Social work alumni make Style Weekly’s Top 40 Under 40 (again)
Three VCU School of Social Work alumni are featured in Style Weekly’s Top 40 Under 40 Class of 2023, continuing a long tradition of graduates being recognized for their work and impact in the Richmond community.
With the addition of three new members, VCU SSW now has 24 alumni who have been included since the list first began in 2005; the list did not publish in 2021 when Style Weekly was temporarily shut down. Here are this year’s alumni from the school:
Jennifer Case (M.S.W.’10), executive director, Virginia Down Syndrome Association
Case first connected with the Virginia Down Syndrome Association as an expectant mother, and then pursued the open position of executive director in 2021. “This felt like the right step,” she says.
VDSA provides services throughout the lifespan, starting with a first call program – “the first call for when families receive that diagnosis, it could be prenatal or at birth,” Case explains.
“There is still a high underemployment and unemployment rate for individuals with Down Syndrome,” she says. “There’s also increased social isolation into the adult years. Those are things we want to see change. I just imagine – what can it be in 40 more years?”
Abbey Philips (B.A.‘09; Cert’12; M.S.W.’12), director of policy, Legal Aid Justice Center
Philips stays busy with a variety of advocacy and programs in addition to her full-time position. She has co-founded two organizations: the Advocacy Lab, a lobbying organization for citizens in navigating resources and justice; and Collective 365, a philanthropic group that distributes community grants to invest in Black and Brown communities.
“Some people can afford to hire lobbyists. Some people reach out to their legislator, but there’s a lot of people that are facing challenges and barriers on how to get into the system and navigate state resources to get their problems addressed,” she says of the need for the Advocacy Lab.
Philips also serves as a court-appointed special advocate (CASA), volunteering to assist in custody or foster cases. She formerly served as chief of staff to Jennifer McClellan in the Virginia legislature and as Gov. Ralph Northam‘s assistant secretary to the commonwealth.
Anna Yates (B.S.’09; M.S.W.’12), licensed clinical social worker, Thriveworks
Yates’ focus as a therapist and social worker is around the impact of anxiety and trauma. “Anxiety and trauma affect us on a very deep and primitive level that has to be addressed by learning to retrain your brain as well as calm your body down,” she says.
Thriveworks provides online therapy, increasing access for patients who otherwise might not receive treatment. She is a community-embedded (adjunct) faculty member with the School of Social Work and previously worked with the child welfare-focused Children’s Home Society of Virginia and the adoption group Extra Special Parents.
A particular focus is on working with LGBTQ+ patients, and Yates parents a 14-year-old niece who is transgender. “It’s an area I care very deeply about,” she says.