At Lesley University in Cambridge on Saturday, 28-year-old Gonsalves and a dozen other schoolteachers and social workers from Guyana graduated with master’s degrees in trauma, sensitive assessment, intervention, and consultation. If the degree title seems oddly cobbled together, it is because the program was tailored specifically for Guyanese social workers who largely lack specialized training to address domestic violence and child abuse.
In fall 2010, Catherine Koverola, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Lesley University, along with officials from UNICEF and the Guyanese government’s social service agencies, began designing the specialized counseling curriculum.
A year later the program launched, and 13 Guyanese teachers and social workers enrolled. They have spent a grueling three years in the Interdisciplinary Studies Program of Lesley’s Graduate School of Arts and Social Sciences: maintaining their full-time jobs while taking classes in Georgetown from local and visiting Lesley instructors, as well as from instructors in Cambridge via Skype. They also traveled to Cambridge periodically to study for two-week stints at Lesley.