Student experiential learning

The School of Social Work's commitment to advance the Grand Challenges for Social Work – a 10-year initiative established by the profession in 2017 to address 12 urgent social problems, is evidenced in its research and community engagement initiatives addressing poverty, child welfare, interpersonal violence, health disparities and behavioral health. The Center for Behavioral Health and Justice enhances that commitment by offering students the opportunity to work proactively in the criminal/legal area to promote 'Smart Decarceration' initiatives for members of our community.

MSW Innovation in Community, Policy, and Leadership

Students, particularly those in the Innovation in Community, Policy, and Leadership (ICPL) concentration, will find involvement in the Center an exciting opportunity to learn more about the criminal/legal system, to participate in community-wide intervention, and to formulate innovative ideas for criminal/legal reform. Working under the supervision of our MSW Project Coordinators, students will be exposed to a variety of site-specific tasks. These tasks include jail site visits, process mapping, facilitating meetings with community stakeholders, action planning, and training. Simultaneously, students will acquire research-related skills such as data collection, entry, and analysis, as well as report writing. Students involved in center activities will be well positioned to become the 'boundary spanners' of the next generation.

  • 2021-22 Interns

    photo of Jessica GaskinJessica Gaskin

    Before joining the MSW program, Jessica served as a research assistant at the Center for Urban Studies, also at Wayne State University. In this role, Jessica co-supervised the domestic violence advocacy team, and she was the analyst for the Detroit city-wide youth CompStat meetings. From 2017-2018 Jessica served as a Pinkerton Graduate Fellow with The Bronx Defenders, where she provided holistic advocacy and case management to court-involved youth. Jessica also worked with the NYC Criminal Justice Agency, as one of the first Youth Engagement Coordinators. This position was created to implement innovative strategies to divert youth from unnecessary pretrial detention. Jessica is an intern on the Juvenile Justice initative, providing support on a variety of projects.

    photo of Emily TarchalaEmily Tarchala

    Hello! I'm Emily and I am currently an intern for the OTE team in the CBHJ. I am in my second and final year of completing my MSW from Wayne State, with a concentration in Innovation in Community, Policy and Leadership. Last year my internship was at NAMI Detroit, where I got to help organize and distribute mental health resources to the Wayne county community. Before coming to Wayne I received my undergraduate degree at Detroit Mercy with a major in Organizational Psychology and a minor in Gender Studies. While I was there I did a lot of collaboration with the gender studies department working on grants and community engagement which is what lead me to social work. I am very excited to meet and get to work with everyone, and I'm looking forward to learning everything there is to know about the CBHJ and the work that you do!

  • 2020-21 Interns

    headshot of Cynthia BensonCynthia Benson

    Cynthia graduated in May of 2020 from Northern Michigan University with her bachelor's in criminal justice with a human behavior cluster minor. As an undergraduate, Cynthia conducted research with faculty in the Criminal Justice department as a McNair Scholar regarding sex offenders in youth serving organizations. She has presented her research at the Midwest Criminal Justice Association conference in Chicago (2019), the McNair Scholars Symposium (2019), and the NMU 2020 Three Minute Thesis competition, where she won 1st place and people's choice award. She was also recognized for her achievements at the Marquette Economic Club, as well as being selected as the Outstanding Graduating Senior for the 2020 academic year in criminal justice department at NMU. She is affiliated with the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences and was also a member of the NMU criminal Justice Association. She has also volunteered as a girl scout leader and as a victim's advocate in Marquette county. Currently, Cynthia is beginning her master's in social work with an interest in macro practice/policy. Her current interests are research and working with the offending population with regards to reentry and diversion programming.

    headshot of Devan DerricotteDevan Derricotte

    Devan will be working with the CBHJ for the 2020-2021 school year as an MSW intern. Prior to this, she received her bachelor's degree in psychology from Eastern Michigan University and then spent a few years in the mortgage industry. Devan's previous field placement internship was with Oakland Schools Technical Campus in Royal Oak where she provided supports for junior and senior high school students. 

    Her interest in criminal justice system reforms began during her undergraduate years, but she was unable to pinpoint exactly how she wanted to intervene. She was able to narrow it down after learning more about the system during volunteer work with the AFSC Michigan Criminal Justice Program in Ypsilanti and time spent so far in Wayne State's MSW program. Devan is interested in analyzing information and presenting it in various formats to necessary groups and individuals to influence policy and system reform.

    Chenika Rogers

    Chenika Rogers is a native of Ypsilanti, Michigan and a graduate of Eastern Michigan University. Chenika received a Bachelor of Social Work from Eastern in 2016. Since receiving her degree, she has worked in foster care and residential treatment. Chenika is currently an MSW student at Wayne State University with a concentration in Innovation, Community, Policy and Leadership. Chenika will be an intern within the Opiod Treatment Ecosystem team.


BSW Inside/Out

Center members Dean Sheryl Kubiak and Assistant Professor Erin Comartin have been trained in the facilitation of the Inside/Out Prison Exchange model of teaching. This model of teaching provides university (outside) students the opportunity to share a semester long class with individuals currently incarcerated in a state prison (inside students). Course content facilitates discussion of policy and social welfare between these diverse groups of students, transforming their pre-conceived notions about each other and the 'real world' implications of policy. While at Michigan State University, Dean Kubiak taught four years of successful Inside/Out courses involving BSW students. Many of these students formed a commitment to social policy and criminal/legal reforms. Assistant Professor Comartin will be working to facilitate an Inside/Out course at WSU within the next year.

For more information on experiential learning opportunities available through the Center for Behavioral Health and Justice, please contact Assistant Professor Erin Comartin at