Class of 2022
Zorianny Baez, MSW, LCSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the state of New Jersey. She received her Master’s degree in Social Work from New York University, and graduated from Lehman College, The City University of New York, with Summa Cum Laude honors during her undergraduate social work studies. She is currently employed as a Behavioral Health Clinician at a Federally Qualified Health Center, a community-based primary care setting working with underserved and underinsured patients. In this role, she provides therapy and counseling services to patients in both English and Spanish. She has worked with social services agencies in New York and New Jersey, focusing on providing mental health services in various settings including inpatient psychiatric hospitals and outpatient mental health settings with children, adolescents, and adults. Her professional interests include mental health disparities within the Latino community, social justice, trauma focused therapy, and reducing stigma associated with mental health. As a doctoral student, she hopes to contribute to the field of social work by further developing her leadership and clinical skills through the DSW program.
Tom Butts is a licensed clinical social worker who strives to balance his life as a husband and father with his professional proclivities. Tom currently serves as Behavioral Science Officer in the Army National guard, a readjustment counselor for the Veterans Health Administration and psychotherapist in a small private practice in central Pennsylvania. His focus addresses the barriers to medical and mental healthcare in rural communities; specifically, addressing complex PTSD, grief, anxiety and depressive disorders. He earned his B.A. in psychology from McDaniel College, in Maryland, and his MSW from West Virginia University. While studying at WVU and working with combat veterans Tom was introduced to mindfulness based cognitive therapies and specifically, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. This experiential, value driven way of being has had a profound impact on him and has motivated him to move towards, not away from potentially uncomfortable circumstances, both psychological and physical. Professional curiosity, life coupled with eclectic clinical experiences and a drive towards social justice has encouraged Tom to explore, with clients, the complexities and challenges of meaningful life.
Stephanie M. Cedeño
Stephanie M. Cedeño is a bilingual Licensed Clinical Social Worker and certified school social worker in the state of New Jersey. She received her B.A. in Music from Nyack College and her Master of Social Work from Fordham University's Graduate School of Social Service. She is currently assistant director and school social worker in Union City School District’s School Based Youth Services Program (SBYSP), a comprehensive program providing students with mental health counseling, learning support, career and job readiness skills, and recreation for students in grades 9-12. As assistant director of SBYSP, Stephanie advocates and implements trauma-informed programs specifically for English Language Learners (ELL) and LGBTQI+ students in the Union City school district. She has provided professional development to educational personnel both locally and statewide on the effectiveness of trauma-informed school based interventions for ELLs.
She currently sits on the New Jersey Department of Education's Bilingual Advisory Committee. As the only school social worker on the committee, she provides mental health considerations to educational practices. Stephanie founded and continues to be the faculty advisor to Union City High School's GSA (Gay Straight Alliance), a nationally recognized student-led organization that unites LGBTQI+ and allied youth. Through her leadership and mentorship, Union City High School’s GSA has become one of the highest fundraising high schools in NJ for AIDS WALK NY. She was recently honored and commissioned by Union City and the Hudson Pride Center for her work with LGBTQI+ youth in the community. Her passion for addressing social justice issues among marginalized groups within schools has inspired her to pursue her Doctorate in Social Work. Stephanie is also a classically trained singer and has a passion for the arts which has greatly influenced her work with youth.
Angela DeCandia LCSW earned her MSW from Rutgers University and a BA in English Literature from the City University of New York, where she was the recipient of the Clara and Arleigh B. Williamson Award for outstanding Baccalaureate student in the Humanities.
Angela began her social work career with the Newark Preschool Intervention and Referral Team, where she led the crisis response team and provided early intervention, advocacy and support services to parents of children with special needs. Her early experiences led to an interest in working with trauma through attachment based psychotherapies. After completing advanced training in Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) and Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP), she attained certification as an EFT therapist and supervisor.
Angela is a founding member of the New York Center for Emotionally Focused Therapy and presents regularly at EFT trainings and conferences. She collaborated on the development of the EFT supervision model and co-authored Training the Emotionally Focused Therapist in Couple, Marriage and Family Therapy Supervision. Angela has a private practice in Montclair, NJ, where she specializes in working with couples, families and individuals struggling with relational trauma and complicated grief.
