Interview with Sydney Denmark, M.S.S. '21
What is your current job?
I work for a mental health startup called Cartwheel Care which partners directly with schools to provide rapid access to mental health services for students and families via telehealth. We connect with schools where students are referred to us by their school counselors and they can access telehealth services for therapy, medication management, parental guidance, and other counseling services. Cartwheel’s mission is to provide timely mental health care, so students don’t have to wait on months-long waitlists to get the mental health services that they deserve.
How did the GSSWSR prepare you for success in your current career?
I felt truly supported at the GSSWSR. I was a student in the graduate program during the peak of COVID-19, and 6 months into my first year, we had to rapidly transition to learning online, using Zoom and continuing our field placements remotely. Throughout the many changes, my professors and fellow classmates were thoughtful and empathetic to the evolving circumstances each of us were individually adjusting to. Being in an environment where individuals were thoughtful and supportive of one another, on a personal level, felt unique to an academic setting, and it is an essence I have continued to seek out professionally. My second-year placement was in a school, and I was conducting mostly virtual therapy because that’s what was available at the time. That placement experience greatly prepared me for the kind of work I do now.
How has the GSSWSR supported your professional and personal growth?
To me, social work at its core is about connection and relationship building. I feel so privileged and grateful to have built rich relationships with my professors, fellow classmates and administrative staff at the college. Professor Carolina Hausmann-Stabile has been a mentor to me far beyond the classroom and has offered me a trusted space in her company to reflect, fail and learn. Sarah Slates was instrumental in helping me apply and ultimately receive the opportunity to participate in a fellowship after I graduated. She taught me about crafting a compelling cover letter and resume, and how to articulate my story in an interview. Dean Shapiro and Professor Tamarah Moss have generously allowed me to participate in their quantitative research on trauma-informed care and I acquired a new set of professional skills I would not have obtained without their generosity. Having the opportunity to build relationships with women in this field who have an abundance of knowledge and a desire to disseminate it has helped me develop not only as a clinician, but as a human-being. I hope to be that same source of support and guidance for students and alumni in the future.
What is your favorite part of the GSSWSR curriculum and community?
My favorite part of the GSSWSR community is how relational it is. My professors and classmates often led with curiosity towards one another and individuals’ lived experiences that they brought to the classroom. That felt different from other academic settings I had been in. My favorite part of the curriculum is its emphasis on trauma-informed care. I feel grateful that our curriculum supports that kind of evidence-based work.
Based on your own experience and the people you’ve met, is there a particular kind of student that you think would do well in the M.S.S. program?
I believe that anybody who has a desire to learn and work as a social worker belongs here. Bryn Mawr is supportive of all different kinds of learning and accommodating people’s different circumstances. Anyone can come to Bryn Mawr: people who want to do the program part-time or full-time, who have a lot of experience already or little experience, who are career changers like I was. I think anyone who wants to go into the field of social work is welcomed with open arms at the GSSWSR.
You mentioned that you are a career changer. What was your former career and how did you find your way to social work?
Prior to social work, I was a Breaking News Reporter at the New York Post. I was often meeting people immediately after or during a tragedy. I enjoyed building rapport and witnessing resilience, but it felt like the way I was hired to engage did not fit my temperament. I experienced a great deal of moral distress as a reporter, and that’s what brought me to social work. I wanted to work with people in a way that felt more therapeutic.
What clinical skills have you gained at Bryn Mawr and how have they prepared you for the type of work you’re doing now?
My placements offered me the opportunity to engage in immersive clinical work which was fundamental to shaping my identity and skills as a clinician. It’s challenging to recall all the skills I learned at Bryn Mawr because there are so many, but in classes, I certainly learned to consider a systems perspective, the way power, privilege, and oppression manifest in our work, and to interact with others in a trauma-informed way.
Did your perspective change about social work as you moved through the program?
Before the program, I imagined social work to look one specific way, but Bryn Mawr taught me that this degree grants you so much freedom professionally. I learned about the business of social work during my time at GSSWSR. I had narrowly imagined what clinical work could look and feel like, but having mentors and professional opportunities educated me about how robust this field is. There is this connotation about social workers that we can’t build meaningful, enriching and fruitful careers, and that simply is not true. While I had initial hesitations about pursuing a degree in social work because I was leaving a career where I had built a wide professional network, that all changed when I visited the GSSWSR on admitted students' day. I felt supported from that very day, and there was no looking back! People just go above and beyond for you at the GSSWSR.
Is there anything you would like to share about your current relationship with the GSSWSR community?
There is no thanks I could offer that would be great enough to encapsulate my gratitude to the GSSWSR—the best I feel I can do is promise to always pay it forward. I welcome any opportunity where I may be able to support anyone, in any manner, from Bryn Mawr’s community.