MSW@Denver Student Award Winner
Graduating Health, Equity and Wellness student Heather Roberts receives MSW@Denver Merit Award
Heather Roberts, MSW ’21, is doing exactly the right thing. Her career path wasn’t a straight line, but one of stops, starts and turns along the way. Originally from Washington, D.C., Roberts attended New York University when health problems brought her education to a full stop.
“I had to quit school to work full time so I could have health insurance,” Roberts recalls. Her health issues steeled her determination to find work that matched her values.
“I’ve always believed that my purpose is to be a guide for and companion with individuals as they work to realize their full potential. So, I got involved with Montessori education, service learning and nonprofit management,” Roberts says.
Her work brought her to Utah, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in social work. By the time she decided to pursue a master’s degree in social work, she’d become a licensed holistic health counselor and postpartum doula.
“My passion is integrated behavioral health and primary care. I love it,” she says.
“Denver had all the social justice pieces that I wanted,” she says. “I’ve had a great experience; I feel incredibly well prepared, especially when I talk with people who’ve attended other schools with programs that weren’t as comprehensive.”
The GSSW program provided her with the lens of power, privilege and oppression.
“I bring that to everything I do. In working with pregnant women who are challenged by substance use disorder, that involves teaching them how to advocate for and achieve their recovery goals, to be equal with their provider, and to navigate oppressive systems and effect meaningful change,” Roberts explains. “In gerontological social work, for the patient, it’s education around life changes where discrimination from ageism is often present. For the caregiver it’s understanding the types of conversations they need to have with loved ones and doing so in a way that builds dignity and worth. It’s counseling both patient and caregiver through their fears and role transitions so they can realize a partnership of shared power based on mutual hopes.” Roberts says.
Regardless of her clients’ age or background, she says her job is essentially the same: to believe in their strengths and help them reach their goals.
“People know deep inside what it is that’s best for them, and they have a great deal of strength and purpose. My role is to empower them to uncover that,” Roberts says.
For the last year, Roberts has interned as a social worker in the geriatric primary care clinic at a Veteran’s Administration medical center. Now, she’s starting a full-time job there as a gerontological social worker, where she works with older adults and their caregivers.
“Heather displayed such passion for the continued development of promoting social justice through her work within health and wellness. She embodied the ethical principles and social work values in her discussions and work,” says Clinical Assistant Professor Amity Good.
Roberts garnered the 2021 MSW@Denver Merit Award, which recognizes the MSW@Denver student who most closely epitomizes the best of professional social work. These traits include a keen intellect, a passionate dedication to empowering underserved populations and a commitment to continuously improving practice.
A GSSW faculty member who nominated Roberts for the award wrote that her securing a full-time position following her internship was noteworthy. “If anyone is familiar with the VA hiring system, that is an amazing accomplishment and recognition of what her skill set can offer our nation’s veterans. Heather has also shown great commitment to serving our military and veteran families.”
Roberts has another achievement: completing her MSW with a 4.0 GPA.