Tangela Dockery-Sawyerr is a Licensed Social Worker in New Jersey. She received her Master of Social Work and Master of Criminal Justice degrees from Rutgers University and a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice from Kean University. Tangela's desire to serve others has afforded her the opportunity to assist the most forgotten segments of our society including pregnant and post-partum mothers on methadone maintenance, the homeless and abused and neglected children. In her nineteen years as an employee of the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P), Tangela has been an investigative and permanency worker, resource home trainer and litigation specialist. In her current role as court liaison, she advocates on behalf of DCP&P involved youth and works collaboratively with a multidisciplinary team to treat identified clinical needs and promote rehabilitation. Tangela recognizes the balance between social work and criminal justice and believes that being knowledgeable in both disciplines is essential in meeting the needs of vulnerable populations in urban environments. Her goal is to use her experiences in the DSW program to address bereavement experienced by family survivors of homicide and craft innovative approaches to stimulate healing and restoration.
Lakeesha Eure MSW, LCSW is a community-based, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapist with over 15 years of experience in working with victims of violent crimes in Newark, New Jersey. Lakeesha is the Chairwoman of the Newark Antiviolence Coalition and assists in providing awareness, advocacy, grassroots organizing and trauma-engaged care to the residents of Newark. Through her vision and leadership, she has helped to build groundbreaking partnerships with the Newark Department of Public Safety, New Jersey Department of Health and Community Wellness, and several local and national organizations.
She works to foster a sense of community wellness through the implementation of community collaboration from all levels, including city council members, clergy, business owners, community leaders, schools, hospitals, perpetrators and victims of crime and violence. She presents at local and national conferences and has become an expert in the area of community policing and community healing.
Lakeesha manages the Newark Office of Violence Prevention and has created crime prevention strategies nationally. She uses a three prong approach of prevention, intervention and treatment for those who experience Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and/or Community Violence. She has a wealth of experience in facilitating and implementing city-wide protests, rallies, town hall meetings, panel discussions, study groups, coalitions, commissions, support groups, and prayer vigils throughout the state of New Jersey. Lakeesha is passionate in her field and focuses on pioneering in her area of being a community-based social worker. The Rutgers University DSW program will be a tremendous contribution to Lakeesha becoming a trailblazer in the victim services field.
Ashley Gwathney is a licensed School Social Worker in New Jersey. She earned her B.A. in Social Work from Rutgers University in 2013. A year later, she obtained her MSW, LSW, and School Social Worker Certificate with Advanced Standing from Rutgers University’s School of Social Work. During her academic studies, she worked with Rutgers University Student Support Services, Rutgers Mountainview Communities, and the NJ-STEP (Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons) programs and discovered her true calling in bringing awareness and advocacy to the injustices of the preschool to prison pipeline. She currently works for the Long Branch School District as a High School counselor, student advocate, and mentor. In this role, she is an active leader in various school-wide committees and district-wide character development initiatives that center on social-emotional learning, student access, equity, and equality. She also leads and facilitates individual, group, and family sessions and actively collaborates with school administrators, staff, and state-based agencies. She provides individualized student case management and crisis intervention. She is a life-long learner and holds a true passion in her life's calling of being a voice for marginalized, vulnerable, and disenfranchised groups. Ashley is committed to working with children and families in advocacy, grassroots organizing, and community outreach. Ashley is honored and excited to reenter academia and renew her vocational journey with the Rutgers DSW program!
Jim Hart is a licensed social worker in New Jersey. He earned his BA in psychology and MSW from Rutgers University. He is also an Ordained Reverend who currently works for the Abundant Life Family Worship Church in New Brunswick, NJ as the Pastor of Pastoral Care and Director of Church Development. In his role of Pastoral Care he facilitates the counseling ministry while also providing marital, pre-martial, individual, and family counseling with a special interest in assisting interracial couples. As the Director he coordinates the church's 40+ volunteer leaders, provides leadership training, in addition to being responsible for the fundraising event that supplies outreach events to the community. Jim is also an Adjunct Professor for the Graduate School of Social Work who has taught the following MSW courses: Clinical Assessment & Diagnosis, Human Behavior in the Social Environment, Clinical Practice I, Clinical Mental Health, and Spirituality in Social Work. He also has his own company that offers seminars, conferences and workshops in the areas of relationships, leadership, mental health, and diversity. He published his first book in 2016 entitled The Great Husband's Playbook: Winning Plays for a Victorious Marriage. Jim has been married to his wife Yetunde for over 16 years and they have 3 boys together ages 13, 11, and 9.
