Student Spotlight

In the Fall 2016 the School of Social Welfare welcomed Cavanaugh Quick - a sex, gender and sexuality educator/advocate who has worked with queer and trans people of color.  Cavanaugh is passionate about assisting young people in healthy relationship formation and advocating for people that have been historically exploited and overlooked.

Cavanaugh Quick

Joining the SSW has been a long time coming, though I did not always know that. Before I came back to school I held a number of really great jobs, including teaching experiential education science classes for sixth graders and running programming and education for a queer and transgender (trans) youth arts organization in Pittsburgh, PA ( At that organization I created a program that was hosted in local high schools and allowed me to bring queer and trans social education into the classroom. I was reshaping academic curricula to include and focus on people who have been historically exploited and overlooked, and I got to teach students that there are no places that are excused from unlearning systemic oppression. I think teachers and social workers are often cut from the same cloth and just apply their skills a little differently; spending my time in education was fulfilling and wonderful, and helped me understand that the social work side of what I was doing was a more appropriate use of me.

I have also been working in sexual health education since I was an undergraduate, and I'm looking forward to continuing that practice with my MSW. Even (especially) in social work settings, we have a LOT of work to do around our understandings of sex and sexuality and how we talk about it. I partnered with an LMSW in Pittsburgh to offer a sex education group that combined focused sexual health education (that went lightyears beyond prophylaxis and STI/STD's) with group therapy for folks who were queer and/or trans. The result was a group of folk who were un-learning harmful beliefs and information about sex, consent, relationships, bodies, etc. and sharing how these experiences, combined with the new information they learned together, were shaping their behaviors and their relationships. This group ran for a couple of years (until I left), and I am anxious to refine my skills here at Albany to see how I can do it again, but better.

Obviously I do my best to pair my interests and jobs in unusual ways, and I've been very excited about my field placement. It's not unusual, per se, but it is an interesting combination: working in the District Attorney's office in the crime victim's unit, and taking regular shifts as the counselor on duty on the Albany County Sexual Assault Hotline. My background in sex ed includes lots of work with survivors, so I am so lucky to get to work with the team on the hotline to precisely and in great depth shape and refine my existing knowledge -- and share my own information with them as well. As for the DA's Office, my work there is its own hybrid of crisis intervention and case management. I get to keep my practice of finding interesting combinations of jobs and skills, and I'm doing it in a totally foreign environment. I came into this placement never having set foot in a courtroom; even though I had a lot of theoretical knowledge about the judicial system, I'm getting an invaluable behind the scenes experience that has already informed my personal practice to a huge degree.

Of course, I also have some more personal motivations for joining the School of Social Welfare: I have been very hard pressed to find social workers or therapists who share my experiences. Actually, I wrote about it in my personal statement. As a child I had a lot of experience with social workers and counselors and they were always really nice, caring people whose vision for "my best interests" was to make me more like them. I worked hard instead to end up more like me, and I just want to help other people figure out that they're allowed to do the same thing. I'm so grateful to have found a team of educators and students who are dedicated to the same task.