As commencement quickly draws near, we're spotlighting some of our graduating students. Read more about Ibukunoluwa "Ibukun" Ode-Martins, MSSA/MNO candidate, below.
Class Year: May 2022
Program/Major: Master of Science in Social Administration and Master of Nonprofit Organizations
As a social worker, what issues are you interesting in advocating for?
I’m interested in advocating for mental health care and awareness particularly in Nigeria, my home country. I have been away for many years and hope to be among the wonderful youth who are making small and mighty changes in the lives of many Nigerians. I would love to one day make an impact, no matter how small, to improve the welfare of people, even if it is in something other than mental health. Right now, I have been doing a lot of learning and research on the mental health and welfare system in Nigeria to get a better sense of the resources and gaps that exist.
Tell me about your interview with the Nigerian Senator.
I had the opportunity to speak with Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe, who sponsored the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Bill in Nigeria, for a class assignment. Something that came up from our discussion was how very systemic the issue of stigma, lack of awareness and inadequate treatment of people with mental health conditions is in the country. Everyone really has a part to play in changing the game – from peers discussing mental health in education settings, to family discussions at home, to religious leaders who hold a lot of people power by just discussing the issue. However, this does not negate the fact that the existing structures—the government, the laws, the medical institutions and the educational institutions—have a huge role to play as well.
Where did you do your field education?
I did my fieldwork at the Saint Luke’s Foundation and one of the main projects I helped with was the Collaborative on COVID Recovery (FCCR). I learned all about it, took part in the survey interviews with grassroots and nonprofit leaders, and worked with the team to put together an analysis of the interviews. I also had the opportunity to be part of the Cleveland Purpose Built Communities project which focused on how to implement community engagement strategies. The Foundation is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and it was really exciting to play a role in that.
What organizations were you involved with during your time at CWRU?
I got involved with the Mandel Council after being encouraged by the previous executive director, Tiffany Mims, to join. As the International Student Representative, I worked with Local InterNational Konnections (LINK) in promoting their events and brainstorming ideas for programming. I also provided a little social media support. It was an honor being in the midst of students who embodied what it meant to be change-makers, and I was definitely inspired by the team.
Outside of the Mandel School, I facilitated a bible study group through the CWRU InterVarsity chapter, where I’ve appreciated being able to hold space for discussions and questions.
What has made your time here memorable?
I have been in higher education for the past six years (I did my undergraduate career at CWRU too) and one thing I've been constantly grateful for are the relationships I’ve formed during my time here. From other students, to staff, to professors and even to people I’ve had the smallest encounters with, the guidance I’ve gotten from these various sources has been most memorable and impactful to me. It was especially great getting back to in-person classes during my second year at the Mandel School and really getting to know some of my peers in my community practice classes.
What are your plans for after graduation?
I got accepted into the Cleveland Foundation's Public Service Fellowship, so I'll be a Research and Policy Fellow with Cleveland City Council starting in mid-July. In the meantime, I’ll be taking some time to rest and recharge. Something I’m working on letting go of is the idea of the “perfect” job title in a field as wide as social work.
It was my passion for making an impact in Nigeria that brought me to CWRU, and I am very excited to explore a new environment and a new side of myself, and to put my learning to great use after graduation.