Micah Hillis, MSW, LCSW earned his Bachelors of Social Work and Bachelors of Biblical Studies from Cairn University and began his journey in social work serving individuals housed in low-income housing programs as well as inpatient and outpatient mental health services. He returned to school and obtained his MSW from Rutgers University with a focus in clinical practice. Since obtaining his MSW he has engaged in working with various populations and settings, including children and families in crisis as well as inpatient and outpatient substance abuse and mental health. Presently, he is working for Rutgers University Behavioral HealthCare (UBHC) where he has provided services and managed community programs that provide services to at-risk populations including the chronically homeless, veterans and individuals struggling with mental illness and substance abuse. His current focus on a peer-driven re-entry initiative (Intensive Recovery Treatment Support Program) that is addressing the opioid epidemic in New Jersey for individuals being released from State Prisons. Additionally, he has a general private practice for children and adults, provides supervision for LCSW candidates and is a part-time lecturer for Rutgers University School of Social Work.
Joan Hogan, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C, Cancer Support Community Program Director, graduated from Georgian Court University with a major in social work and a minor in holistic health, and from Fordham University, Lincoln Center, New York City, with her master’s degree in social work. Certified in Jungian sand tray therapy and trained in EMDR, her passion has been to integrate complementary modalities and evidence based interventions in caring for cancer patients and their families. Her current area of focus is working with transgender individuals who are impacted by a cancer diagnosis. Originally from Bergen County, New Jersey, Joan has been living at the Jersey Shore for many years. She enjoys walks on the beach, traveling with friends, and spending time with her family.
Bushra Husain is the Director of Non-Residential Services at Sanctuary for Families. She graduated from Columbia University with a Master of Social Work in 2007 with a focus on clinical practice and International Social Welfare Policy. In addition to overseeing the Non-Residential Program, Ms. Husain provides therapeutic counseling, case management, outreach, and advocacy services to South Asian and immigrant survivors of gender based violence. Ms. Husain was also a founding member of the South Asian Taskforce against Domestic Violence at Sanctuary for Families. In that role, Ms. Husain has conducted research and outreach about domestic violence in the South Asian community and facilitated the creation of an inter-disciplinary tool for interviewing South Asian victims of domestic violence called the South Asian Power and Control Lotus. This Lotus is a supplement to the well-established Duluth Power and Control Wheel. Recently, Ms. Husain is the founder of the New York State Coalition to End Forced and Child Marriage and has presented on the issue of forced and child marriage nationally.
Tam Le Rovitto
Tam Le Rovitto is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in New Jersey and New York. Tam earned her BA in Psychology and Sociology from Rutgers University and MSSW from Columbia University School of Social Work. Tam’s professional experience include the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and District Council 37 (the largest public employee union in NYC). In 2013, Tam returned to Rutgers at the Counseling Center, and currently is the Group Programs Coordinator. In this role, Tam manages and supervises staff and trainees in group psychotherapy. Tam also owns a boutique private practice in the local area where she provides psychotherapy, supervision, and consultation/training. Tam’s professional area of interest include: working with communities of color, training emergent clinicians, diversity and inclusion workshops, and advocating to destigmatize mental health in marginalized communities. While Tam practices from an integrative approach, Tam is a certified Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) for PTSD therapist, trained in Prolonged Exposure (PE) for PTSD and DBT. Identified as a first-generation college student, Tam looks forward to being a part of the DSW program to further learn and contribute to the success of first-generation and multiracial college students.
Compassionate, skilled, sensitive, and professional, Rev. Dr. Valerie D. Pyles is a Licensed Social Worker who focuses on building individuals both, emotionally and spiritually. She endeavors to equip people in order to lead them into a life of transformational worship that brings them into the presence of God as never before. Through her Ministry and Social Work, she seeks to enhance, protect, and restore the spiritual, social and emotional well-being of adults and youth alike. She is currently affiliated with: The American Baptist Churches USA; and the National Association of Social Workers. A native of Plainfield, NJ and graduate of Plainfield High School, Dr. Pyles answered the call to ministry at the age of 27, and later began teaching Adult Sunday School for her former Pastor at the Rose of Sharon Community Church of Plainfield. There, she was licensed to preach on December 15, 1996. Dr. Pyles holds a Master of Divinity Degree from the New Brunswick Theological Seminary; a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Social Work from Kean University; and has just received a Doctor of Ministry degree from the Drew University Theological School in May 2019. Dr. Pyles most recently enrolled at Rutgers University as a Doctor of Social Work candidate where she anticipates graduating in 2022. She has been employed by the Ann Klein Forensic Center of Trenton, NJ since 2013, where she has been assigned to the Special Treatment Unit working with male adult sex offenders. On a part-time basis, Dr. Pyles can be found ministering to those seeking help with Anxiety, Depression, Grief and Loss, Relationships, Anger, and Abuse (sexual, emotional & physical). Dr. Pyles found strength, peace, wisdom, and victory in God when faced with the painful reality of divorce as a young mother in the year 2000. Rather than succumbing to the obstacles set before her, she found what it meant to truly trust God in the face of uncertainty. Using the experience gained through overcoming such trials and tribulations, Dr. Pyles is thus anointed to teach others how to grow spiritually through prayer, fasting, preaching, teaching, counseling, worship, and praise. Thereby declaring that, “…the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, KJV).
