By: Krista Didzbalis '19
Joane Potter-Gill's '19 journey through social work at Rutgers began in 1999 as she pursued her undergraduate degree in social work and African American & African Studies. Nearly 20 years later, Potter-Gill is one of our clinical MSW students earning her degree in the advanced standing program and will graduate in May.
Potter-Gill began work with New Jersey Reentry Corporation after receiving her Bachelor's degree. Through her work she became particularly interested in trauma as a pathway to incarceration. After gaining some real-world experience in the field, in 2018, she chose to advance her career by earning her MSW at Rutgers Newark because of the school's ideal location for engaging with the community and applying her studies to issues happening in the area.
"Every social work issue that is happening right now is happening in Newark, whether it is gentrification, population change, and the more recent opioid epidemic. That said, I think Newark is an ideal place to learn and get involved." says Potter-Gill.
Potter-Gill currently interns at Newark Community Solutions, an alternative sentencing program and mental health care initiative located within the Newark Municipal Court. Although she is on a clinical track, Potter-Gill is involved in Leadership Newark, a public policy fellowship program where she plans to learn more about the process of shaping policy.
In addition to her coursework, internship, and organization involvement, Potter-Gill also works part time as a Licensed Practical Nurse with the pediatric developmentally disabled population.
"Although working with the formerly incarcerated or court-involved/and developmentally disabled children may seem worlds apart, what unities them is that they are both marginalized populations that depend on advocacy in order to advance their access to human and civil rights, as well as opportunities and resources in their communities." Potter-Gill explains.
This winter, Potter-Gill will participate the School's two-week study abroad trip to Chennai, India, which focuses on mental health from a global perspective.
"I am curious to see how they are implementing mental health care in Chennai because I think there are a lot of similarities between the issues in Chennai and in Newark. Some include barriers to accessing mental health, the stigma surrounding mental illness, the lack of trained practitioners who are sensitive to the population's needs to address these issues, and the reliance on family systems and spiritual organizations to cope with life's challenges."
Post-graduation, Potter-Gill plans to to get involved in more special projects abroad, travel with her son, and hopes to continue working in the field of criminal justice.
"It has been a long and rewarding journey. I am looking forward to focusing on family post-graduation and joining with leaders in the field of criminal justice in advocating for the implementation of trauma-informed practices in working with justice-involved citizens and other populations where there is a high incidence of trauma. "