Student Story

Jerrica Raspberry Lawson '17MSW, '26PhD Researches the Role of Social Work in Improving Black Maternal Health Outcomes

Photo of Jerrica Raspberry Lawson

The faculty and staff at Simmons go above and beyond to make your learning experience warm.

What Jerrica Is Studying

After graduating from Simmons Social Work with an MSW in 2017, Jerrica Raspberry Lawson, with Tiffany Cooper '16MSW, founded Kujichagulia Wellness Center, a virtual practice that provides culturally affirming, trauma-informed counseling and other services. Jerrica builds on this work in the PhD in Social Work program, where she is focused on researching interventions to improve Black maternal health outcomes. In particular, she is interested in the role that social work might play on a multidisciplinary birthing team. "I want to put my clinical mindset and my research together and create space and policy and research around uplifting Black mothers," she says. In addition to expanding her thriving, Massachusetts-based practice, Jerrica aims to pursue research and teaching, with an eye toward becoming a dean or academic administrator.

What brought her to Simmons

Jerrica chose to continue at Simmons for her PhD after an outstanding experience in the MSW program. "The faculty and staff at Simmons go above and beyond to make your learning experience warm," she says. "You can tell that the professors truly want to build relationships with their students. I knew I had to come back."

How Simmons is Preparing Her

Currently in her second year, Jerrica has completed coursework in policy, qualitative and quantitative research methods, and epistemology. In each course, she says, she has had the opportunity to focus on her research interests, allowing her to both gain new knowledge and prepare for the research practicum and dissertation. The program, she says, has been "stellar in its ability to teach every corner of what we need to know, while making it relevant to the topics we care about most." Course discussions in the online format, she reports, are "rich and full." A past president of the Simmons chapter of the National Association of Black Social Workers, Jerrica has also found career-enhancing opportunities outside of class. "If leadership is your goal," she says, "Simmons is behind you one hundred percent."

Why It's Rewarding

"I love that I get to be in this number of other Black female scholars," says Jerrica, whose advisor is Professor Johnnie Hamilton-Mason, PhD. "It's an act of resistance — showing that we can be well educated, work hard, and oftentimes, give right back to our community. There can be healing found within research. And that's the goal for me: to take information, turn it around, and bring it right back to try to heal our community."

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