Edoukou Aka-Ezoua ’17
Social worker, child welfare workforce development (Pittsburgh, Pa.)

Edoukou Aka-Ezoua ’17, MSW, is project support coordinator for the Child Welfare Workforce Excellence Fellows Program. She obtained her master’s in social work, with a concentration in communities, organizations, and social action, from University of Pittsburgh. Additionally, she holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and women & gender studies from Lafayette College.

When you decided to major in psychology, it seems that you had already decided that social work was going to be your specific area of interest. What led to your interest in social work, and how did a psychology background give you the skill set needed to pursue social work as a career?

What led to my interest in social work was when I volunteered at a women’s shelter in my hometown the summer after my freshman year. I loved the work that I did for the shelter and realized that I was good at it. By the end of the summer, they offered me a position to continue working with them. Additionally, I wanted to understand and address the issues that were affecting marginalized communities, as I was always interested in social justice and racial equity. It was after that experience and doing additional research that I realized social work was a field where I could continue doing this type of work. My psychology background allowed me to better understand and engage with individuals and groups, critically analyze social issues, and utilize research and data to make informed decisions and conclusions in the field.

You are responsible for the management and coordination of the Child Welfare Workforce Excellence Fellows Program. What does this role entail, and what does it mean to you to be able to make a difference in the lives of those who most need it?

The Child Welfare Workforce Excellence Program (at University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work’s Child Welfare Education and Research programs) is a traineeship program for MSW (Master of Social Work) students who are interested in a career in public child welfare. In my role as the project coordinator of this program, I manage and participate in the admissions and onboarding process of student trainees, plan and implement a child welfare seminar series, establish processes to support efficient program administration, and provide ongoing support, information, and program requests to student trainees, stakeholders, and our grant funder. I also engage in practice-informed research and projects for the Child Welfare Education and Research programs. One project I am working on is analyzing the child welfare outcomes of adolescent girls of color.

My work allows me to be part of an important national initiative that is working to develop and support a diverse and culturally competent child welfare workforce. The program trains students to become child welfare caseworkers who can appropriately address the complex needs of children and families in the child welfare system. Having the opportunity to be part of a national grant to help in this endeavor is very rewarding for me, as it means that families are better off in the long run if the caseworkers supporting them are adequately trained and culturally aware. Thus, I strive to make sure the students in our program are well supported from admission to graduation.

For those who plan to get into social work, how important is it to take part in at least one (or more) internship experience(s)?

It is important to have at least one internship experience in order to get your feet wet in the field and get an idea of what kind of work you would like to do. It also helps to have internship or volunteer experience if you are looking to go to graduate school for social work. Social work graduate programs value these types of experiences, as it shows your burgeoning commitment to the field and your community.

You were a special guest for Prof. Lauren Myers’ course during the fall semester; what was your biggest takeaway from that experience, and what advice can you offer to current psychology students about how to apply what they are learning to their future careers? 

My biggest takeaway was that I love talking about social work. I am always encouraging folks who are in the social sciences to pursue a career in social work because of how broad it is. We need more social workers in all facets of life. I also recognized that many folks do not realize that their career interests actually align with social work. There are many misconceptions on what a social worker actually does, so I am also excited to help them make that connection. The main advice I would offer is to always seek out opportunities to broaden your skill set and find ways to apply them, whether that is through a class outside of the major, an internship experience, or a research project. Be intentional in finding the connections in the opportunities you pursue.

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