Elijah Nealy, Ph.D., found himself drawn to the University of Saint Joseph for several reasons. As someone interested in making a difference in the social work field – both in the classroom and in the community – joining a newly-established MSW program proved a promising opportunity for him to help shape “its ethos and commitments.” USJ’s dedication to Mercy values also appealed to Nealy, whose storied career has focused strongly on social justice. “It was clear to me that USJ, as a whole, is strongly mission- and values-driven. That speaks to me a lot, being able to prepare social workers in the context of mission and values, and what it means to live out our commitment to justice in the world,” Nealy said.
Nealy’s dedication to social justice is evident throughout his career, both in his social work practice and in his community involvement. As an ordained minister, he dedicates his time improving community life as a whole. Because of these experiences, Nealy teaches his students to go the extra mile in their work. “I don’t want to prepare students to graduate and do clinical practice in a vacuum; I want to help train social workers who are advocates for change,” he said. Nealy supports social work practice that goes beyond the micro level of an individual case and looks at the macro level of larger societal issues. By teaching students to focus as much on systemic issues as on individual cases, Nealy believes the larger problems affecting the community will be improved.
One demographic Nealy hopes to help – both through his field practice and academic research – is trans and gender non-conforming youth and adults. While mental health clinicians and health care providers often serve this demographic effectively, Nealy sees a lack of baseline knowledge within the social work field. He believes more research needs to be done in order to effectively support this community and hopes to focus on how USJ’s MSW program can begin to address this need. By doing so, Nealy can strengthen the field’s understanding of this demographic, as well as send his students “out with a body of knowledge and a set of tools so that they’re able to provide affirmative, knowledgeable services to trans and gender non-conforming kids and adults.”
Ph.D., Hunter College
M.S.S.W, Columbia School of Social Work
M.Div., Union Theological Seminary
BSW, Cairn University