Student Spotlight: Theresa Aldrich

Theresa Aldrich

Class Year: 2023

Program: Master of Social Work/Master of Public Health

After building her research skills as an international investigator at a pre-employment background screening firm, Theresa Aldrich was seeking a Master of Social Work (MSW) and a Master of Public Health (MPH) program to grow her interprofessional knowledge. She was drawn to Case Western Reserve University’s dual-degree programs for the variety of perspectives they represented—a clear indicator of the dynamic learning environment she wanted for her graduate degree.

Aldrich began the program in 2020 as an advanced standing MSW student, which is a streamlined, one-year option for students like Aldrich who have their bachelor’s degrees in social work. She then completed her field education at Case Western Reserve’s Prevention Research Center for Healthy Neighborhoods (PRCHN), working on a team to fulfill grant activities as part of the Healthy Food Retail Initiative (HFRI) under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health grant

After launching and facilitating information-sharing meetings with five other HFRI teams from across the country, she compiled a comprehensive report of the best practices and program strategies to inform the PRCHN’s approach to the HFRI.

“It was a fantastic experience to connect with other professionals, and also learn how federal grant initiatives can look so different when adapted to fit unique communities,” she said.

This fall, Aldrich will write her MPH capstone as a health policy position paper focused on the new 988 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number, analyzing the national rollout process and mapping how this federal policy aims to boost the response capacity of the mental health crisis service systems, which depend on the resources of individual states and territories. 

Aldrich’s mentor, Susan Sternard-Basel—whom she met at a Mandel School alumni networking event—inspired Aldrich to look into federal government agencies' roles in developing the mental healthcare system for her capstone.

“Those events and conversations opened my eyes to how social workers can be instrumental in settings where one may not think to find a social worker, like policy,” Aldrich said. “I'm excited to complete this policy research of the 988 hotline and share my findings at [CWRU's Public Health] Innovations Conference in November!”