policies and implications for change. Then at age thirty-nine, she began her MSW. At Penn, she has continued to excel, being chosen for the PEARLS fellowship, which specifically focuses on military social work, and becoming chair of Student Government. As she finishes her MSW, she hopes to combine both her undergraduate and graduate work to continue working with veterans, concentrating on grief and loss extending beyond physical to include identity and spirituality.
2014: Maris Findlay
The third Joseph McBride Memorial Award was given to Maris Findaly. Maris grew up in Maryland and attended Pitzer College, a small liberal arts school outside of Los Angeles that places emphasis on social responsibility and activism. She graduated from Pitzer in 2010, majoring in Urban Studies with a focus on combating mass incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline. Her passion for work with adolescents began during her time in college, where she had the opportunity to work with young people in both correctional and academic settings.
After graduating from school, she worked with a social work agency (as an AmeriCorps member) in a Texas middle school to provide support services to 20 students struggling with a variety of issues and challenges. Her experience with AmeriCorps solidified her interest in pursuing social work as a career and it is how she developed a specific interest in advocating for and contributing to the effort to incorporate mental health services into school environments. After leaving the middle school, she came to Penn to pursue a MSW. At Penn, she has focused on working with young people in educational settings to provide mental health support. A former colleague and friend of Joe recommend Maris for the award, writing that she possesses “the finest qualities in a developing young social worker. I know with complete confidence that Joe would have been thrilled to have had her as a student. She is very intelligent, intuitive, reflective, and collaborative as a team member and possesses a sterling sense of humor.” She hopes to continue working with adolescents now that she has completed her MSW.
2013: Carolina Fojo
The second Joseph McBride Memorial Award was given to Carolina Fojo. Carolina was born in Washington DC and raised in Maryland by Cuban immigrants. She graduated summa cum laude from Washington University in St. Louis with a degree in Anthropology. After college, Carolina worked at Bon Appétit Management Company, a job that gave her the opportunity to work with Gallaudet University, a school for the deaf and hard of hearing. At Gallaudet, she created an educational program for students to learn about growing local, healthy food. She also worked with the local community to build an on-campus garden and created a summer internship program for students. It was these experiences that influenced Carolina to seek a MSW at Penn.
We had the privilege of receiving Carolina’s recommendation from one of Dad’s favorite students at Penn, now an instructor at SP2, Matt Ditty. Matt wrote that Carolina possesses “passion, intellect, and empathy at levels beyond her peers.” He also wrote that she “meets Joe’s criteria for the qualities he looked for in students,” that is someone who treated those marginalized in society with a certain level of respect and dignity, not to mention an “irreverent sense of humor” that can make one a better social worker. Matt finished by saying, “Carolina is an exceptional social worker with an infectious personality. Joe would have loved her.”
After finishing at SP2, Carolina is considering a PhD in social work, but in the meantime she hopes to gain some work experience in the social work field. In particular, she is interested in increasing efficiency and effectiveness in social impact organizations, with a focus on the space where traditional business and non-profit models meet to create social change. It has been a pleasure getting to know Carolina and we wish her the best of luck on her endeavors as a social worker. We know she will be very successful at whatever she does in social work.
For the SP2 article on Carolina click here.
2012: Miles Davison
The first Joseph McBride Memorial Award was awarded to Miles Davison. Miles, a New York native, graduated magna cum laude from Muhlenberg College in 2008 with a degree in Psychology. As an undergrad, he was active in the local peace activist movement, and volunteered as a tutor at a local after-school program.
Miles has already worked in a number of programs with young people, including an AmeriCorps program in Philadelphia where he taught at inner-city schools. Miles’ experience working with students in difficult environments such as this one motivated him to pursue a graduate degree in social work. Miles chose Penn because of it’s focus on race as a core part of the curriculum, and it’s location in a city that he has come to love and enjoy.
In many ways, Miles was a perfect fit for the first award. Dad’s friend and colleague at the department, Andy Fussner, described Miles as someone “who embodies all those qualities that Joe shared with the young people he encountered on his earthly journey.” Andy wrote, “Miles has that special mixture of intelligence, curiosity, good humor, skepticism about jargon, and clarity about practicality that Joe demonstrated for the thirty years of my friendship with him.”
Like Dad, Miles is also an avid cyclist and has led bicycle trips for teenagers in the US and Canada during the summer. After finishing his masters, Miles plans to pursue a career as a school social worker. He hopes to incorporate wilderness experience, social justice, and service learning, into the programs he develops for students. Like Andy, we, too, were equally impressed with this young man and were more than happy to help Miles on his journey as a social worker.