Alison Wetmur is a bilingual (American Sign Language and English) licensed clinical social worker in the state of Connecticut. After completing her MSW from Rutgers University, she has worked as a therapist and supervisor in community mental health agencies, practiced as a school social worker in a Deaf residential school, and served as a social work field supervisor. Currently, she maintains a private practice. Alison’s area of clinical focus is in trauma work, as well as helping clients manage mood disorders, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, and stage of life issues. She specializes in working with clients who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. Alison has received specialized training in modalities including Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). Increasing awareness of issues related to Deafness in a Hearing world is a passion of hers. Her outreach to Hearing people includes years of teaching American Sign Language at the collegiate level.
Ren Winnett, MSW, LICSW, lives in Tacoma, Washington. He earned his B.A. (Honours) in Psychology and Sociology from Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada, and his MSW from the University of Washington, Tacoma. Ren has practiced clinical social work at Tacoma General Hospital for seventeen years and focuses on adult populations with acute health conditions and comorbid psychiatric, addiction, and behavioral needs. Ren also works as a lecturer at the University of Washington, where he teaches in the BASW and MSW programs and serves on the Advisory Council for the School of Social Work and Criminal Justice. Ren designed and has taught the MSW elective Social Work in Health Care for eight years and most recently has also taught Human Diversity and Social Justice in the graduate program and Professionalism in Social Work at the undergraduate level. Ren is the co-editor and chapter author of Health Care Social Work: A Global Perspective (Oxford, 2019), as well as the co-author of Navigating Human Services, 4th edition (in preparation). His research interests include clinical intervention in hospitals, issues of autonomy during inpatient care, and health care social work on a global spectrum.
Albert Wright, Jr.
Albert Wright, Jr. received his bachelor's degree in Family and Child Studies with a concentration in Family Services, with a certificate in Child Advocacy from Montclair State University. He completed a master of Social Work degree, with a certificate in Human Resource Management at Rutgers University. He has completed an internship in a resiliency program working as a community intervention coach. He mentored adolescents who were on probation by steering them in the right direction by keeping them from violating any probation terms or receiving additional charges. Wright, Jr. is currently working for the Division of Child Protection and Permanency, working specifically in the adolescent unit. His primary role for working in this specialized unit is to help support adolescents with their transition to adulthood to help them achieve self-sufficiency, interdependence, and engage in healthy lifestyles. His focus has been wanting to work with adolescents from urban neighborhoods who come from disadvantaged communities and help them beat the odds to have a positive future where they can learn to make their dreams turn into a reality.
Lizet Zuniga earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico. She completed her Master’s Degree in Social Work with high honors from Rutgers University. Lizet is a bilingual (Spanish) Licensed Social Worker and a Certified School Social Worker in New Jersey. Throughout her career Lizet has worked in a variety of settings in the mental health field. After obtaining her Master’s degree she became a Clinical Supervisor for the Program for Assertive Community Treatment (P.A.C.T.) Team in Newark, working with a severe mentally ill population. For the past ten years, Lizet has worked as a School Social Worker for the Child Study Team in the North Plainfield Public School District. She currently provides case management services to special education students on all grade levels who attend school within the North Plainfield District as well as students who attend private special education schools located outside of the district. In addition, she conducts social history evaluations as part of comprehensive Child Study Team evaluations (most bilingual evaluations) and develops Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for classified students. Lizet is also one of the district’s Anti-Bullying Specialists, and conducts investigations in accordance with State Law and the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights to identify incidence of Harassment, Intimidation or Bullying (H.I.B). Lizet is very proud to be part of the Rutgers DSW Class of 2022.