MSW student, President of Wayne State's Association of Black Social Workers
Master of social work student, Michanda Gant, earned the Woman of Distinction Student Award last month for her commitment to inclusion and community and says she’s “still trying to digest this moment.”
When she came to Wayne State, Michanda was determined to connect with individuals who shared her passion for social justice and volunteering. “Never in a million years did I think our work would lead to local, national, and international recognition.” But that it has.
As the President of Wayne State’s Association of Black Social Workers (ABSW) and a member of the School of Social Work’s Social Justice Committee, she assisted in facilitating a round-table discussion addressing current policies impacting DACA students in 2017, and she worked on a yearlong initiative to fight for advocacy around water insecurity in Detroit and Flint, including in the campus forum ‘Elevate Their Voices,’ which earned ABSW recognition in Social Work Education: The International Journal in 2018.
Her volunteer experience includes counseling children and young adults who have experienced a significant loss through SandCastles’ Grief Support Program and survivors of domestic violence through HAVEN of Oakland County in Pontiac, Michigan. Currently, she’s an intern therapist at Motor City Center for Hope.
For Michanda, there’s something special about learning in an urban community.
“I get to witness the revitalization that is taking place in and around Midtown,” she says, “while simultaneously connecting with individuals who are impacted by homelessness, domestic violence, unemployment, and other social barriers that hinder capacity building and exercising autonomy.”
It's that autonomy and how automatic thoughts impact mental health and behavior that fed her interest in earning a graduate degree in social work.
“I witnessed many of my peers (in undergrad) struggling to keep up with the demands of school, internships, work, and home life. At the time, we didn’t realize it, but our unconscious thoughts were fueling our stress and anxiety levels.”
She was determined to learn and later teach others how to recognize and combat negative, automatic thoughts, like “’These people are more successful than me,’” when you walk into a room or “’I’m going to sound stupid,’” when you get up to give a presentation or even, “He doesn’t hit me, he only yells, so it’s not really domestic abuse.”
Regularly giving into such thoughts can contribute to the adoption of aversive behaviors, prolonged loneliness, or even self-harm.
“Educating people on the many forms of domestic violence”—and the fact it can happen to anyone, regardless of gender—“is one way I use my voice to advocate on their behalf,” she says.
Michanda has no plans to quit advocating for the inclusion of all.
After graduation “and a long vacation,” she plans to continue working with organizations dedicated to improving the wellbeing of families, and local and state policymakers. “However, my ultimate goal is to own a private practice providing counseling services to women and children in Detroit.”
Her advice for current graduate students?
“Be intentional with the relationships you build. Also, don’t forget to do a little self-care in between assignments.”