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Staff Spotlight: Marcy Nyachogo, GSSWSR Director of Student and Career Services

April 3, 2024
Marcy Nyachogo

Marcy Nyachogo joined Bryn Mawr as the director of student and career services for the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research in January. In her Staff Spotlight, Nyachogo discusses her career background and role at the College. 

Can you tell me a bit about your career and educational background before joining the GSSWSR?

During undergrad, I worked at an afterschool program for undocumented youth. There were a lot of families from Mexico and Central America that were living in the area who were very under resourced. I also did some community organizing work helping the moms of the kids in the program advocate for the program’s continued funding because we weren’t sure if it would continue to receive funding. I was really drawn to this work and my mom told me, “Did you know that social work is a thing you could have a job for?” So, I went to Penn for grad school simply because, at the time, I didn't know how great Bryn Mawr was. During my first year, I interned at a community health center in West Philly, and my second-year internship was at Congreso de Latinos Unidos in their Domestic Violence Program.

My first role out of grad school was as a medical advocate at Einstein Hospital with Lutheran Settlement House, which is one of the domestic violence organizations in the city. I was there for about 10 years and climbed in leadership at that organization in different roles. By the time I left, I was the program director for the domestic violence program, which brought me to Bryn Mawr because I was really looking to get exposure to a different type of work. I had been in DV services for a really long time, and while it’s important work, it’s also very taxing emotionally, and ascending in leadership so quickly was a lot to manage. During my time at Lutheran Settlement House, I supervised MSW students, and I loved being able to work with students at that stage where they're defining who they are as a social worker and getting out into the world. I was excited to get more of a chance to do that when I saw the open role at Bryn Mawr for director of student and career services.

What skills do you bring from your work in DV to your current role?

There's actually a lot of overlap with domestic violence work and the work that I'm doing now to support our students. In domestic violence work, a fundamental belief is that the survivor drives the bus, and as a social worker, you’re there to kind of be like a co-pilot, but also support them and be on their team and help them succeed in whatever way that looks like to them. I bring that approach to how I support our students now with career coaching and even writing coaching. I really enjoy being a partner alongside students, and not deciding what I think is best for them, but listening and helping students think about what they want out of their careers or a certain class, and being a source of support that walks that journey with them. That's my natural approach, and I'm glad that it seems to be resonating with people.

It sounds like you wear many hats in this role. What's a typical day like for you?

Every day is different. My favorite part of the day is when I have my student meetings. I usually have two or three student meetings on a given day where students will come to me with a variety of goals or questions. Sometimes, students are looking for general career guidance. Other times, it’s folks who are struggling with grad school in general. I’ll even meet with first-year students who are thinking about their second-year placement and want to be strategic with the search process. I take on that liaison role that understands what challenges students are facing and what kinds of support can be put in place for them. There's so much support here at the GSSWSR for students, but sometimes, when students are struggling, they self-isolate because they’re just trying to get through it.  And I think, especially with the semester structure, it sort of lends itself to this belief that I hear so often of, “It'll be fine. I'll just push through this next three weeks, and things will be totally fine.” So, I can be somebody who meets with people in that space and asks them, “What if it's not fine? What if things don't radically change because you have four days off?” I really enjoy the time that I get to meet with students and get to know people, especially being new to the community. People have been so generous with sharing their stories and their struggles and I consider it such a privilege to be the person in that role. 

I also do a lot of event planning around creating opportunities for student connection and student learning. I work with the team in the student and career services office to plan events that provide opportunities for students to connect with each other. We'll organize various info sessions, bring in speakers, plan film events, that kind of thing. I'm also fortunate to do some committee work at a larger level. I'm actually working with an interdisciplinary group at the undergraduate college, which is looking at how Bryn Mawr at large can live out our values and what kinds of programming we can offer to students to provide opportunities to learn and grow in the ways that we aspire to. I really like that work, too, because it gives me a sense of what's happening across the whole Bryn Mawr community. 

What do you like to do in your free time? 

I love going for a swim at Bryn Mawr’s gym. I have two little ones, so what is free time, really? We spend a lot of time playing, and we go for little walks through the dog park by our house every night after dinner to play spot the dog. I have a really robust family and friends support network. I'm an extreme extrovert, so most of my free time has to be with other people. I also like to watch reality TV.  At the end of the day, once all the kiddos are asleep, that’s what I’m watching. 

It's great that you're trying to bring people together at the school. As busy students, I think many of us are just going through the motions and trying to get through the program, but it’s so important to have community gatherings and make connections with others during our time here.

I felt the exact same way when I was in social work school. You know when you're like, “If I was in high school, knowing what I know now, this is how I would have showed up differently,”?  I get to actually do that in this role. I’ll say to students, “I know you think you're just going to come here for class and leave. But guess what? You're actually going to stay to talk about Barbie.” We had an opportunity recently where Dr. Nataliia Gusak shared a film called Our American Family and it was just the most powerful documentary. There were probably like 10 of us there, and once the documentary ended, people naturally started circling up in groups to share their reactions and how they were going to walk away from this experience. That, to me, is just such a natural thing where when you choose to engage, you find that other people also need and want that, and people naturally end up circled up. And is there anything more healing as a social worker than feeling like you’re not alone?

I prioritize creating opportunities for people to connect in a natural way, in whatever way that looks like for them. Maybe your thing isn’t the Barbie movie, which, by the way, it should be. Maybe your thing is a discussion on coping mechanisms or a career fair or networking event. Looking ahead to next year, I'd love to think about some programming that pulls in our more introverted friends, like having a craft corner. We have some folks that could teach other people how to knit and crochet. There's also a community partner that's interested in doing some gardening with us. I want to develop different opportunities and create an environment where people can connect. It's still up to students if they want to connect, but let's figure out how to set the table for people to do that.