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Someone You Should Know!

Dr. Sherri Seyfried is Chairperson and Full Professor in the Department of Social Work. She has been a member of the CSU community for 17 years this January.

From an early age, she took an interest in observing human behavior and pondering the motivation for that behavior. All of the women in her family were educators, and a major topic of conversation for them was education and minority youth. From her family, Dr. Seyfried absorbed a passion and commitment for learning and the importance of promoting human potential among young people. She carries on this family tradition.

At Hampton University, Dr. Seyfried majored in Sociology and then took her Master’s in Social Work at Norfolk State. She worked for a number of years in Clinical Mental Health, including crisis counseling. She was Director of Transitional Living Services in Cleveland, Ohio, her hometown, and later worked at Chicago Reid.

Eventually, Dr. Seyfried decided to pursue doctoral studies, stemming from her concern over the revolving door system in mental health and how to focus not only on what brought clients in for service but also to enhance the strengths they may have forgotten. She earned her doctorate at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Coming to Chicago State was coming full circle for her. Hampton is an HBCU (historically-black college or university) and CSU a PBI (predominantly black institution). She feels a commitment to CSU. It is a circle for her with regard to promoting wellness in communities disproportionately impacted by stress-induced health disorders.

14 years ago a colleague had developed a course on Spirituality and Social Work. He gave it to her to carry on. The course incorporated mindfulness practice and uses Thich Nhat Hahn’s book, The Miracle of Mindfulness. Over the years she noticed students’ positive response to the practices introduced in this simply written book. Students often encouraged her to develop a part two to this course, she did several years later.

Dr. Seyfried’s interest in mindfulness grew, and she went on to develop a mindfulness discussion group with other CSU professors representing the human service fields, including Dr. Aida Abraha, Professor Monique Germain, Dr. Thomas Lyons, Dr. Ivy Dunn, Dr. Mikal Rasheed and Dr. Quintin Williams. The group recognized the importance of introducing mindfulness practices to students preparing to enter the human service fields and who would be working with clients from under-served communities, all the while juggling work and caring for their own family members. From these discussions the group co-authored a book chapter titled “Mindfulness practice for healthcare providers in underserved communities: A values-based approach to service”.

From this working group Dr. Lyons, Dr. Seyfried and Dr. Williams along with faculty from the College of Pharmacy won a NIH grant to develop a Center for Urban Mindfulness Addictions Research (CUMAR). Dr. Seyfried was involved in one of the studies that was designed to evaluate the efficacy of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), an 8-week manualized curriculum, in reducing compassion fatigue and burnout among Recovery Coach case managers. The grant also afforded Dr. Seyfried the opportunity to attend many scientific conferences related to mindfulness practice and to also receive professional teachers training in MBSR from the University of California, San Diego.

The NIH grant had as one of its outcomes the education of mindfulness practices for students at CSU, Dr. Seyfried used this opportunity to develop the long awaited “part two” to the Spirituality and Social Work Practice course where she could then focus on mindfulness practice in more detail. It was from her observations facilitating the 8-week curriculum that was part of the NIH study and from many years of observing her students reactions to mindfulness exercises in her class, that she began to formulate what would be important in translating this practice for the student demographic at CSU. In collaboration with Dr. Bicknell-Hentges, Dr. Yvonne Patterson and Dr. Veronica Womack, “Mindfulness Practice and Stress Reduction in the Urban Environment” was developed and is currently in its third year. Upon a review of the literature, Dr. Seyfried and her colleagues believe this course is one of few if not the only courses of its kind being offered to students attending a PBI.

As a professor and administrator, she stresses that what matters is for learning to occur in whatever form that may need to be Overtime, she has developed a comfort in being flexible in her work, trying new ways to engage students and different methods to assure learning. She wants new colleagues to remember that no one knows everything, and we can learn from our students if we are open to listening. She encourages new colleagues to always remember to nourish that passion which first brought them to their chosen profession and collaborate with others sharing similar interests. This creates a certain synergy.

Dr. Seyfried wants us to know that CSU serves a very important constituency not captured by our peer institutions. The majority of our students are from the communities they serve and have a felt responsibility to give back to them. She sees CSU as serving a vital mission in the State of Illinois. We extend opportunities through teaching, research, and service for minority students and are known for that. She believes CSU should also be known as a leader in the cultural translation of research models and approaches for underserved communities.

Away from CSU Dr. Seyfried enjoys listening to great jazz. She believes Chicago has so many talented musicians, and that we are very fortunate to live in a city that has such a rich cultural arts community.

Dr. Sherri Seyfried’s office is in the Williams Science Center, Room 116A. She’s definitely someone you should know!